Talk it over: Brewers meet after suffering sweep
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MILWAUKEE--It was finally time for a meeting.
After the Brewers put forth another listless showing Thursday night in a 7-2 loss to Minnesota, resulting in a four-game sweep by the Twins and a five-game losing streak overall, veteran pitcher Matt Garza called a players-only meeting in the home clubhouse at Miller Park.
How did Garza know it was time to talk?
“Just by facial expressions,” he said. “That’s about it. You can see some guys carrying more weight than others, and taking losses harder than they had in the past. That’s about it. Just let them know we have 162 of these, and we’re not done yet. Let’s keep going, have fun and get back to playing the way we played.”
Garza noted that most of the players on the Brewers’ inexperienced roster have not been through pennant races, and therefore were unable to find ways to get back to the winning form of the first half. The Brewers are 9-17 since the all-star break, going from 5 ½ games on top to third place, two games behind Chicago and now one game behind St. Louis.
So, Garza felt it was time to lighten the mental load a bit.
“Just come out and play with the energy we’ve had in the past,” he said. “The no-pressure feeling. We’ve got a bunch of young guys, and this is new to them.
“Just come in and play, and not worry about outside things and outside distractions. Just come in and play, and have a good time.”
Obviously, you’re not going to have much fun when you’re losing.
And teams always look a bit disinterested when they’re not scoring runs.
But one of the keys to the Brewers’ success in the first half was the fun-loving way they approached games, and the resilient manner in which they turned the page after losses. Some of that had eluded them in recent weeks as the losses mounted.
Players infrequently call closed-door meetings because the more you have, the less effective they become. Sort of like the boy who cried wolf too many times. But, done at the right time and with the right tone, they can be helpful.
“Definitely, when everybody buys into it,” said right-hander Zach Davies, who was roughed up for a career-high 11 hits and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings. “It makes a big difference. It’s nothing that anybody hasn’t heard before but it’s a friendly reminder that everybody is in it together.
“It’s just about going back to having fun. It’s just something that’s escaped us these last few weeks after the all-star break and it’s something we haven’t gotten back to. You start focusing on the negatives instead of taking positives out of each game. We’re trying to figure out a way to get back to that. It’s more of relying on your teammates as opposed to trying to figure out something for yourself.”
Outfielder Keon Broxton, whose second-inning home run accounted for one of the Brewers’ two runs, said he thought the meeting would pay dividends.
“It’s just not as exciting as it used to be,” he said. “I think that comes from everyone struggling at the same time. That’s something we have to put behind us and get back to playing fun, relaxed, carefree baseball.
“I think we’re going to get back to that as soon as possible.”
It’s never easy when you’re trailing early, especially when the offense is foundering. So, watching the Twins build a 6-1 lead in the third inning was certainly a daunting challenge.
But, during this ongoing offensive funk, the Brewers have mounted very few threats in the second half of games, and that was the case once again. Twins starter Dietrich Enns, making his major-league debut, was out of the game in the third inning but the Brewers managed only two hits the rest of the way against four relievers.
“We get to their bullpen early and let their relievers just run through some innings far too easily,” manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with. Against these relievers, we’re not putting up much of a fight. We have to be better against these relievers.
“I think when you’re down, it gets a little harder for sure. This stretch has been difficult. We’re a hit away some innings. It’s time to step up. Often you can say you were a hit a way but sometimes, you just have to get that hit. That’s the bottom line.”
And, sometimes, it’s just time to talk.