Photo courtesy of David Zalubowski, AP
After losing ground in the Wild Card race with the Washington Nationals and failing to capitalize on a Cardinals loss, the Brewers aimed to return to their winning ways in the penultimate game of the season, once again battling the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Game 161 was headlined by the battle between starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez for Milwaukee and Chi Chi Gonzalez for Colorado. Both pitchers were hoping to continue their impressive forms with two-straight victories.
Ryan Braun did not play in Saturday night’s game and will not play Sunday afternoon as he is out with a calf injury. On the bright side, Brewers’ third basemen Mike Moustakas returned to the starting lineup after being sidelined with an elbow injury.
Each pitcher started off well with four shutout innings. In fact, Chi Chi Gonzalez was throwing a no-hitter through the first few innings until Eric Thames clobbered a towering homer to right-field to give the Brewers their first hit and first run.
Pulling Gio Gonzalez in the bottom of the 5th, Craig Counsell went to the Brewers’ bullpen rather early in hopes to maintain the 1-0 lead. Some may argue that the change could have even came sooner following a rather concerning reaction from Gonzalez in an infield play in which he dove for a slow-rolling ball to get the runner out at first.
Early in the top of the 6th inning, Grandal reached first base on a walk and was soon sent all the way around third from a Moustakas double. As it was a fast-paced play at the plate with Rockies catcher Drew Butera failing to tag him in time. However, Grandal was later ruled out after the replay showed that he did not touch home plate despite being considered safe. This was not the only base-running mistake committed by the Brewers that may have costed them.
One could not dwell on the Brewers mistakes on the base-paths without taking a chance to applaud their defensive efforts in the field. Moustakas stopped the potential game-tying run by throwing home on an in-field grounder, getting the runner Desmond out at the plate. Just moments later, it was Lorenzo Cain who made his first spectacular catch of the night, laying out in center field and stopping a base hit that could very well have been trouble if it were to get past Cain. The two defensive plays allowed the Brewers to get through the 6th inning maintaining their 1-0 lead.
In the top of the 7th, the Brewers were threatening after Cain doubled with just one out. Nevertheless, Cain was caught stealing in another base-running mistake. This was unfortunate considering Gamel, the very next batter, reached on a single up the middle. But the Brewers did not come up empty this inning as Arcia managed to hit a line drive down the right foul line, giving enough time to the speedy Gamel to pace from first base all the way to home. The Brewers then held a 2-0 lead with their sights on a 90th victory of the season.
The very next inning, Lorenzo Cain saved the day yet again, robbing a two-run homer from Colorado’s Garret Hampson as he leaped over the center-field wall to snag the ball out of the air. This catch marked the second heroic one of its kind as Cain continues to display his defensive talents.
Although Gio Gonzalez and the bullpen had suppressed the Rockies through seven innings, Brewers’ Pomeranz allowed a solo shot to Ian Desmond, who seemingly altered the momentum of the game. With only a 2-1 lead then, Counsell allowed Pomeranz to finish the inning but knew it was time to bring in the Brewers’ ace: Josh Hader.
Before then, in the top of the 9th, the Brewers aspired to tack on some insurance runs. Lorenzo Cain yet again led the way, reaching first base off a base hit to right field. The very next hitter, Gamel, once gain delivered with a double to center field. Cain, as tenacious as he is, rounded third and approached home at full speed. In his path was Colorado’s catcher Tony Wolters who collided with Cain and was able to get him out. Controversy arose debating whether Wolters was in Cain’s base path, but the shaken-up Cain was ultimately called out. In arguing the call, Brewers manager Craig Counsell was ejected from the game. Cain, who sustained an ankle-related injury, was later replaced by Tyrone Taylor.
Hoping to secure another crucial win for the Brewers, Hader took the mound in the bottom of the 9th inning. Despite his recent success in the previous few games he pitched, Hader conceded a game-tying solo home run to Rockies’ pinch hitter Sam Hilliard with two outs. The game was tied, and the Brewers were in a tough spot considering they will need Hader for the upcoming games. The Brewers escaped the 9th inning with a level score, sending the game to extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, the Brewers were unable to get any offensive rhythm going, allowing the Rockies to get a chance to win it in the bottom of the 10th. That is exactly what happened.
Matt Albers came in to replace Josh Hader in the bottom of the 10th and the first batter he faced, Trevor Story, smacked a solo home run just left of the right foul pole, sending Rockies fans home in great joy and Brewers fans in utter shock.
While most eyes were glued to the Brewers’ action-packed battle with the Rockies, fans surely were following the crucial Cubs vs. Cardinals matchup for its ties to the Brewers chances for another NL Central Division title. Brewers fans found themselves rooting for their rivals, who managed to assist the Brewers by topping the Cardinals 8-6. For the second night in a row, though, the Brewers failed to take advantage of a Cardinals loss and will have to rely on the final game of the season to tie the Cardinals for the division. If that were to occur, the Brewers would fly out to Saint Louis on Monday night for yet another Game 163. Otherwise, the Washington Nationals, with their superb pitching, will play whichever team does not win the division on Tuesday night in a grueling one-game series.
Saturday night’s heartbreaking loss marks the second straight defeat for the Brewers, who have had a remarkable month of September in their push for October baseball. Tomorrow the Brewers will hope to salvage one last victory in their final game of the regular season at 2:00 PM CT, once again versus the Colorado Rockies, and will be hoping the Cubs can do them one more favor in sweeping the Cardinals.