"I don't know. We'll have to see," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Rusch's immediate future. "That was a struggle today, the last couple of outings. They were hitting the ball out of the ballpark on us, big time. We were behind from the very beginning, from the very first batter."
In his poorest and shortest outing of an already rough April, Rusch (1-4 in five starts) gave up those seven runs on six hits and three walks, elevating his ERA from 6.41 to 8.46. Rusch threw 81 pitches, unable to register a strikeout.
"Very frustrated," said Rusch, who gave up just 14 homers last season in 145 1/3 innings. "It's just a rough stretch. I'm not getting anything going. I'm leaving pitches up and they're getting hit out of the ballpark. Other than that, I don't have an explanation for exactly why. If I did, it would be easier to change it around."
Rusch has bounced back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen in his two seasons with the Cubs, working as a utility pitcher for a team constantly struggling with injuries to key starters. But Rusch has been unable to make it out of the fifth three times now, which is taxing the bullpen. With Kerry Wood likely a couple weeks away from returning, Rusch's status, like his pitches, is hanging in the air.
"I've got to talk to [general manager] Jim [Hendry] and [pitching coach] Larry [Rothschild] and just try and figure this thing out," Baker said. "I don't have any answers for you right now."
The Cubs trailed from the onset when Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks hit Rusch's sixth pitch of the game over the fence in left for his first home run of the season. Four batters later, slugging prodigy Prince Fielder made it 3-0 with a two-run shot to right.
Rusch got the first two outs in the third before Fielder and Bill Hall went back-to-back. Rusch then walked Damian Miller and Brady Clark before Baker had to pull him amid torrents of boos. Rusch made his exit even though he was due up first in the bottom of the inning and pitcher Doug Davis was coming to the plate.
"No, I don't feel like [control] has been an issue," said Rusch, who admittedly doesn't have the stuff to overpower hitters. "I feel like I've just left pitches up in situations when they're getting hammered. I haven't really left many up where I've got a popup or a ground ball or gotten out of it. They've been hit over the fence."
David Aardsma relieved Rusch, but didn't fare much better. He gave up an RBI single to Davis and then walked two more hitters, scoring Clark, to make it 7-0.
Aardsma's troubles continued in the fourth when he gave up Carlos Lee's ninth home run. He also gave up a two-run homer to J.J. Hardy in the fifth to make it 10-0. The Brewers added three runs in the sixth off Will Ohman and three more off Roberto Novoa in the ninth.
The three relievers gave up nine runs in 6 1/3 innings, with each working at least two.
"We had a lot of guys out there that we had to leave in longer than we wanted to, to save our bullpen," Baker said. "They sucked it up for the team. They were like sacrificial lambs. We really didn't have a choice."
The Cubs hitters didn't help much, recording seven
hits, two through four innings, and hitting into four
Juan Pierre hit a leadoff single in the first, moved to second on a groundout and then stole third. But Aramis Ramirez popped out to Weeks and Matt Murton flew out to end the inning.
"It could've made a difference because their guy was
struggling, too, before this game," Baker said. "We get
on the board with a couple runs in that first inning,
it could have been a different story."
Instead, the Cubs trailed, 13-0, until the seventh when
Michael Restovich (2-for-2 as a substitute) hit an RBI
double, scoring Jerry Hairston Jr. They managed just
one run on five hits against Davis (6 1/3 innings,
five walks, two strikeouts), who came in with an ERA
Fellow reserve Freddie Bynum Jr. (2-for-2) hit an RBI triple in the eighth off Jose Capellan, scoring Murton.
The lopsided margin was the Brewers' largest over the Cubs since they joined the National League in 1997. Milwaukee won, 17-6, on June 29, 1999. The Brewers' six home runs tied their National League best, and it was Fielder's first multi-home run game.