MILWAUKEE — Jonathan Lucroy didn’t have to be reminded he was 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in his career against Aroldis Chapman.
The flame-throwing Cincinnati closer has not only had success against Lucroy, but he’s dominated the Milwaukee Brewers since he came to the big leagues in 2010.
After fouling off three fastballs at 99 mph, Lucroy crushed a hanging slider for his first career walk-off home run, giving the Brewers a 7-6 victory over the Reds.
Friday night’s win was four years in the making for Lucroy and the Brewers. They remember back to 2012 when Chapman somersaulted after recording a save against them, and they certainly know how they’ve struggled against him.
Prior to Lucroy’s two-run blast Friday, the Brewers had scored just one run against Chapman in the 21 innings he had thrown against them.
“I remember I was his first very first AB in the big leagues,” Lucroy said. “He was throwing 105 (mph) because he was all excited. That wasn’t cool.”
Pitching for the fifth time in six days, Chapman’s velocity was down just a couple of miles per hour. Jean Segura started the ninth inning by beating out an infield single, allowing Lucroy’s homer to win the game and give Chapman his fifth blown save of the season.
“What a great at-bat,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “Great at-bat by Seggy to get on base. You don’t expect to win when he is coming into the ballgame.
“The stuff is ridiculous. He wasn’t 100 today, he was a little down from that. He has such electric stuff. If he puts it in a good area you can’t really put a good swing on it.”
Lucroy did notice Chapman’s velocity was down a bit, but he still planned on being aggressive swinging at his fastball and adjusting to the slider.
“He did me a favor, really,” Lucroy said. “I was fighting that fastball off he was throwing me inside. I’m sure that will be the last time that happens if I face him again.
“It’s hard to get his timing down because he throws so hard. I was just trying to be on time today and be ready whenever he threw the ball. You have to be ready. If you are just a little bit late, you have no chance. You have to be early almost. It worked out. I was able to foul some pitches and get an off-speed pitch up in the zone.”
In a year filled with injuries, Lucroy has been one of the few consistent forces in Milwaukee’s lineup. He’s hitting .324 with 14 home runs and 47 RBI over his last 72 games, raising his batting average from .208 to .286.
He continues to build on his career high for home runs and now has 17 for the season and seems to come through in the clutch more often than not.
“If you look through the year, Luc comes up with some pretty amazing at-bats where he will keep fouling off and hang in there and hit a line drive somewhere,” Roenicke said. “He really does put together some really nice at-bats and big at-bats. He gets some hits when it’s huge. For me, that’s where it counts.”
Friday’s win also continued to prove the Brewers are going to fight and not lay down for the rest of the season. Milwaukee rallied to take the lead or tie the game three times Friday and came back against one of the game’s best closers.
“It feels good,” Lucroy said. “He has really good stuff, special arm. It just feels good to get the win. We kind of had a rough game throwing the ball. It feels good to get a win hitting wise.”
Hand optioned: Following the game, the Brewers optioned right-hander Donovan Hand to Triple-A Nashville to clear room for Yovani Gallardo to be reinstated from the disabled list.
Hand, 27, has a 3.83 ERA in 20 games and seven starts for the Brewers this season. Caught in a numbers game, Hand will pitch out of the bullpen for Nashville and will almost certainly be brought back up when rosters expand on Sept. 1.
On the disabled list since July 31 with a left hamstring strain, Gallardo will start Saturday against Cincinnati.