Following a frustrating, 3-2 extra-innings loss to the San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke displayed rare outward frustration in his postgame meeting with the media.
Roenicke didn’t mince words over his dissatisfaction with the strike zone of home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger, who ejected the Brewers’ skipper in the bottom of the ninth inning immediately after closer Francisco Rodriguez allowed the game-tying home run to Rene Rivera.
"This is the thing that bothers me: this is the same umpire that we had before, and he is terrible behind home plate," Roenicke said of Ripperger, a fill-in umpire from Triple-A. "He calls pitches that aren’t even close. The catcher sets up six inches off the plate and he calls them strikes. I should have been kicked out the last time that we saw him."
The first two pitches Rodriguez threw to Rivera in the ninth inning were called balls by Ripperger, causing Roenicke to come out and get ejected after the home run on the third pitch of the at-bat. It was the fourth time this season Roenicke has been ejected and the sixth ejection of the season by Ripperger.
"I’m tired of sitting here watching the catcher set up off the plate and hitting his glove and (the umpire) calling it a strike," Roenicke said. "They are balls. So Frankie misses, OK, it is off the plate this much the first one, he calls a ball. He’s been calling it all night. The next one was a little further off, but he’s been calling that also. Just call the same pitches, but they are balls. I should have been kicked out in probably the second inning today. It is the same guy."
The Brewers were baffled for most of the night by Padres right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne, as the rookie allowed just one earned run over seven innings and struck out a career-high nine. However, Roenicke felt Despaigne took advantage of Ripperger’s strike zone.
"He was rolling because the umpire was giving him six inches off the plate," Roenicke said. "That’s why he was rolling. That’s a huge difference when a pitcher can throw that far off the plate. We swing the bat more than anybody in baseball. If we’re taking pitches, they are balls. We swing. I went back and looked at pitches after the first inning and I couldn’t believe the pitches the guy was calling. But it is the same thing that he did the last time to us."
Roenicke was asked by a reporter if he thought Ripperger’s strike zone was uneven against the Brewers.
"Absolutely uneven, but you know something, we weren’t hitting that spot he was giving them pitches on," Roenicke said. "They are getting more pitches because their catcher is setting up and their pitcher is hitting the spots that are off the plate."
In trouble for most of the night, Yovani Gallardo was able to work his way out of multiple jams to hold the Padres scoreless over six innings. The Brewers finally broke through against Despaigne in the seventh, as Elian Herrera drove in Lyle Overbay with a double into the right-field corner.
Herrera would later score on a passed ball by Rivera, putting Milwaukee up 2-0.
"He got by this game," Roenicke said of Gallardo. "He did a good job not letting them score runs, but he had no feel for his curveball. I don’t know if he threw a good curveball today. He did a great job of pitching with his fastball and slider, but he didn’t have all his pitches."
A two-out, pinch-hit RBI single from Jake Goebbert off reliever Jeremy Jeffress in the seventh pulled San Diego to within 2-1. The Padres put two on against Will Smith in the eighth, but the left-hander struck out pinch hitter Tommy Medica to end the inning.
Rivera not only tied the game off Rodriguez with his ninth home run of the season, but the longtime minor-league catcher delivered the walk-off single for the Padres in the 10th. Zach Duke was able to get a pair of outs after a walk and a single gave San Diego two on with nobody out, but the left-hander’s struggles in August continued when Rivera singled back up the middle to end the game.
For the second consecutive night, the Brewers failed to take advantage of a Cardinals loss. Milwaukee had a chance to extend its lead to 2 1/2 games in the division over St. Louis, but they will instead head into the off day Thursday with an advantage of 1 1/2 games.