Blullpen lets Garza down
Just call it The Great Bullpen Snafu.
Amid confusion and controversy as to which relief pitcher was summoned in the seventh inning Thursday night, the Milwaukee Brewers watched a two-run lead disappear and become an ugly 5-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
It was only the second time all season the Brewers lost when scoring at least four runs, and it probably shouldn't have happened.
The Brewers seemed in good shape with a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh and starter Matt Garza pitching a solid game. But when Chris Johnson led off with a single and Dan Uggla also singled with one down, manager Ron Roenicke replaced Garza with right-hander Brandon Kintzler.
Gerald Laird hit a bouncer to the left of third baseman Mark Reynolds, who tried to make a diving grab. The ball caromed off his glove and trickled into shallow left field for what became an RBI double, leaving runners at second and third.
Roenicke then came out and made the signal for a lefty from the bullpen, and the madness began. First, it appeared Zach Duke was coming out. Then Roenicke said he wanted Will Smith, who apparently had not warmed up.
The Brewers were operating without two of their coaches, pitching coach Rick Kranitz and bullpen coach Lee Tunnell, both of whom were attending graduation ceremonies of their children. Minor-league pitching coordinator Rick Tomlin filled in for Kranitz in the dugout, and bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel oversaw the relief corps.
My fault. Miscommunication,” Roenicke said. “There's a certain way we do things, and when Kranitz isn't here, I didn't go back and tell Rick Tomlin who to get up and bring in. It's my fault.”
The Braves apparently challenged the substitution and the umpires went to video replay during what became a lengthy delay. They ruled that Smith would stay in the game, which didn't work out for the Brewers.
With the infield in, pinch hitter Ryan Doumit singled past shortstop Jean Segura to send home both runners and put the Braves on top. The Brewers then thought they had a force at second on Jason Heyward's grounder, only to have it overturned when the Braves challenged it.
After yet another pitching change to Ron Wooten, the Brewers finally got out of the inning, but the damage was done.
The Brewers, who were no-hit into the seventh inning by Aaron Harang when the teams met on April 2, got to him for a quick run in the first. Segura, leading off in place of injured Carlos Gomez, bunted for a hit, stole second and scored on Jonathan Lucroy's two-out double to right.
Segura and Lucroy teamed up for another run off Harang in the third inning. Segura led off with a booming double to left-center and was bunted to third by Scooter Gennett. Ryan Braun grounded out to short with Segura holding, but Lucroy again delivered with two outs, ripping a single up the middle.
A successful replay challenge allowed Garza to get out of the second inning unscathed but he did himself no good by walking Uggla, a .178 hitter, to open the bottom of the third. Uggla moved to second on a sacrifice by Harang and scored on Heyward's two-out single to pull the Braves within 2-1.
The squeeze play has been a favorite of Roenicke's in the past, but he hadn't put that play on this season until the fourth inning. Lyle Overbay led off with a double to left-center and moved to third on a grounder to short by Khris Davis.
With Overbay breaking from third at the last second, Logan Schafer executed the squeeze perfectly and the Brewers had a 3-1 lead.
The Brewers kept the pressure on Harang in the sixth. With one down, Reynolds singled and moved up on a passed ball. After a walk to Overbay, Davis lined a single to center to make it a 4-1 game and send Harang to the showers.
Garza was cruising along in the sixth inning when B.J. Upton sent an opposite-field drive to right that just cleared the barrier for a home run. Freddie Freeman drew a walk, but Garza stopped it there by getting a big strikeout of Justin Upton on a 3-2 breaking ball.