Brad Ziegler pointed at his foot, trying to make his case. It was pointless – the balk call stood.
The sixth-inning mistake seemed to rattle the Arizona reliever and he imploded, allowing six straight batters to reach base. By the time manager Kirk Gibson pulled Ziegler, the Milwaukee Brewers were well on their way to a 9-4 win Sunday and a 2-0 lead in the NL division series.
”I don’t know, that’s the move I’ve done every other time I’ve done it and I’ve never been called on that before,” a baffled Ziegler said of the balk. ”I’m not sure exactly what I did.”
Ziegler said his footwork was proper when he spun around in an effort to pick off Jerry Hairston Jr. at second base. Steamed, Ziegler didn’t say anything.
”I didn’t want to question it,” he said. ”I didn’t want to do anything to get ejected. I didn’t want to do anything to distract myself. I wanted to get my focus back on the plate.
”I am, in a way, somewhat curious as to what happened,” he said. ”It’s just one of those things that’s part of the game and you’ve got to move on and execute after that. That’s what I struggled at today.”
Moments later, Jonathan Lucroy put down a safety squeeze bunt that scored Hairston with the tiebreaking run, with Ziegler making a throwing error on the play. The Brewers scored five times in the inning and broke away.
Game 3 of the best-of-five series is Tuesday night in Arizona, with Josh Collmenter trying to prevent a Brewers sweep. The rookie will pitch against Milwaukee’s Shaun Marcum.
It was an uncommonly poor performance for Ziegler, obtained in a July 31 trade deadline deal with Oakland to bolster the Diamondbacks’ bullpen. After joining Arizona, he gave up only four earned runs over 20 1-3 innings in 23 games for a 1.74 ERA.
The Brewers matched those four runs in a matter of minutes on Sunday. In only 13 pitches, Ziegler gave up a balk, a walk, the bunt, an intentional walk and three consecutive singles.
By the time his day was done, so were the Diamondbacks’ chances.
”It was really crazy, man,” catcher Miguel Montero said of the Brewers’ burst. ”I didn’t even get a chance to second-guess myself. It was like, ‘OK, here we go – boom, boom, boom, boom.’ I’m like, ‘What’s going on over here?”’
Arizona did hit three home runs off Milwaukee starter Zack Greinke. Rookie Paul Goldschmidt, who spent the season at Double-A Mobile until being recalled on Aug. 1, and Chris Young each hit solo home runs.
Justin Upton hit a two-run shot in the fifth to make it 4-all. The Diamondbacks still have not led at all in the series.
Aaron Hill went 3 for 3 with two walks, but the Diamondbacks went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base.
They had their chances on Sunday, but Ziegler dashed their hopes with his awful outing.
He was summoned to face Yuniesky Betancourt after Hairston had drawn a one-out walk from Arizona starter Daniel Hudson. After throwing a ball, Ziegler swung around on a pickoff attempt, but second base umpire Bruce Dreckman immediately pointed Hairston to third base.
Ziegler then walked Betancourt on four pitches. That brought up Lucroy, and the Diamondbacks prepared for a squeeze play. Lucroy laid down a good bunt between the mound and the first-base line.
Ziegler went into a quick sprint and grabbed the ball, but his awkward flip to Montero was off the mark and went to the backstop for an error.
”I fully expected it,” Ziegler said. ”I just didn’t execute the play. I should have taken the out at first.”
Betancourt advanced to third with Lucroy at second on the error, and the Diamondbacks intentionally walked pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay to load the bases for Corey Hart.
Ziegler was especially tough on right-handed hitters this year, holding them to a .188 batting average. The right-handed Hart, though, lined the first pitch from Ziegler for a sharp single to center, scoring Betancourt for a 6-4 lead.
Nyjer Morgan hit the first pitch from Ziegler for a two-run single. Ryan Braun singled on the second pitch, making it 9-4.
”The pitch to Braun was up a little bit,” Ziegler said. ”That was the one really bad pitch I thought I made.”
Gibson, though, said Ziegler was having trouble throwing his sinker.
”He wasn’t throwing the ball good,” he said. ”He usually throws a real wicked sinker, setting up on the inside part of the plate, basically middle. It was not his normal sink.”
Reliever Takashi Saito pitched the top of the sixth to earn the victory.
Hudson was saddled with the loss, pitching 5 1-3 innings, giving up five runs on nine hits while striking out six. He fell behind 2-0 in the first inning when Braun hit a two-run homer.
The Diamondbacks had two runners on base in each of the final three innings, but failed to score.
NOTES: Hill hit a ball just inside fair territory that likely would have been a double with one out in the first inning, but left field umpire James Hoye called it foul. Replays showed it was a fair ball. Hill followed it with a single, but was stranded. … Montero is hitless with a walk in nine plate appearances in the series.