Brewers sweep up Pirates as Trevor Hoffman notches 599th save

MILWAUKEE -- There still might be something for Trevor Hoffman to savor this year.

In a season that hasn't gone the way he hoped, baseball's all-time saves leader earned No. 599 Sunday as the Milwaukee Brewers completed a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates with an 8-4 victory Sunday.

"Round numbers are really what baseball looks at," Hoffman said.

"If this is the last season, it would be hard to walk away knowing you are one shy of a big number," said the 42-year-old Hoffman, adding he has not decided whether to return for an 18th season in 2011. "But in the big picture it's still a body of work."

After converting 37 of 41 saves last year, Hoffman started the season without being able to consistently command his fastball and blew five early season saves to lose his closer's role to rookie John Axford. In his first 18 appearances, Hoffman had a 1-4 record with an 11.65 ERA.

"I had aspirations of this happening a little quicker, but we're standing here today under drastically different circumstances," he said.

After his poor start, Hoffman worked with pitching coach Rick Peterson and has had a 2.45 ERA in his last 27 appearances.

"I had to go out and figure out different ways of getting the job done, of trying to get back to being effective," Hoffman said. "For me, location is a big deal."

Axford is 7-1 with a 2.53 ERA and has converted 19 of 21 saves, but the rookie had pitched in two consecutive games. In addition, manager Ken Macha in recent weeks has allowed Hoffman to close games with leads of three runs or more in an effort to get him to 600 saves.

Hoffman entered the game with one out in the ninth and two runners on base, and retired both batters he faced to convert his eighth save in 13 chances this year.

Ryan Braun homered and went 4 for 4 while scoring three times for Milwaukee.

The Brewers roughed up Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton for eight runs in just 3 1/3 innings on a day where, for the first time, the retractable roof at Miller Park was positioned in an effort to diminish the shadows on the field.

The team said it consulted with umpiring crew chief Mike Reilly, then left two of the panels hanging over right field so the batter and pitcher were both in the shadows from the first pitch of the game.

"It made a big difference," Milwaukee's Casey McGehee said.

Hitters have complained for years that the shadows were particularly tough at Miller Park during day games.

"It's almost like hitting in the middle of a high school prom with a strobe light on," McGehee said. "It's not that you don't see the ball. It's that the spin is really hard to pick up. That makes it tough when you have to assume everything is a fastball and hope you can figure it out quick enough."

Macha made the suggestion to move the retractable panels, and said the team would continue to manipulate the shadows in the team's final three day games at Miller Park this year.

With the loss, Morton (1-10) becomes the fifth Pittsburgh pitcher with at least 10 losses -- the first time since 1954 the Pirates have had at least five hurlers with double-digit losses.

"We've been making history all year," Pittsburgh manager John Russell said of the dubious feat after his team fell to 43-87.

Morton was making his first major league appearance in three months. The right-hander saw his ERA climb to 10.03 in 11 starts by giving up eight runs, seven earned, on nine hits and a walk with one strikeout.

"It was bad. Frustrating," Morton said. "I have to shake it off."

"Obviously, the first start you get back you want to do better than I did today," he said.

Neil Walker, Ryan Doumit and Delwyn Young each homered off Milwaukee starter Dave Bush (7-11), but the right-hander only gave up four runs, three earned, and two walks with four strikeouts in seven innings to earn the win.

The Pirates have lost 13 consecutive road games.

The other Pirates pitchers with double-digit losses are Zach Duke (6-12), Paul Maholm (7-12), Ross Ohlendorf (1-11) and Jeff Karstens (2-10).

Game notes
Pirates RHP Evan Meek was hit on the right hand by a hard liner from Braun in the eighth inning and left the game with trainers gingerly holding his right arm. X-rays did not find any broken bones. ... Morton opened the season in the rotation and made 10 starts before being placed on the DL in late May with shoulder fatigue. When he recovered, he was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. ... The 1954 pitchers who lost double-digit games were Max Surkont (9-18), Vern Law (9-13), Bob Friend (7-12), Dick Littlefield (10-11) and Paul LaPalme (4-10). That team went 53-101.