Francisco Rodriguez was supposed to provide some kind of answer in the ninth inning for the Brewers, who were struggling to achieve any late-game consistency with John Axford manning the final inning.
And despite inducing some heart palpitations around Milwaukee with his first two saves as closer, Rodriguez appeared to be on his way to providing some kind of reliability in a most unreliable year for the Brewers’ bullpen. But Monday’s effort, as Rodriguez blew a three-run, ninth-inning lead, collapsing on the mound for the Brewers’ fourth straight loss, left Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke with a familiar sense of frustration.
“Frankie has always been a guy who made pitches when he needs to,” Roenicke said. “But I don’t know. I’m not used to seeing Frankie like this.”
As a coach on the Angels staff when Rodriguez set the single season saves record, Roenicke has expressed faith in Rodriguez on several occasions this season. He knows what Rodriguez is capable of, he said. But on Monday, Rodriguez showed the other side of that coin.
With a three run lead, Rodriguez started the ninth inning with a strikeout of pinch hitter Laynce Nix. But after starting with three straight balls to Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, Rodriguez walked him, gave up a single on an 0-2 count, and then walked Chase Utley — after starting 3-0 again — to load the bases.
Even then though, it seemed Rodriguez could find a way out of the inning. After all, his two saves last week came with the tying run on third base. He had cut it close — very close — on plenty of occasions before.
But this time, there was no getting out of the trouble that he got himself into. Rodriguez allowed an 0-2 single up the middle to Ryan Howard, having dealt him a down-the-middle fastball in a count that certainly didn’t call for an easily hit strike. Two runs scored with Carlos Ruiz, one of Philadelphia’s most consistent hitters at the plate. Then, almost fittingly, Ruiz hit the ball over the head of shortstop Cesar Izturis, scoring the tying run and completing the Brewers 17th blown save of the season—a mark good enough for second-most in the National League.
Already falling apart, Rodriguez allowed another walk to Hunter Pence, giving him three walks in just the ninth inning and 10 baserunners in his last two outings. All it would take was a Ty Wigginton sacrifice fly to give the Phillies a 7-6 win and the Brewers one of their most brutal losses of the season.
“I so sorry guys,” Rodriguez tweeted after the game. “I do want to apologize for the performance the I did today from the bottom of my heart I will get better bcuz you guys deserve better then that am sorry.”
Roenicke explained afterwards that Rodriguez’s influx of work last week, followed by no work against the Reds, may have contributed to his serious lack of command on Monday.
“The problem is with Frankie is that we went four in a row with him, five out of six,” Roenicke said. “You go real hard with him and all of a sudden he’s off for four days. It’s not the ideal way to pitch and keep your command. But we can’t put him in there after we pitched him so hard, you can’t just get him out there two days later to get work. It creates problems when we’re not consistent with what we do in ballgames.”
Consistency, or a lack thereof, has been the Brewers most obvious problem all season. And now, it appears, that even with a change at the closer spot, consistency may continue to be a problem in the bullpen, as the Brewers fall further and further out of contention in the season’s second half.