Brewers squander great outing by Nelson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.--And so it goes for the Milwaukee Brewers, who got another terrific start from Jimmy Nelson only to see the offense once again fail to show.
They got away with it on Friday and Saturday, squeezing out one-run victories for Brandon Woodruff and Zach Davies. But on Sunday afternoon it was Nelson who paid the price as the Brewers fell in painful fashion, 2-1, to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Orlando Arcia's sixth-inning home run was the highlight of an otherwise punchless six-hit Milwaukee attack that also featured an 0-for-8 performance with runners in scoring position.
It was enough to keep the Brewers in it until the ninth, when Steven Souza, Jr. hammered Jacob Barnes's second pitch of the ninth out to left to hand them their seventh walk-off loss of the season and first since July 19 – right near the start of their three-weeks-and-counting offensive skid.
Nelson, meanwhile, was superb, allowing six hits, one run and two walks with nine strikeouts over an eight-inning, 107-pitch day.
"Jimmy pitched awesome," said third baseman Travis Shaw. "(Allowed) one run over eight innings, and you’d expect to have the lead going into the ninth.
"But just another bad day by the offense."
The Brewers missed out on a shot at a rare road sweep as well as a chance at jumping back into first place in the Central Division standings after the Chicago Cubs lost.
Shaw, who was knocked out of Saturday's game with a neck contusion, found himself in the game one-half inning into Sunday after Domingo Santana was hit in the right wrist by a Chris Archer fastball.
And it was his single that accounted for Milwaukee's lone hit until the sixth, when Arcia led off the frame by homering to left-center to tie it at 1-1. The Brewers went on to load the bases against Archer in the frame, but he struck out Hernán Pérez to escape the jam and end his day.
They managed just four baserunners the rest of the way against a trio of Rays relievers. Eric Thames and Pérez singled to open what was shaping up to be a promising ninth, but Manny Piña grounded into a hard-hit double play on which shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria was perfectly positioned to field nearly even with second base.
Keon Broxton then grounded out to put an exclamation point on the frustration.
"The best we can do is hit the ball well," Piña said. "I thought the ball would go through. The shortstop is supposed to move because they think I'm bunting, but he stayed there. I hit it hard, but it was right to him.
Nelson pitched a 1-2-3 first to run the Brewers' streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 23 before the Rays loaded the bases against him in the second with nobody out.
Nelson managed the jam the best he could, and ultimately Tampa Bay scored only one run on Wilson Ramos's double-play ball. The Rays threatened again in the sixth and the eighth, but the right-hander made that lone tally stand up the rest of the way.
Nelson's eighth and final inning might have been his most impressive, After recording the first two outs he allowed a ground-rule double to Lucas Duda and walked Evan Longoria only to strike out Rays cleanup hitter Logan Morrison with a nasty breaking ball.
Nelson stalked off the mound with a yell and a fist pump and with his third outing of eight innings or more in his pocket.
All the hard work went for naught when Souza blasted Barnes' second offering out to give Tampa Bay its first walk-off win via a homer since May 22, 2014 – the longest such streak in the major leagues.
Counsell made the call for Barnes (3-3) based on matchups, he said. Anthony Swarzak was unavailable, having pitched the previous three games.
"It was a tough game," Counsell said. "Their guys pitched well, too. It was a great start. These guys have been pitching in situations where they’ve got no room for error, and (Nelson) executed beautifully.
"We had a couple opportunities and like a lot in this streak, we’re missing them and not getting the big hit."
Nelson was diplomatic in his summation of the day's events.
"That's how it goes some days," he said. "There are going to be days where I give up runs and they come back and pick me up and score more, so that's how the game works.
"Different parts of the team pick it up.