PHILADELPHIA -- Left-hander Michael Gonzalez went from ineffective in April to being the Brewers' pitcher of the month for May, and credited Mother Nature for his renewed success.
Asked what fueled his turnaround, Gonzalez said, "The weather, definitely. We had cold weather, and the body isn't good with that. I've always liked it to heat up. Just joking with the players, we just can't wait until it starts getting hot. Everything just starts feeling better. That's definitely what it is.
"I just know my body and what I do. That cold weather is tough, especially right out of the chute. It's different in October. But when you're starting out the year, those Chicago games, those are tough because you can't feel your fingers. As soon as it starts heating up and getting a little humid, I love that."
Whatever it was, the numbers say Gonzalez was a different pitcher against the left-handed hitters he's paid to retire. In April, Gonzalez faced 18 lefty batters and they hit at a .353 clip, with one walk and four strikeouts. In May, he faced 27 left-handed batters and they hit just .154 with one walk and 12 strikeouts.
He did not allow a run in his final 11 appearances in May. He edged fellow reliever Burke Badenhop for Brewers pitcher of the month honors in a vote of beat reporters, broadcasters and club officials.
The challenge for Gonzalez, who turned 35 a week ago, is to sustain his recent success. He appeared in a team-high 30 games in April and May and is on a pace for more than 90 appearances this season. Gonzalez made a career-high 80 appearances for the Braves in 2009.
"We'll see what happens," manager Ron Roenicke said. "So far, the bullpen has changed a lot from what I expected and how I've used guys. Some of that is because guys have pitched really well, and some of it is because guys haven't. That will continue to change."
One potential change is coming as soon as June 9, when closer Jim Henderson is eligible to return from the disabled list. Henderson stayed back in Milwaukee when the Brewers went on the road and has made progress with his strained right hamstring, according to assistant GM Gord Ash.
K-Rod has 'payback' on mind against Phils
PHILADELPHIA -- Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez referred to his 10-pitch save against the Phillies on Friday night as a dose of "payback" for a pair of particularly painful blown saves here last season.
Make it a double dose, because Rodriguez logged another save Saturday in a tense ninth inning of the Brewers' 4-3 win.
"Last year, my two games here were really bad," said Rodriguez, who blew a 6-3 lead in the opener of a July series between the teams and a 6-5 lead in the 10th inning of the finale. "Really, really, really bad. I'm looking for some payback, definitely."
The Brewers suffered three consecutive 7-6 losses to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park last July 23-25, with a blown save in each of the games including two charged to Rodriguez, who had been handed the closer's role because of John Axford's struggles. For the team, the series was so dismal it convinced club officials to trade away Zack Greinke when the team returned to Milwaukee. For Rodriguez, it cost him closer duties and delayed his quest for 300 career saves.
So, Friday was significant. Rodriguez recorded three outs on 10 pitches, nine strikes, for save No. 296. On Saturday, he inherited a 4-2 lead and surrendered a Freddy Galvis home run and two Phillies doubles, but escaped with help from a very fortuitous call at second base.
Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick was pinch-running when Rodriguez fired a pickoff throw to shortstop Jean Segura at the bag. Segura never caught it, but second base umpire Mike Estabrook's view was blocked and his call was "out." Rodriguez subsequently surrendered a double, but retired Michael Martinez on a groundout for his 297th career save.
"Sooner or later, the breaks had to go on our side," Rodriguez said. "Hopefully, we take off after that."
The teams will play again Sunday, with the Brewers seeking to finish a sweep.
"To come in here and get some kind of payback, that's nice to have," said Rodriguez, who said his blown saves last season in Philadelphia, "really hurt. Hurt because at that time last year, we were struggling, big time. Really, really bad. That's what hurt more. As far as my milestone, that will take care of itself. I don't think it's fair to think about that, especially the way that we're playing. When the time comes, I'm going to be really ready for it."
Rodriguez never expected his bid to become the 25th pitcher to reach 300 saves to take this long. He was only nine saves away and was entrenched as the Mets closer in July 2011 when that team swung a surprise trade with the Brewers on the night of the All-Star game. Rodriguez was suddenly Milwaukee's set-up man.
Saturday marked his sixth save in a Brewers uniform. He usually saves the baseballs as a memento, but awarded Saturday's to his skipper, Ron Roenicke, who logged his 200th managerial victory.
It's not the first baseball missing from Rodriguez's collection.
"I'm missing like 10. When I got traded from the Mets to here, everything got moved from my locker in New York, but they did not send the baseballs," Rodriguez said. "I got the bag in Colorado [where Rodriguez joined the Brewers] and was looking for them, but they weren't there.
"I figured they threw them away or something. I don't think it was on purpose, they probably saw the baseballs and thought nothing of them. It was my fault. If I would have let them know, it would be a different story."
Roenicke gives Gomez day off to rest back
PHILADELPHIA -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is carefully managing some of his hot hitters' workloads amid the usual bumps and bruises of a long baseball season, and Saturday that meant giving center fielder Carlos Gomez a chance to rest his balky back.
"Somewhere along the line, we were going to give him a day off," manager Ron Roenicke said. "He's playing a lot. He's a little banged up and could use a day."
Gomez was nursing a number of other small ailments, including a still-sore wrist from a hit by pitch during the Brewers' last homestand.
"[Shortstop Jean] Segura is in the same spot," Roenicke said. "He's fine to play, but he's banged up too, and if I could get him a day somewhere, I'd like to give him a day."
Segura was struck on the left hand by a pitch in Minnesota this week.
Both Segura and Gomez have been consistent contributors to what has otherwise been an inconsistent Brewers offense. Segura entered Saturday with a National League-best .354 batting average and 74 hits, and Gomez was eighth in the league with a .321 average.
• Brewers games have turned into something of a home run derby of late, with Milwaukee pitchers "leading" the National League with 71 home runs allowed through the first two months. The Cardinals have been the stingiest staff, allowing only 32 homers through the end of May.
"Our ballpark is a good hitting park, so we're going to do it there," Roenicke said. "Some of it is that, but we're making bad pitches."
• The Brewers' 6-22 record in May was even more damaging when you consider the NL Central featured baseball's three biggest winners in the month. The Cardinals were 20-7, the Reds were 19-8 and the Pirates were 19-9. The best team outside of the NL Central was Cleveland, which went 18-12.
The Brewers, meanwhile, matched the Marlins for the Majors' worst May record. Milwaukee fell from 1/2 game behind first-place St. Louis on the morning of May 1 to 15 games back entering Saturday.