MILWAUKEE — Statistics are used heavily in baseball, but they are sometimes defied when the game is actually played.
Brewers reliever Brandon Kintzler has dominated left-handed hitters all season long, entering Monday having allowed just 11 hits and a .147 batting average to lefties this year.
In the decisive top of the eighth inning Monday, St. Louis left-handed hitters got five hits off Kintzler, including four in a row to turn 5-4 deficit into an 8-5 victory.
“That’s how crazy this game is, right?” Kintzler said. “You give up 11 hits to lefties all year and then you give up five.
“They had a good plan. Obviously, if (the pitches) are a little down they might be a ground ball. If they are a little up they go through. They had a good plan. Maybe next time we’ll change our plan and see what happens.”
Emerging as one of Milwaukee’s best relievers this season, Kintzler had been unscored upon in 23 of his last 24 appearances and hasn’t allowed a run in his last 20 1/3 innings. He was on his way to tossing another scoreless inning after a double play got the first two outs, but Cardinals rookie second baseman Kolten Wong beat out an infield hit to start the rally.
If the same play would have happened next year, the Brewers may have got out of the inning after a successful challenge of first base umpire Marty Foster’s call, but instant replay isn’t in place yet. The Brewers were convinced Wong was out right after the play happened and believe replays support their claim.
“I was standing right there, and I thought he was out,” Kintzler said. “But from his angle — it’s a short hop — it’s a tough call from his angle. I have a better angle. If you slow it down on replay, you have to really slow it down. It’s a tough play. From his angle, it’s tough.
“If the call goes the other way, we aren’t standing here. It can go either way … It happens in every game where there’s a questionable call.
“Unfortunately it happened to me today.”
While frustrated about the call, the Brewers acknowledged what happened next had nothing to do with the umpires.
Ignoring Kintzler’s stellar numbers against lefties, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny pinch hit two straight left-handed hitters and they both got hits. Daniel Descalso singled to left and Matt Adams rolled over but just found a hole between second and first to tie the game at 5-all.
Matt Carpenter — another left-handed hitter — followed with a base hit to left to score Descalso and give St. Louis the lead. Hitting from the left side against the right-handed Kintzler, Carlos Beltran hit a rocket to third base for a hit.
After Roenicke pulled Kintzler, pinch hitter David Freese greeted Burke Badenhop with a two-run double into the left-field corner to make it 8-5.
“They can hit,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “They go the other way really well. The big hits were all ‘oppo’ except for Freese’s. The three guys come off the bench and pinch hit and they get three hits. We can’t allow that to happen.
“We keep seeing what goes on, how they approach things, come back and get runs. We think we’re in a good position with good pitchers coming in and the next thing you know, they get runs back.”
Adding to the frustration level was the fact the Brewers had battled back the half inning before with three runs to take a 5-4 lead. With Kintzler and Jim Henderson, Milwaukee had the game lined up just the way it wanted.
But as they do so often, the Cardinals and their league-leading .329 batting average with runners in scoring position struck again.
“I don’t expect him to be perfect,” Roenicke said of Kintzler. “It’s a tough time to not get it done when we battled so hard to fight back and get the lead, but he’s done a great job.
“It’s frustrating when you play that hard and you get back and you get the lead and then you give it up.”
The close call at first base was the first situation the Brewers have had since plans for expanded replay were announced in which a play late in the game would have been challenged.
Does Kintzler support replay?
“Today I will,” Kintzler said. “Tomorrow I may tell you I don’t like it.”