Last strikes: Brewers 6, Cardinals 4

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Twenty-seven last strikes for the 27 outs recorded by Milwaukee’s bullpen in Monday night’s 6-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

1. They say that each trip to the baseball park could bring something that you’ve never seen before. Monday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis was just that for some people.

2. Dan Jennings – one of Milwaukee’s regular relief pitchers – toed the rubber at approximately 7:25 p.m. CT Monday night to start the bottom half of the first inning. He threw three pitches, a slider, a two-seam fastball, and another slider before being greeted on the mound by manager Craig Counsell.

3. Jennings induced a groundball to second baseman Travis Shaw for the first out of the game off of the bat of Matt Carpenter before hitting the showers. His work for the day was done.

4. This wasn’t a freak injury, or an ejection, though. This was done by design. In fact, Freddy Peralta was in the bullpen warming up at the same time as Jennings during the first inning. Peralta replaced Jennings after just one hitter.

5. “Somebody asked me if I was going to five tonight before the game and I said, “five pitches or five innings?’” Jennings said. “No, we kind of knew what the deal was. Props to everybody that came in behind me and the position players for getting it done. That’s a grind right there, that’s an absolute grind and it was fun to watch.”

6. It was the first time Jennings had started a game since 2008 when he was in short-season A-ball.

7. That wasn’t where the bizarre events stopped, either.

8. It rained on and off throughout the middle innings, but seemed to pick up each time the Cardinals were at the plate, Josh Hader struggled on the mound, and then the tarp was pulled on, then off, then on again, and then finally off for good in a span of roughly 14 minutes.

9. “It was wet; it was raining,” Hader said after his outing in which he allowed three runs on three hits in an inning. “Obviously, it’s not the easiest thing. But I made a mistake, threw two fastballs down the middle. You saw what happened.”

10. It didn’t stop there, either.

11. In the sixth inning the Brewers were able to load the bases on a walk, hit by pitch, and another walk. Ryan Braun stepped to the plate and drew a four-pitch walk to force a run in for the Crew giving them a 2-1 lead.

12. Mike Moustakas strolled up next and hit a shallow fly ball to St. Louis outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna caught the fly ball and fired home as Jesús Aguilar tagged up from third base to try and score.

13. First of all, it was a great send by Eddy. It was a very nice, aggressive play by Eddy,” Counsell said.

14. Obviously, Aguilar isn’t exactly the person who pops into someone’s mind when ‘fleet of foot’ is whispered aloud, or at least that’s what Shaw thought.

15. Shaw was on second base when Moustakas was at the plate and executed some smart base running. He tagged up from second to third on a ball that he would normally have no chance of reaching third on. What he was able to do, though, was get in the vision of Cardinals third baseman Jedd Gyorko.

16. Gyorko cut the throw off and chased Shaw, who immediately stopped in his tracks in the baseline. Shaw was tagged out, but not before Aguilar had crossed home plate.

17. “Yeah, with Aggy on third I wanted to do that,” Shaw said. “It wasn’t a very deep fly ball. If it was a deep fly ball it would be a different story.

18. “As soon as it gets cut and Aggy scores I just slammed on the brakes.”

19. “I don’t think the throw gets to the plate,” Counsell said. “The question, to me, is could it have been cut and thrown home. Travis did really nice baserunning to put himself in the vision of Gyorko. It was a good play all around. Good play by Eddy. Good play by Travis.”

20. In the eighth inning the Brewers sent Eric Thames to the plate to pinch-hit for reliever Corbin Burnes. He laced a one-out triple under the glove of José Martínez in right field. Moustakas was intentionally walked following that to bring Erik Kratz to the plate.

21. Moustakas, entering the game with a grand total of 15 stolen bases in his eight-year career, drew a pick-off attempt from Bud Norris. That throw hit Moustakas and bounced away far enough to score Thames from third base and give the Brewers a 5-4 lead.

22. The Brewers were able to add an insurance run in the top of the ninth inning as Christin Yelich doubled home Lorenzo Cain to make it a 6-4 Milwaukee lead. When the bottom half of the inning came, Corey Knebel – not Jeremy Jeffress – walked out of the left field bullpen at Busch Stadium.

