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PNC PARK Jenkins' return sparks Brewers past Bucs, 3-2



Published: Sun, April 13, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Aramis Ramirez is batting .194, but the Pirates aren't panicking yet.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Rookie manager Ned Yost hasn't been around the Milwaukee Brewers very long, yet he quickly sensed the mood of his club was much different.

Geoff Jenkins was back.

As his players began filtering into the PNC Park clubhouse Wednesday, Yost began to understand what Jenkins means to them. They hadn't missed just the homers he hits and the runs he produces, they also missed having him around.

"It's a big boost having him back," Yost said. "His presence really helps. He's that type of player. It was just like him to step in and help right away."

Jenkins did just that, hitting a decisive two-run homer in his first game in nearly 10 months, to carry the Brewers and starting pitcher Todd Ritchie past the Pirates 3-2 Wednesday night.

Slowed by injuries

Jenkins, who hit 34 homers in 2000, tore multiple ligaments while badly dislocating his right ankle June 17 against Houston and didn't play again. He needed months of rehabilitation, then was sidelined for most of spring training with a sore left wrist.

But Jenkins didn't need long to get his stroke back during a rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Huntsville, hitting two homers Tuesday before flying to Pittsburgh.

"Obviously, it's nice to come back and contribute," said Jenkins, who also missed more than a third of the 2001 season with injuries.

"I wasn't expecting too much the first day back. I was actually pretty nervous."

Ritchie (1-0) retired the first 16 batters until Jack Wilson singled in the sixth.

Ritchie left with a 3-0 lead in the eighth, but reliever John Foster gave up Kenny Lofton's two-run triple. Luis Vizcaino then walked Jason Kendall and Brian Giles to load the bases and put the Pirates in position to take the lead, but Aramis Ramirez popped up.

Josh Fogg (1-1) took the loss, allowing four hits over six innings.

Stranding runners

Ramirez had a strong spring for the Pirates, hitting a club-high seven homers, but is 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and is batting only .194 since the season started.

"I'm not going to push the panic button," manager Lloyd McClendon said.

"We're only eight games into the season. He'll keep working at it and he'll get it going."

The Pirates came into the series off a 5-1 road trip, but still haven't scored against a Milwaukee starter. Glendon Rusch limited them to one hit in seven shutout innings in a 5-3 victory Tuesday.




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