One day after Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke explained that reliever Jim Henderson was the only reliable option in the Brewers bullpen, Henderson proved, like the rest of the bullpen has often this season, that he wasn’t invincible.
That didn’t seem to be the case in the Brewers ninth inning against the Astros on Saturday night though, as it took just 13 pitches for the 10-year minor league veteran to strike out the side. A day after basically naming Henderson the closer for the time being, Roenicke’s decision looked to be more than justified.
And with the bullpen’s unreliability on his mind and Henderson just 13 pitches into his outing, Roenicke sent the Brewers newest closer out for the 10th inning.
Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Henderson wouldn’t record a single out in the bottom of the 10th inning, as the Astros would tally their second straight walk-off win in two days — their first two walk-offs of the entire season.
In his postgame press conference, Roenicke defended his newfound closer and explained the 10th inning gone awry.
“I don’t think he was trying to be too fine,” Roenicke said. “He was really quick to home. I don’t know if he was worried about the guy taking off from first base. Then, maybe a little too many breaking balls there. But he did his job the first inning. We put him back out there. He’s not going to be perfect all the time.”
As good as Henderson’s ninth inning was, however, his tenth inning was that bad.
After leadoff man Jose Altuve got on base with an infield single, Henderson made the fatal mistake that many Brewers relievers have in this tumultuous season—he walked the next batter. To make matters even worse, he walked the batter after that, loading the bases with no outs and putting himself in a situation unlike any other he’s faced this season.
It took just one more Astros batter, Scott Moore, to knock in Altuve and hand Henderson his first big league loss.
“He’s not used to (throwing multiple innings),” Roenicke said. “But he did it in Triple-A early on, and I asked about it here and he said he was fine to do it. …
“Going back out, he felt fine. But again, the walks, they hurt.”
Henderson had allowed just two earned runs and walked just one batter before Saturday’s game. But it was clear in the 10th inning that Henderson wasn’t quite comfortable going out for his second go-round of the night, as he allowed another earned run and doubled his walk total from the previous eight appearances. The Brewers bullpen, which hasn’t looked comfortable for the majority of the season, had lost yet another game in the late innings.
Before Henderson’s final inning slip-up, his performances had made him the team’s clear choice as closer. And it appeared that — Friday night’s late-inning disaster notwithstanding — that the Brewers bullpen may even be following Henderson’s lead, bouncing back in recent games. It sure looked that way against the Astros early on, as the Brewers bullpen went four innings before the 10th inning meltdown having allowed just three hits, one earned run and striking out six.
“I thought the bullpen threw the ball well,” Roenicke said. “We shut them down for a lot of innings.”
But when all was said and done on Saturday night, it was another late-inning loss, another game blown in the bullpen that doomed the Brewers, putting them on the brink of a sweep to baseball’s worst team.