MILWAUKEE — Determined to play spoiler and end the season fighting, the Milwaukee Brewers turned an apparent loss into one of the more exciting victories of the season Sunday afternoon at Miller Park.
Trailing 5-1 in the seventh inning, the Brewers scored four runs between the seventh and eighth inning, while Sean Halton blasted his first career walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-5 win.
Like he did during Cincinnati’s last visit, Carlos Gomez leaped high over the centerfield fence and robbed Reds right fielder Jay Bruce of a three-run home run to keep the game tied heading to the bottom of the inning.
A half inning after making his major-league debut at third base, Halton hit the first pitch from Zach Duke out to left-center for his third home run of the season.
“I don’t think there’s a better feeling,” Halton said. “As a kid growing up, wanting to be a baseball player and a major-leaguer, that’s the top moment, I think. Gomey makes that great play against the Reds again — you’ve got to love it. We’ve got great energy coming into the dugout after that play, and it carried over to the offensive side.”
After Yovani Gallardo got the Brewers through six innings despite a 39-pitch, three-run top of the first inning, Milwaukee’s bullpen shut Cincinnati down for the final three innings to facilitate a comeback.
Trailing 5-1 in the seventh inning, the Brewers benefited from Bronson Arroyo’s wildness to score a run to chip away at the deficit. After three walks loaded the bases with one out, Halton hit into a fielders’ choice to score Jonathan Lucroy to make it 5-2.
More wildness from Cincinnati started Milwaukee’s three-run eighth inning, as Sam LeCure walked pinch hitter Norichika Aoki and Manny Parra hit pinch hitter Khris Davis to start the frame. Jean Segura followed with a two-run triple off J.J. Hoover and scored on a Lucroy sacrifice fly to knot the game at 5-5.
Brewers closer Jim Henderson walked Shin-Soo Choo with one out in the top of the ninth, but struck out Brandon Phillips for the second out. After Choo stole second base, Milwaukee elected to intentionally walk Joey Votto.
Bruce drove the first pitch from Henderson deep to center but Gomez timed his leap perfectly and brought the ball back and sent the ballpark into a frenzy.
“That was really well-timed,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “He knew he had plenty of time, plenty of distance away from the wall. He’s good at it, he’s made a lot of them.”
Assuming the ball would have gone over the fence — Gomez thought it would have — Milwaukee’s center fielder would have a major-league best five home-run robbing catches this season, the most of any player since Baseball Info Solutions began tracking the statistic 10 years ago. Saving the three runs also pushed Gomez to 34 defensive runs saved on the season, the most by a center fielder since the stat began being kept 11 seasons ago.
His last home-run robbing catch was also against the Reds, as Gomez stole a go-ahead home run from Votto to end the game on July 9.
“We got into a situation with one of the best left-handed hitters for them, and I’m expecting him to hit the ball to center field or in the gap because he’s an aggressive hitter,” Gomez said. “I moved a few steps to the right side, and I followed the ball all the way through, got close to the fence and make the decision to jump or not.”
Gomez made another defensive play to snuff out a Cincinnati in the fifth inning. Phillips tried to go first to third on a Bruce single, but Gomez gunned him out with ease.
“Gomez was the star of the game,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He threw Brandon out at third, he made a great throw.”
Halton has worked at third base prior to games for most of this season but has played just one minor-league game at the hot corner in his career. Roenicke elected to empty his bench to try and come back on the offensive end, leaving the Brewers needing an infielder.
With Aramis Ramirez out with a wrist injury, Roenicke’s options were Juan Francisco and Halton. The Brewers shifted seven of their eight position players defensively before the ninth inning and Halton ended up at third base.
“I loved it,” Halton said. “I think everyone else was nervous. I was good. I’m confident over there. it was good to get in there and good for them to have some confidence in me to get over there. But it felt good.”
The walk-off home run was the third of the season, with Halton joining Caleb Gindl and Lucroy with game-winning homers. Halton has had a couple of walk-off home runs in the minor leagues, but this one was extra special.
“Nothing comes close to this one,” Halton said, “Especially against a team that’s playing well and in the hunt. We’ve been playing that spoiler role lately, and hopefully we continue that the next couple of weeks.”