23. In fact, Jeffress wasn’t even in the bullpen.

24. “JJ was unavailable tonight,” Counsell said. “He’s experiencing some neck spams that made it unable for him to pitch. He wasn’t in the bullpen all day.”

25. The ninth inning was no problem for Knebel as he struck out three of the four batters he faced, with the lone base runner reaching via a hit-by-pitch.

26. All in all, the plan of a bullpen game – which really was just a Freddy Peralta start in which he didn’t face the first batter – worked out for the Brewers. This was a huge win for a club attempting to make the postseason for the first time since 2011. Now, they’re one step closer, even if this was the required avenue to get there.

27. So, yeah, anytime you come to the ballpark you may see something that rarely happens. In the next few days that might include the Brewers punching a postseason ticket.

Last strikes: Brewers 4, Dodgers 2

MILWAUKEE – Twenty last strikes for the 20 batters faced by Milwaukee starter Cody Anderson in the Brewers’ 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night at Miller Park.

1. Brewers reliever Josh Hader has had a whirlwind of a week after derogatory tweets of his surfaced during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Tuesday night.

2. Hader’s tweets have been talked about constantly since they were exposed, and with good reason. He had messaged discriminating about minorities, people of differing sexual orientations, as well as women. At the time he pressed send on the tweets he was a 17-year-old at Old Mill High School in Millersville, Md.

3. Obviously, much time has passed between then and now. It’s been over six years and people certainly change, but the message is still a harmful one and it’s worrisome that those were the things on his mind.

4. Since the tweets surfaced, he has apologized, had a team meeting, and now taken the mound at Miller Park. Hader entered in the seventh inning of Saturday night’s game against the Dodgers with Milwaukee holding a 4-2 lead over LA.

5.

6. As one can see in the above tweet, Hader was warmly received. It’s always an interesting thing to see how a fan base reacts to a player after a controversy such as this one arises. It’s rare that a player is booed in his home stadium under any circumstances.

7. “[That reaction] means a lot,” Hader said after the win. “Having Milwaukee’s support, knowing that they know my true character and forgiving for my past. That’s not who I am today.”

8. People change, Hader isn’t the first person to make a mistake when he was young, he won’t be the last one, either. He apologized, as he should have, but there’s still work to be done. He wants to put this situation behind him as quickly as possible, as anyone would. But it’s not going to vanish into thin air just like that.

9. When the Brewers hit the road next weekend and Hader comes out of the bullpen in Atlanta against the Braves, the reception certainly won’t be anything like the one at Miller Park on Saturday.

10. “I’m not expecting that everyone is going to forgive me early,” he said. “I just hope that people see my true character today and I hope that I can show them that that’s not who I was.”

11. Hader will have plenty of time to show he’s a changed man in the days ahead. While he was on the mound, he looked like his normal self, which is exactly what he and the Brewers needed to see.

12. Hader pitched two scoreless innings allowing one hit while striking out four of the seven hitters he faced. The lone hit he allowed was to Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.

13. “This is what I love to do,” he said. “It helps me clear my mind and that’s really what it did today. [Being back on the mound] felt natural. It’s something that eases my mind a lot. It’s just my relaxation.”

14. As for the rest of the game, it looked early on as if things were going to go swimmingly for the Dodgers and that it was going to be tough sledding for the Crew.

15. In the first inning, Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson struggled. He threw 43 pitches and allowing both of the runs Los Angeles would score. Meanwhile, in the bottom half Clayton Kershaw cruised through, striking out the side.

16. The fortunes for the Brewers changed in the second inning that started off with Ryan Braun – fresh off the disabled list – reaching base on a Catcher’s Interference. He was advanced to second on a Tyler Saladino single before tagging up to third on a Hernán Pérez lineout to center. Braun finally came around to score on a ground out to shortstop off the bat of Keon Broxton.

