Jonathan Lucroy has come up with more than his fair share of clutch hits for the Milwaukee Brewers, but the catcher’s response following the Arizona Diamondbacks’ plunking of Ryan Braun may go down as one of his biggest.
After reliever Evan Marshall threw behind Braun, and then was ejected after hitting him one pitch later, Lucroy greeted Diamondbacks setup man Brad Ziegler by hitting a first-pitch grand slam to give the Brewers a 7-4 lead in the seventh inning.
Milwaukee’s bullpen took it from there, as the Brewers moved to 14 games over .500 for the first time since 2011 with a 7-5 victory over Arizona on Tuesday at Chase Field.
"I think the at-bat Luc had was probably the best at-bat I’ve ever seen," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "After they smoke our guy, they bring in their (setup man), first pitch he sees he hits a grand slam. There’s just no way an at-bat can get bigger than that."
The inning started with Jean Segura tripling and scoring on an Elian Herrera sacrifice fly. Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson then went to the right-handed Marshall, despite a pair of lefties due up in pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay and Scooter Gennett.
Overbay singled and Gennett doubled, bringing up Braun with one out and the Brewers down a run. Marshall’s first pitch sailed behind Braun, causing home-plate umpire Ted Barrett to go out to the mound to talk to the right-hander.
Barrett quickly ejected Marshall when the next pitch drilled Braun in the backside. Brewers starter Wily Peralta hit Gerardo Parra with a pitch in Monday’s game, while Kyle Lohse hit Didi Gregorius in the first inning Tuesday and Chris Owings up near the neck in the sixth inning.
"You know what? They won tough-guy points today," Lohse said. "But I don’t know where the stats are for those. We won the game because of that. It was pretty unnecessary. The ball got away from me. You don’t want that to happen. But you’re going to play tough-guy stuff? Go ahead. We’re winning games."
Gibson and the rest of the Diamondbacks bench greeted Marshall with fist bumps and high-fives after he was ejected.
"We weren’t going to leave it out over the plate," Gibson said. "We were going to have Ziegler probably come in anyways. We just weren’t going to leave it out over the plate. He’s hurt us out there, they’ve hurt us out there, and they did."
Arizona’s skipper, who has had sharp words in the past for Braun’s use of performance-enhancing drugs, was then asked if he felt it was necessary to hit Braun after two of his players were hit earlier in the game.
"I’m not going to comment on that," Gibson said. "You’ve been around the game long enough."
Marshall ended up with the loss after allowing three runs without recording an out. The right-hander said Barrett asked him what happened on the first pitch and he told him the ball slipped away.
"Guys in scoring position, we’re trying to create some tough contact," Marshall said. "My best stuff is to work sink down and in. The ball got away and it got him.
"You don’t want to let a hitter like that beat you, so you are going to try to throw your best stuff in your best place to make him leave his comfort zone. My best stuff is down and in and the ball got away."
By plunking Braun, the Diamondbacks had to face one of the hottest hitters in baseball with the bases loaded. Lucroy already homered earlier in the game and connected for his eighth of the season off Ziegler, who had never allowed a grand slam and entered having allowed just 15 home runs in his seven-year career.
"That situation was all messed up," Lucroy said. "We didn’t hit their guy on purpose at all. In a (two-run) game, we’re not going to put the leadoff guy on base by hitting him in the head. That’s ridiculous."
Lohse bounced back after allowing three first-inning runs to not allow another earned run over the next five innings. He was one of the benefactors of Lucroy’s grand slam, as the home run eventually gave the right-hander his eighth win of the season.
"That was pretty impressive," Lohse said of Milwaukee’s win. "It was tough. It was weird — first inning I get in trouble and I didn’t really feel like I threw that many bad pitches. Then I get a jam and two ground balls and you’re down, 3-0.
"I felt like with our team, if I held them there they’d do some things, and they did. I got rewarded for that. That was a great team win and Luc had a great game."