MILWAUKEE — A six-inning effort from Marco Estrada was enough to give the Brewers a one-run lead heading into the seventh inning of Saturday’s game against the first-place Pirates. But as they have been for much of the season, Saturday’s one-run lead wasn’t very kind to the Brewers.
This time, it was defensive lapses that were the cause of Milwaukee’s late-inning woes.
First, with no outs, Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes knocked a base hit to left field that was misplayed by Ryan Braun, allowing Barmes to advance to second. It was a seemingly minor miscue, but it was only the beginning of what ended up being a nightmare inning for the Brewers.
With Barmes on second, pinch hitter Josh Harrison laid down a sacrifice bunt that was fielded by Milwaukee reliever Kameron Loe. But Loe struggled to move his feet properly and threw it away past first base, giving the Pirates the tying run.
Two batters later, Loe threw a ball-four slider to Andrew McCutchen that sailed on Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado, giving Harrison the opportunity to score from home, while also putting McCutchen on base. After just one out in the seventh inning, Milwaukee had quickly given up their one-run lead in favor of a one-run deficit. The passed ball would be enough to give the Pirates the win, as they added one more for a 6-4 final.
Maldonado, known for his defensive prowess, took responsibility for the play after the game. But as Brewers manager Ron Roenicke saw it, it was a brief, yet poor defensive effort all around in the seventh.
“It’s frustrating,” Roenicke said. “We can’t field a bunt when they give us an out. Braunie with a little miscue in left field. And then a passed ball. This is a good team and we can’t play poorly defensively.”
The Brewers haven’t been a particularly bad defensive team on average this season, with the fifth-lowest error total in the National League, but Saturday’s miscues came in a one-run game — the team’s kryptonite this season. Milwaukee is 15-18 in games decided by one-run this season, decidedly worse than the team’s 30-18 mark last season.
Pitcher Marco Estrada, who took a no-decision after striking out 11 batters in 5.2 innings, said those kind of mistakes have been multiplied in close games, where the Brewers haven’t been able to recreate their 2011 mojo.
“We were really good (in 2011) at making those comebacks, especially at home,” Estrada said. “Unfortunately, things haven’t really gone our way with close games (this year).”
Roenicke was clearly frustrated in his press conference after the game, as the Brewers lost some momentum in the middle of an important nine-game stretch against NL Central opponents.
“We gave it away,” he said. “. . . You can’t let games get away from you that you should win, not if you’re going to win a division.”