17. The Brewers then took the lead in the sixth inning with a three-run outburst. The inning began with a Christin Yelich hitting a 413-foot home run to dead center to tie the game. The Brewers were then able to capitalize on an error from Dodgers third baseman Max Muncy allowing Braun to score after he previously doubled. Piña, who reached base on the error by Muncy, came around to score as Broxton tripled him home to give the Dodgers the 4-2 lead.

18. Much of the reason the Brewers were able to take that lead was the pitching of Corbin Burnes. He came on in relief of Anderson in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and no outs. Burnes escaped unscathed thanks to an out at home after Kershaw tried to advance following the ball getting behind catcher Erik Kratz, a strikeout, and a fly out. He then pitched the sixth inning as well and earned the win in his Miller Park debut.

19. The win snaps Milwaukee’s seven-game losing streak that dates back to July 10th. Thanks to Chicago splitting a doubleheader with St. Louis the Brewers pick up a half-game on the Cubs in the standings and now trail by 2.5 games in the Central.

20. The Brewers and Dodgers will complete this three-game series on Sunday afternoon at Miller Park. Brent Suter (8-5, 4.39 ERA) will start for Milwaukee while Alex Wood (5-5, 3.92 ERA) toes the rubber for the Dodgers. First pitch is set for 1:10 p.m. CT.

Josh Hader apologizes to teammates and fans over insensitive tweets

MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader made headlines during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game earlier this week due to tweets from his past. Hader has spent much of the time since the game apologizing for his actions in the past and hoping to move on and focus on the season at hand.

“I regret for mistakes that I have made in the past and that doesn’t resemble the person I am now,” Hader told the media prior to the start of the second half against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday evening.

“I do not [remember sending them]. That is not my beliefs at all. It’s tough bc the people I’ve hurt by those tweets, that’s not something I want to do. It hurts me deeply.”

Hader would have been 17 years old when the messages that have since been deleted were published. He also denies that he ever believed what he was putting on the internet which included tweets degrading other races and sexual orientations.

“They were never my beliefs, I was young, and I was saying stuff out of ignorance.”

Prior to meeting with the media, Hader and the Brewers had a closed-door meeting where he reportedly broke down in tears apologizing. Once his meeting with the media began, his teammates joined him in the media room deep inside Miller Park.

“[The meeting] was great. I’m grateful for having my teammates behind me and supporting me,” he said. “I hope they know the character I really am and the person that I truly am.”

Hader has also been subjected to sensitivity training by Major League Baseball which included a meeting with MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion, Billy Bean.

Bean, a former player for the Dodgers, Tigers, and Padres, was named the Ambassador for Inclusion in 2015 by Major League Baseball. He announced he was gay in 1999 after his playing career was over.

Last strikes: Brewers 7, Diamondbacks 2

PHOENIX – Nineteen last strikes for the 19 strikes thrown by Brewers reliever Josh Hader in the Brewers 7-2 win over the Diamondbacks on Monday night.

1. The biggest moment of the day for the Brewers may have oddly enough come prior to the game when outfielder Ryan Braun was deemed unable to play due to back tightness. Braun was scratched from the lineup and Jonathan Villar was placed into the lineup.

2. Villar had a terrific day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a home run and three runs scored. There’s no predicting what Braun would have done, obviously, but Villar’s contributions were unexpected, to say the least. The home run, his second of the season, was a 401-foot blast just to the left of dead-center.

3. It’s very important (to be ready) because it’s simple when you work hard in the field,” Villar said of being unexpectedly inserted into the lineup. “When you don’t play, don’t worry, keep going, you never know what’s going on.”

4. The Brewers were able to strike first in the second inning on an Orlando Arcia double to center field. A few questionable plays and decisions led to the Brewers being able to get a pair across the plate.

5. After Manny Piña doubled down the left field line and Villar followed it up with a single to left field, Villar was all but picked off of first base. However, Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt failed to make a throw to second to nab Villar while in a run down. It appeared as if Goldschmidt was worried about the not-so-fleet-of-foot Piña scoring from third.

