So much has gone wrong for the Brewers this season, but few problems have been as big as the team's ineffective pitching.
Through the first 32 games, Brewers starters have recorded just 16 quality starts -- five each from Yovani Gallardo and Dave Bush, four by Randy Wolf and one by Doug Davis.
Starters have thrown 227 2/3 innings this year, leaving the bullpen to cover 155 1/3 innings. The Brewers haven't had a starter work past the fifth inning in the last 13 games.
That's a pretty heavy load this early in the season and it's led to some bad results and lopsided scores. To give some of the pitchers a rest, Milwaukee called up reliever John Axford from Class AAA Nashville, giving Macha 13 pitchers.
Still, though, the starters must start covering some innings.
Because of the overworked pen, Macha allowed Chris Narveson to throw 130 pitches (through five innings) on Saturday and Dave Bush 99 Sunday, just to get him a little deeper into the ballgame.
Injuries have made things more difficult. Setup man LaTroy Hawkins was shelved with shoulder issues, leaving another inning to cover.
"You get guys pushed down because you don't have Hawkins for the eighth inning, said Macha. "That kind of hurts a little bit. Tight games have turned into routs."
Now with Doug Davis on the disabled list while he recovers from a bout with pericarditis, another hole needs to be filled.
Macha will start Manny Parra on Tuesday in Cincinnati, despite the fact that he's struggled in a relief role this season, posting an 0-2 record and 3.98 earned run average in 15 appearances.
Parra, though, has struggled as of late. He's allowed eight runs in his last five outings (6 2/3) innings. Considered to have above-average stuff, Parra has been hard to figure out.
"He has a plus-fastball, good curveball, a 'split' that nobody can hit," Macha said "Yet he hasn't pitched as effectively as we want."
Macha has yet to name a starter for Thursday's game in Pittsburgh. It would be Narveson's day to pitch, but he may get an extra day off because of the additional workload.
Macha said Sunday that the decision will be impacted in large part by how he uses his bullpen this week. Jeff Suppan could be a candidate for the Thursday game.
Suppan was largely ineffective in two starts this season and has mainly worked in mop up duty. Parra started the season on a high note, but has struggled as of late.
The team also has options at the minor league level, where Kameron Loe is 4-1 with a 2.44 ERA. Chris Capuano has performed well as he tries to work his way back after a second Tommy John procedure, but the team prefers to keep him in the minors for further development.
"The next two days are going to dictate that," Macha said.
Clearing the air: On Friday, following a 9-5 loss to the Phillies, Prince Fielder voiced his frustration after Brewers pitchers again got battered, saying "unfortunately, it's always the offense that gets blamed ... we scored five runs tonight. Tomorrow, hopefully we get more than they do."
The next day, Macha said he understood where Fielder was coming from and appreciated his desire to win. But Macha wanted to make sure there was no finger-pointing in the clubhouse and emphasized that at the end of the day, everybody has a job to do.
"I don't want hitters looking at the pitchers or pitchers looking at the hitters," Macha said. "I said last night about finger-pointing; there should be none of it going on.
"Everybody take care of what they can take care of. Let me worry about the other stuff."
After Saturday's game, Macha said he took a few moments to express his happiness with the team's effort and the way the Brewers fought their way back into their game.
Team meetings are not Macha's forte, but he found it important to keep things positive.
"I hate meetings," Macha said. "It lasted about 30 seconds. I wanted them to know that I'm watching their effort and their effort has been noticed."
Quick turnaround: Adam Stern has had a weird week. The outfielder was summoned from Nashville on May 10 when Carlos Gomez went on the disabled list and was sent back down on Saturday when the team summoned right-hander John Axford.
He never made it to Nashville.
Stern was scheduled to fly back to Tennessee on Sunday but ended up reporting back to the ballpark when Davis was placed on the disabled list.
AirTran shows Brewers pride: AirTran Airways officially unveiled "Brewers One" Monday, a Boeing 717 painted in Brewers colors with the team's retro logo on the tail.
"Up until this point, the biggest example of our partnership has been the AirTrain Airways picnic area at Miller Park," said Brewers Vice President of Business Operations Rick Schlesinger. "This is a great way for us to expand our brand."
The airline introduced the jet at a ceremony Monday which included Brewers and AirTran executives, Bernie Brewer, the Racing Sausages and Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers, who pitched for the Brewers from 1981-85.
"We didn't have a plane like this," Fingers said.
It was probably fitting that Fingers rode on the jet as it taxied from the terminal to the hangar -- Fingers was one of the few pitchers to ride in the bullpen car when entering a game.
"It was a 30-second ride," said Fingers. "After getting warmed up, that was a long walk."
When it was pointed out that current Brewers reliever Todd Coffey sprints from the bullpen to the mound, Fingers just laughed.
"The amount of work I got, no way," Fingers said.
Quick hits: The Brewers have played 26 games this season that have lasted three hours or more, the most in the major leagues ... Chris Narveson's 130 pitches Saturday were the most by an MLB pitcher this season and the most since CC Sabathia threw 130 against Houston in 2008 ... Narveson has struck out 17 batters in his last two starts ... The Brewers are 3-21 when not scoring first ... The Brewers' 4-14 home record is the worst in team history through 18 games.
Injury report: Carlos Gomez will join Class A Wisconsin Wednesday and Thursday for a rehabilitation assignment and is expected to be back with the Brewers next weekend in Minnesota ... Outfielder Jim Edmonds left Saturday's game early with a strained oblique muscle. He didn't play Sunday and is day-to-day ... David Riske, working his way back from Tommy John surgery, was tagged for five runs (four earned) on seven hits in two innings for Class A Brevard County.
On the farm: Infielder Ryan "Scooter" Gennett of Class A Wisconsin is tearing up the Midwest League and leads the Brewers' farm system with a .352 average ... IF Taylor Green was placed on the disabled list at Class AAA Nashville and OF Lorenzo Cain was reinstated. ... The Sounds lead the American North Division with a 21-12 record.
He said it: "It's definitely better than flying commercial on Southwest getting Group 'A'" -- Outfielder Adam Stern, on flying on the team charter for the first time in four years.
This week: Lots of travel for the Brewers this week. The first of back-to-back two-game series gets underway tomorrow in Cincinnati. On Wednesday and Thursday, its off to PNC Park to face the Pirates before traveling to the Twin Cities Friday for the Brewers' first trip to Target Field.
Attendance (through 18 home dates): Total -- 638,488; Average -- 35,471; Sellouts -- 5.
N.L. Central standings (through games Sunday): 1, Cincinnati, 21-16, 2, St. Louis, 21-17 (-½); 3, Pittsburgh, 16-21 (-5); 4, Chicago, 16-22 (-5½); 5, Milwaukee, 15-22 (-6½); 6, Houston, 13-24 (-8).