Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brewers Win One 'For Cappy'

May 7, 2007, was a long time ago.

It's been over three years. In that amount of time, so much has changed. Not just in baseball, but in the world. New president, new problems, new fads, new technology.

For Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano, enough was enough.

Capuano has dealt with two Tommy John surgeries on his left elbow. There was a time where people wondered if he would ever pitch again.

Monday night, Capuano got his first win in over three years, as the Brewers toppled Pittsburgh 3-1.

Manager Ken Macha said Sunday that Capuano would be limited to under 70 pitches in this start, and he told the media he would be thrilled to get four innings out of Capuano. The plan was for Carlos Villanueva, a former starter, to pitch into the seventh, thus lessening the strain on an oft-overworked bullpen.

Capuano did his manager one better, getting through five innings while throwing 65 pitches. From there, a Rickie Weeks two-run home run gave the Brewers a 3-1 lead in the sixth, and Capuano was in line for the win.

Afterward, it was clear how important this was to Capuano and his teammates. After all, it's hard to get around a streak of 30 major-league appearances without a win.

“I surprised myself with how much I was aware of it,” said Capuano, who got a new perspective on winning and losing when he wasn’t sure he’d ever pitch again.

... When he was done, Capuano retreated to the clubhouse to fetch his iPod, trying to soothe his anxiety with some relaxing music as he watched a succession of four relievers cover the final four innings. Things got a bit tense in the ninth when the Pirates put two on with no outs against closer John Axford, who responded by striking out Brewer-killer Ryan Doumit and Ryan Church before retiring Ronny Cedeno on a grounder to second.

Axford, who converted his 12th save in 12 chances, said the relievers were aware of what was at stake for Capuano after Rickie Weeks’ two-run homer in the top of the sixth snapped a 1-1 tie.

“When we went ahead, 3-1, we said, ‘Let’s do this for ‘Cappy,’” said Axford. “When you look at what he’s gone through, for Cappy to persevere is a testament to him. It’s unbelievable. It really is.”

... “It’s going to be pretty tough to get me down tonight,” said Capuano, whose only other start came on June 3 in Florida after returning to the majors. “That was a really nice gift from the team.

“I have a long view with baseball now. Wins and losses become a lot less important when you’re faced with ‘Am I going to pitch again?’ It puts all that stuff in perspective. I’m just really happy to get (a victory) with the Brewers.”

It's a nice story during what has been a dreadful season for Milwaukee. Capuano might not do much else this season, but he's proven he can win at this level.

More importantly, he showed great heart and moxie just making it back to the bigs after all the adversity he's experienced.

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