6. This created runners on second and third with two outs for Arcia, Milwaukee’s No. 8 hitter. With starting pitcher Junior Guerra on deck, the Diamondbacks decided to pitch to Arcia as opposed to walking him to face Guerra with two outs. That decision backfired as Arcia laced a 3-2 breaking ball into center scoring both runners.

7. “I thought we had good at-bats with guys in scoring position a bunch tonight,” manager Craig Counsell said after the win. “Starting all the way back in the second inning with Villar and Arcia having two great at-bats to give us a two-run lead.”

8. Early on, Guerra looked terrific on the hill. He didn’t allow a base runner until walking John Ryan Murphy in the third inning and had a no-hitter until the fourth when Goldschmidt knocked a single to right field.

9. When he reached the fourth inning Guerra looked human. He allowed a leadoff walk to Daniel Descalso to start the inning which was followed by a Paul Goldschmidt single. Descalso was able to score on a Steven Souza Jr. double to left, and Goldschmidt later scored on a sacrifice fly from shortstop Nick Ahmed.

10. That was all the damage the Diamondbacks were able to inflict on Guerra, other than the fourth inning he only allowed one base hit and a pair of walks. He pitched six innings allowing two earned runs on three hits while striking out three and walking four.

11. “Really needed it,” Counsell said of the length Guerra was able to provide. “It was a lot of fastball tonight for sure. And it was a good fastball, it was a very good fastball tonight. There was a bunch of 95s up there, so probably his best fastball tonight. He just didn’t feel great with the split at times, so he stuck with the fastball and did a nice job of it.”

12. Hader came on in relief and held the lead for the Brewers, although he didn’t look like his usual self. Hader allowed two hits and struck out a pair on 31 pitches across two innings. He allowed more contact than usual to Arizona hitters but was still able to manage his way through two scoreless.

13. Think about that for a second, Hader pitched two scoreless innings and was thought of as not himself because he didn’t strikeout a majority of the batters he faced. Hader has become so dominant that it’s become the expectation that no one reaches base against him.

14. Tyler Saladino, pinch-hitting for Hader, then added extra insurance with an inside-the-park home run to center, past a diving A.J. Pollack all the way to the wall in the ninth. It was the 28th inside-the-park home run in franchise history, and the first since Arcia hit one last season.

15. “[It’s a] good feeling, yeah, because it got by him,” Saladino said.” And then it’s like time to kick it in gear kind of thing at the same thing. Everything you got, kind of turn it on. It doesn’t happen very often, so you have to dig a little bit deeper than normal.”

16. Saladino’s inside-the-park home run was also the first pinch-hit inside-the-park home run in Brewers’ franchise history.

17. “Yeah, I can’t remember the last time I had to do something like that. There’s no way to get ready for that, it’s just everything you’ve got.”

18. The win gives the Brewers the most wins in the National League, tied with the Atlanta Braves. The Brewers also have the second-best winning percentage in the league behind Atlanta. The saying is that a team cannot win the division early in the season, but it can certainly be lost then. The Brewers are doing more than enough to not lose it right now.

19. Milwaukee and Arizona are back in action on Tuesday night at Chase Field in Phoenix, Az. Jhoulys Chacin (3-1, 4.00 ERA) is on the hill for the Brewers while Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.70) gets the start for the Diamondbacks. First pitch is set for 8:40 p.m. CT.

Last strikes: Brewers 5, Pirates 3

MILWAUKEE – Fourteen last strikes for Milwaukee pitcher Josh Hader’s streak of 14 consecutive outs recorded via strikeout that was snapped in the 5-3 Brewers win on Saturday night.

1. Josh Hader is human, it turns out. It also turns out that Ryan Braun – who has come through in a few big moments this year already – is clutch, as well.

2. Hader entered in the eighth inning and promptly struck out Pittsburgh’s Sean Rodriguez looking to open the inning. Everything was normal, considering that was his 11th consecutive out recorded via strikeout.

3. Things went awry after that when he walked Gregory Polanco and then allowed a game-tying home run to Starling Marte. After things seemed over with Hader on the hill and the Brewers holding a 3-1 lead, it was suddenly tied.

