WP: Felipe Rivero (5-2)
LP: Corey Knebel (1-3)
HR: Jesus Aguilar (15), Domingo Santana (27), Adam Frazier (6)
It was a prime chance for the Brewers today. The Rockies had lost to the Giants 4-0 earlier in the day. The Cubs trailed for their whole game and wound up losing 8-1. A win would put the Brewers into a tie for the second wild card and within 2 1⁄2 games of the division lead. Unfortunately, they could not take advantage of it.
The game started off well enough. Jesus Aguilar hit a solo home run in the second inning, and Domingo Santana hit another in the third. Meanwhile, Aaron Wilkerson worked around a double in the first (aided by an excellent throw from Manny Pina) to pitch two scoreless innings.
Unfortunately, Wilkerson unraveled in the third inning. Elias Diaz led off with a double, then Jordy Mercer walked to put runners at first and second. Steven Brault grounded into a force out at third to eliminate the lead runner. Then, with one out, Adam Frazier hit a triple all the way out to deep right field, scoring two and tying the game at 2-2. In the next at-bat, Starling Marte added on a single to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead. That ended Wilkerson’s day, allowing three runs in 2 1⁄3 innings on four hits and a walk.
The game went to the bullpen after that, and it was another day of all hands on deck. Jacob Barnes came in and finished up the third inning, and added on a scoreless fourth as well. Jeremy Jeffress worked around a hit and a walk in the fifth, and Wei-Chung Wang and Jared Hughes combined for a perfect sixth.
When the seventh inning came up, Craig Counsell went into postseason manager mode. Jesus Aguilar led the inning off with a walk, and he used Quintin Berry as a pinch runner to try to manufacture a run. However, Berry was caught stealing for the first out. The walks kept coming, though. Manny Pina drew a walk, then Neil Walker pinch hit for Keon Broxton and also drew a walk. With the Brewers in position for a big inining, Eric Thames pinch hit for Orlando Arcia as the Pirates also switched pitchers to Tyler Glasnow. Thames hit a double down the left field line to score Pina and tie the game at three.
With runners on second and third, the Pirates elected to walk pinch-hitter Eric Sogard (pinch hitting for Jared Hughes) to load the bases. Counsell then used his fifth bench player of the inning, pinch hitting Stephen Vogt for Hernan Perez. It ended up working, as Vogt drew a walk and the Brewers had a 4-3 lead. With two of the biggest hitters coming up in Domingo Santana and Ryan Braun, the Brewers had an excellent chance to tack on some runs. Unfortunately, Santana struck out on three pitches and Braun popped out on the first pitch he saw to end the inning there.
Counsell went back to the bullpen from there, bringing in Josh Hader to get through the seventh. Hader did his job, holding the Pirates off the board with two strikeouts. Counsell then elected to go to Anthony Swarzak, despite pitching the previous two days and pitching two innings the day before. Swarzak got two outs, but also allowed a double to Andrew McCutchen. Taking no chances, Counsell brought in Knebel there. David Freese hit a ground ball to the left side of the infield, and Corey Knebel had to rush the throw and ended up throwing it into right field. That allowed McCutchen to score and tie the game at 4-4.
In the ninth, the Brewers managed to get runners onto first and second from a Sogard single and Santana walk. However, Braun flew out to end the inning and the Brewers chances at going ahead. Knebel came back out for the ninth and walked Diaz to start the inning. After getting a lineout from Jordy Mercer and fly out from Gregory Polanco (both on hard hit balls), Adam Frazier hit a home run out to right field for the walk-off win.
It wasn’t the most exciting day for the Brewers offense, as seven different players had a hit, but there were no multi-hit games. However, they showed some good plate patience with eight walks compared to eight strikeouts. However, they weren’t able to bring in the runs when it mattered, as they went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base.
The good news is that the Cubs and Rockies also lost, so the Brewers lost no ground in the standings for the NL Central and Wild Card. However, they also lost a prime opportunity to make up more ground in those races, and they only have 10 more chances to get a win now.
With the Pirates series done, the critical series against the Cubs has arrived. Anything less than a series win likely ends the Brewers hopes at the postseason. It doesn’t get any bigger than this.
The first game of the series features two of the stronger pitchers for each team. Jake Arrieta returns from a right hamstring strain to open the series for the Cubs, and Zach Davies looks to rebound from his disaster on Saturday for the Brewers. First pitch is at 7:10 pm.