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News » Looper's mettle sparkles But he struggles with command


Looper's mettle sparkles But he struggles with command


Looper's mettle sparkles  But he struggles with command
Braden Looper was hoping for a more polished debut with the Milwaukee Brewers .

But the way the veteran right-hander fought through five innings and kept the Brewers in the game had plenty to do with their 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs in the home opener Friday at Miller Park.

Looper struggled with his command and threw 97 pitches before exiting with the Brewers holding a 2-1 lead after five innings. Although Milwaukee fell behind in the sixth, Rickie Weeks sparked a dramatic two-run, ninth-inning rally that gave the Brewers their victory.

"There are times you go out there and you feel like you can do anything you want," said the 34-year-old Looper, who was limited to two spring training starts because of an oblique injury. "Today was a day I was feeling for it a little bit.

"I just told myself to back off and almost throw it as soft as you can sometimes. I knew if I could keep it close, we'd have a chance to break through eventually."

Looper was matched against Cubs starter Rich Harden, who seemed to get stronger as the game progressed and finished with 10 strikeouts in six innings. But the only run Looper allowed was a long home run by Cubs cleanup hitter Milton Bradley to lead off the fourth.

It appeared the Cubs might break open the game in the fifth after singles by Harden and Kosuke Fukudome put runners at first and second with one out. But Looper got a key strikeout against Derrek Lee and, after going to a 3-0 count on Bradley, the Brewers pitcher induced a soft flyout to left field.

"It's not exactly how you would draw it up, getting behind 3-0 to Milton Bradley, especially after he hit a homer off me the AB before," Looper said. "But I just tried to throw a sinker down, and I had thrown enough in on him that he was kind of off it a little bit.

"They have a great lineup; they have a good team. I just feel today I was able to go out there and throw without my best stuff, I guess you would explain it."

Looper pitched last season for the St. Louis Cardinals, going 12-14 with a 4.16 earned run average in 33 starts, and signed as a free agent with the Brewers in February.

Despite his difficult spring training, Looper said he was healthy and ready to make the start Friday. He walked four, struck out four and yielded five hits.

"I'm definitely not happy with throwing five innings," Looper said. "I would have loved to pitch a lot deeper. But it was just one of those days. I didn't even give up a hit in the first inning, and I threw 20-something pitches (23). They kept fouling off all my good pitches."

Cubs leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano fouled off three pitches before striking out on Looper's seventh pitch of the game. And Bradley finally grounded out on the eighth pitch of his at-bat to end the inning.

"I knew coming out of spring training that as long as my arm was healthy, I'd be all right once the game started," he said. "It's different. You're out of Arizona, No. 1, and the ball moves a little more. And that's my game."

Looper joked that he should have had a hit with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, but his grounder through the middle was kicked by Harden and bounced to Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot, who threw to first to retire the side.

"That's the most upsetting thing about the game today, the hockey save he made on my hit," Looper said. "I was just trying to get the bat on the ball, to be honest with you. I'm definitely not going to hit a home run like the one Yo (pitcher Yovani Gallardo) hit the other day.

"It was pretty unlucky for me."

Looper has experienced the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry, which is one of the most intense matchups in Baseball. Now he jumps over to the Brewers and is getting a taste of the Brewers -Cubs version.

"They were in the game from the beginning, and it was fun," Looper said of the Miller Park crowd of 45,455, the second-largest gathering in the stadium's history. "It is just one of 162 games, but they're fun, you know.

"It's fun to have the Cubs in town on opening day and to have a packed house."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 11, 2009

2009-02-25-st--louis-cardinals-manager-tony-larussa
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