4. Quickly rebounding to form, Hader retired the next two batters, Josh Bell and Corey Dickerson, to run his strikeout streak to 13 in a row and end the inning.

5. In the bottom half of the eighth the Brewers were able to create some magic that was capped off by Braun’s go-ahead double. Domingo Santana doubled to left field before Orlando Arcia struck out while attempting to bunt Santana over to third. Manny Piña then grounded to shortstop and after having a runner on second base with no outs, Santana was still standing there with two outs and it looked like an opportunity would be wasted.

6. Eric Sogard stepped to the plate and worked a four-pitch walk to extend the inning for Braun. With a 2-2 count, Braun connected with a slider from George Kontos sending it into center field scoring both Santana from second and Sogard from first.

7. Just like that, Hader’s mistake was erased, and the Brewers were in position to win once again.

8. The ninth inning was less eventful for Hader. He opened it up by striking out Francisco Cervelli looking, his 14th consecutive out recorded via strike out.

9. That’s where the streak ended.

10. Elias Diaz stepped into the box and popped out to second base ending the streak. While all outs count the same, it was mighty impressive to see Hader continually blow hitters away to the point where making any contact throughout the at-bat was considered a minor victory. The game then ended with a Jordy Mercer lineout to shortstop.

11. This was a nice bounce back win for Milwaukee after Friday night’s loss to Pittsburgh. It was only the sixth win of the season for the Brewers against a team over the .500 mark, which seems startling.

12. Jhoulys Chacin started the game on the mound for Milwaukee, which can be easily forgotten considering the late-game action, but he was terrific for the Brewers. He pitched six innings, allowed just one run on three hits while striking out four.

13. Chacin has certainly struggled at times this year, but if Milwaukee continues to receive performances like this one from a back of the rotation pitcher like Chacin, then they’ll be in a very good spot at the end of the season.

14. The Brewers and Pirates are back in action Sunday afternoon for the third and final game of this series. Chase Anderson (3-2, 3.38 ERA) is slated to start for the Brewers and Chad Kuhl (3-2, 5.01) is starting for the Pirates. First pitch from Miller Park is set for 1:10 p.m. CT.

Hader’s historic night helps Brewers snap losing streak

Josh Hader entered the game with the Brewers holding a 6-5 lead with one out in the seventh inning. From the moment Hader stepped on the mound until the end of the game no Cincinnati hitter put the ball in play. He faced nine batters, striking out eight of them, he also walked a batter.

Hader became the first pitcher to record a save of less than three innings and strikeout eight batters since saves became an official stat in 1969.

After a quiet weekend offensively, Milwaukee plated six runs in the win. They had only scored two runs after being swept in a four game series against the Cubs.

Lorenzo Cain and Manny Piña both hit home runs, and Domingo Santana drove in two runs on a double in the seventh inning that gave Milwaukee the lead for good.

The Brewers and Reds are back in action on Tuesday night for the second game of a three game set. Chase Anderson (2-2, 2.86 ERA) will start for the Brewers and Homer Bailey (0-3, 4.19) will take the hill for the Reds. First pitch is set for 6:10 p.m. CT.

Cincinnati beats the Brewers with a walk-off home run from Billy Hamilton

A walk-off home run from Billy Hamilton ruined the start of Milwaukee’s important six-game road trip as the Brewers fell 5-4 to Cincinnati on Monday.

Milwaukee fought back from an early 4-0 deficit thanks to a pair of home runs in the seventh inning — a solo shot by Ryan Braun and a three-run blast by Orlando Arcia. The Brewers had opportunities to add to its tally but were unable to capitalize and paid for it.

Hamilton, well known for his speed and base running, only had to jog around diamond after crushing the ball to deep left center off of Josh Hader for his first career walk-off homer. It was another shaky outing for Hader, who gave up a pair of runs in a 3-2 loss to Washington his last time out.

The Brewers were facing the big deficit thanks in part to Chase Anderson misplacing his command. The starter walked three, including two when the bases were loaded, allowing a pair of runs to cross. He ended up making it 5 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits.

Homer Bailey retired 14 batters straight at one point for the Reds, before he faltered in the seventh inning.

