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Walk erases need for debate

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McClatchy Tribune
May 28, 2010
— The second guessers reached those gates, and they were nearly in their own personal heaven.

But they were turned away.


It was a decision that could have easily backfired on Milwaukee Brewers manager Ken Macha. And had that happened, the pundits would have roasted Macha via snail mail, e-mail, Internet, radio, television and any other medium they could imagine.


Either Macha would pinch hit with his only remaining bench player and backup catcher with the winning run at third base but run the risk of having the game go longer and not having another catcher, or pinch hit with a pitcher, which could lead to the run not scoring at all and the game eventually being lost.


That decision ended up not mattering since Rickie Weeks came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning Thursday afternoon.


Luckily for Macha and fortunately for the Brewers, normally steady Houston Astros closer Matt Lindstrom walked Weeks for the game-winning run, giving the Brewers a 4-3 victory.


It was the Brewers’ first series victory at Miller Park since the season opener against the Colorado Rockies. It also was the first time the Brewers won a game this season when trailing after eight innings.


Here’s the rundown: With the bases packed and one out, the pitcher’s spot in the order came up for the Brewers in the 10th.


Macha had only three position players on his bench to start the game because outfielder Jody Gerut was placed on the disabled list Thursday.


Macha had had used two of those players, Craig Counsell and Joe Inglett as pinch hitters earlier, meaning his only remaining bench guy was backup catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who sprinted from the bullpen to the dugout in case he was needed.


But instead of gambling with not having a backup catcher for the rest of the game, Macha decided to pinch hit with left-handed pitcher Randy Wolf. Sure, Wolf came in hitting .320, but he’s still a pitcher, and it showed. Wolf struck out on three pitches.


The only good thing about the at-bat was he didn’t hit into a double play, allowing Weeks to come up and work a full count before taking a fastball that barely missed down and away for ball four.


“I wasn’t going to get cheated,” Wolf said. “I didn’t want to just swing and hit into a double play. I was going to swing hard and try for a fly ball. All or nothing.”


There was plenty of back-and-forth in the dugout before that decision was made.


“I’ll tell you what, there was a lot of discussion right there,” Macha said. “Either you were going to go for it the whole way and let Lucroy hit and have no players left. Then who knows how long the game will go, and you get into big trouble.


“I felt like if (Wolf) struck out, we still had Rickie. It wasn’t like there were two outs and that guy had to get a hit.”


And had there been two outs?


“Then I probably hit,” Lucroy said.


Macha referenced the 20-inning game earlier this season between the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets when the Cardinals had to have a pitcher play the outfield because they ran out of bench players. That fear prompted him to use Wolf.


Lindstrom came into the game a perfect 10 for 10 in save opportunities this season and having saved 22 in a row, the longest active streak in the majors.


But with a one-run lead in the ninth, the Astros most reliable bullpen guy allowed a leadoff single to Alcides Escobar, who was bunted to second and moved to third on a wild pitch.


Carlos Gomez eventually singled him home to tie the game and give Lindstrom his first blown save of the season.


Lindstrom got himself into the mess in the 10th by allowing a single to Casey McGehee, walking George Kottaras, the starting catcher, and giving up another single to Escobar before Wolf struck out and Weeks finished things.


The Brewers were 0-24 when trailing after eight innings before this, but they had put themselves in positions to win some of those, as they did Saturday when they scored five runs in the top of the ninth against the Twins, only to lose in extra innings.


“We’ve been doing a good job of giving ourselves opportunities, even if it’s just bringing the tying run to the plate,” McGehee said. “It was nice to finally cash in one of those.


“I think the goal is to always give yourself that chance where you’re one swing away. The comeback is the icing on the cake against a guy like that. It was definitely nice.”



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