MILWAUKEE — On paper, the three-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels appears particularly frustrating for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Fresh off two road series wins against National League Central contenders, the Brewers were swept in a home series for the first time since early May with a 5-3 loss to the Angels. But after being beat soundly in the series opener Friday, Milwaukee feels a couple of inches was all that separated it from a couple of wins.
In the series finale Sunday, Angels left fielder J.B. Shuck hit a bases-clearing double off the first base bag in the seventh inning to give Los Angeles the lead. Just an inning later in the bottom of the eighth, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy has a potential bases-clearing, extra-base hit go just inches foul twice.
“Luck has a lot to do with this game,” Roenicke said. “They load the bases and they hit a ground ball down first base, and it hits the bag and goes over our head. We get the bases loaded, ‘Luc’ hits a line drive down the right field line inches foul.
“But we didn’t ht the ball well today. Four hits, they definitely out-hit us, but it came down to a little bit of luck.”
Brewers starter Kyle Lohse battled through shaky command to keep Milwaukee in the game after six innings. With the Brewers leading 3-1, Roenicke opted to take Lohse out at 93 pitches and go to struggling left-hander Michael Gonzalez to start the seventh inning.
Gonzalez allowed a leadoff single to Angels catcher Hank Conger and then was pulled in favor of Rob Wooten. After a single and a sacrifice bunt, the Angels turned to pinch hitter Josh Hamilton with the tying run on second base. Roenicke opted to walk Hamilton, but the move backfired when Shuck cleared the bases.
After Wooten struck out Erick Aybar for the second out, Roenicke made the decision to walk Mike Trout with first base open. Kole Calhoun followed with a ground-rule double to left to put Los Angeles up 5-3.
The Brewers loaded the bases for Lucroy with one out in the eighth, causing Angels manager Mike Scioscia to turn to closer Ernesto Frieri for a five-out save. After fouling off eight pitches with two near misses, Lucroy struck out on a up-and-away fastball on the 12th pitch of the at-bat. Khris Davis followed with a three-pitch strikeout and the threat was over.
“Hey, it’s the way the game is,” Lucroy said of just missing two extra-base hits by inches. “Sometimes they fall, sometimes they don’t. He didn’t get me out; I got myself out. I swung at a ball and I missed a couple of hangers, so I got myself out and I’m not too happy about it. But, hey, it is what it is, so you have to live with it.”
The Miller Park crowd slowly got into the battle between Lucroy and Frieri and the park was on its feet by the 10th pitch. In the end, Frieri came out on top.
“He earned that one,” Scioscia said. “That battle against Lucroy is about as good as you’re going to see.
“He just kept making pitches, and finally he just dotted a fastball out there and got him. That’s about as clutch as you can get.”
A few inches here and there hurt the Brewers in Saturday’s 6-5 loss. One out away from a victory, Jim Henderson surrendered a double to Hamilton that fell just out of left fielder Caleb Gindl’s reach and a go-ahead home run to Conger off the foul pole.
“That’s just how things go sometimes,” Lohse said. “We’re showing that we’re not quitting. We’re out there battling. Tough series for us, though.”
Regardless of how close they were to a pair of wins, the Brewers certainly didn’t play as well as they did on the last road trip against contending teams. The Angels are just about as far out of the race as the Brewers, making getting swept by them at home frustrating.
“It’s tough, because you feel like you’re getting going a little bit and then you …” said Roenicke, who stopped mid-sentence and continued. “We had a really good chance to win two of these games, so as long as we’re having chances to win (he is content). The killer, certainly, was the two-run home run last night. Today, we could have won with a little luck, but we didn’t swing the bat that well.”
The sting of the sweep can be erased quickly, however, as the Brewers open a three-game home series with Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon. After losing two-of-three to Milwaukee earlier in the week, the Pirates took two-of-three games from St. Louis over the weekend to jump back into a first-place tie.
Milwaukee can forget about what happened over the weekend if it can play spoiler yet again against a divisional opponent.
“It’s tough. But we played some good ballgames,” Lohse said. “Unfortunately it didn’t work out. We gave up some big runs in key situations. But you see the progress is there. We’ve got Pittsburgh coming back in, so hopefully we can give them a hard time and not let them come in here and do what (the Angels) just did.”