The loss did some damage to the Brewers playoff hopes, as Colorado got a walk-off win of its own against San Francisco. It allowed the Rockies to move 1.5 games up on Milwaukee. As for the NL Central, the Crew remained 3.5 games back of Chicago.

Milwaukee and Cincinnati will face off once again Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Brewers falter late, lose 3-2 to Washington

Josh Hader gave up a pair of runs in the eighth inning as Milwaukee fell 3-2 to Washington Saturday night at Miller Park.

The Brewers led 2-1 when Michael Taylor took Hader deep for solo home run. After a batter reached on a bunt single, Trea Turner delivered the go-ahead double.

“He’s got thirty-some innings in and he’s dominated hitters,” manager Craig Counsell said in defense of Hader, who had given up just five runs on the year coming in. “He’s going to be a big part of this going forward. He’s going to be a very important guy for us. Tonight just wasn’t his night.”

The loss wasted what was a great outing from starter Brandon Woodruff. He went seven innings, giving up just one run on two hits and struckout eight.

On the other side, Max Scherzer held the Brewers lineup in check, allowing just one run on two hits over five innings of work. A crew of five relievers came on to help the Nationals get the win.

Offensively for Milwaukee, first baseman Eric Thames had an RBI double in the fourth inning, and catcher Stephen Vogt had a double in the sixth inning that scored second baseman Neil Walker.

Despite losing, Milwaukee didn’t lose any ground in the wild card race. That’s thanks to Colorado losing to Arizona, meaning the Brewers are still just 1 1/2 games back of the Rockies.

Milwaukee will go for the series win over Washington Sunday afternoon. First pitch is at 1:10 p.m.

Brewers gain ground in the playoff race, beat Washington 1-0

Neil Walker drilled a solo home run in the first inning, and it turned out to be all the offense Milwaukee would need Friday night in a 1-0 win over the Washington Nationals.

Starter Jimmy Nelson was masterful in keeping the NL East-leading Nationals off the scoreboard, going seven innings, giving up just three hits and striking out 11. The bullpen backed him up, with Josh Hader and Corey Knebel striking out all six batters they faced. It gave Nelson win No. 11 on the year, tying a career-high for him, while Knebel picked up save No. 32.

On the other side, Washington’s Tanner Roark was nearly as good. Outside of the mistake to Walker, he shut Milwaukee down, going seven innings and allowing five hits while striking out 10. Centerfielder Jonathan Villar was the only Brewers batter to have more than one hit on the night.

Outfielder Ryan Braun was tossed from the game in the fourth inning for arguing balls and strikes. It was the sixth time in his career he’s been ejected from a game.

With the win, and a loss by Colorado, Milwaukee moved to within 1 1/2 games of the Rockies for the final wild card spot in the National League. The Crew remains 3 1/2 games back of Chicago in the NL Central.

It’ll be Washington and the Brewers once again Saturday night at Miller Park. First pitch is set for 6:10 p.m.

Brewers: Milwaukee falls 4-2 at San Francisco

For the second time in three games the Milwaukee Brewers wasted a very good outing from their starting pitcher and fell to the San Francisco Giants, this one a 4-2 setback on Wednesday afternoon.

After giving up a run in the first inning, Matt Garza settled in, going five innings, allowing five hits and striking out six. Reliever Josh Hader pitched a scoreless sixth inning but Jacob Barnes and Carlos Torres were exposed for three runs in the seventh and eighth innings.

Milwaukee may have been able to overcome that, but its offense did not make the trip to San Francisco. The Brewers managed just six runs in the three-game series, including two on Wednesday, which came courtesy of a Travis Shaw double in the first inning and a solo homer from Stephen Vogt in the bottom of the ninth.

The loss dropped the Crew three games back of Chicago in the NL Central and 3.5 games back of Arizona in the race for the final Wildcard spot.

It doesn’t get any easier for manager Craig Counsell’s club as they’ll finish off the nine-game road trip by visiting the Los Angeles Dodgers for a three-game series starting on Friday. LA has the best record in all of baseball and have lost just 14 home games all season.