MILWAUKEE — Today’s game between the Brewers and Indians was all about pitching. The Indians had it. The Brewers didn’t.
Brewers starter Randy Lerch only faced six batters. He was lucky that the Indians weren’t able to score more than two runs off of him in an inning plus. After helping the Indians score a run and load the bases on two singles, a hit by pitch and a walk in the first, Lerch struck out Chris Bando looking before Rod Craig hit a well-placed shot to Paul Molitor at third that resulted in an inning-ending double play. Lerch wouldn’t be as lucky in the second, as he’d walk the only two batters he’d face on nine pitches.
Just three starts ago, Lerch shut out the powerful Royals offense. But this is the second disaster in a row. On July 25 against those same Royals, Lerch allowed five runs on eight hits and was unable to get through the fifth.
Of course, it wasn’t just Lerch’s two runs that led to a 7-2 loss. Jerry Augustine was no better, allowing five runs on seven hits in five innings. But a reliable fifth starter is more important to this team’s success than a reliable mop-up reliever.
The fans have noticed. They filled County Stadium with boos in the first inning and later in the sixth when Brewers pitchers were unable to throw strikes and get outs.
This staff could use a guy like Indians starter Lary Sorensen, a former Brewer. Sorensen pitched a complete game, holding the Brewers to only two runs on nine hits while not walking a single batter.
“Obviously it feels good to beat the team that traded you,” said Sorensen. “When you beat these guys you know you’ve beat one of the best teams in baseball.”
This team may not deserve that label without a reliable fifth starter. Brewers officials plan to meet in the next couple of days to discuss Lerch’s role on the team. It would seem that a bullpen move is very likely. “There is always concern when you can’t throw the ball over the plate,” manager Harvey Kuenn told the Milwaukee Sentinel.
Who would take his spot? One possibility is Jerry Augustine, but today’s performance was unlikely to help his case. Another option is Jim Slaton, but the Brewers also need his steady hand in the bullpen.
Dating back to July 11, the Brewers have been dancing with the Red Sox for rights to own first place in the AL East. After today’s loss, the Brewers have dropped seven of the last 11 games, failing to take advantage of an opportunity to take first place while Boston struggles.
A trade may be necessary. Another dependable starter is needed to get over the hump.