There wasn’t much difference between tonight’s game and this past weekend’s.
A few more runs were scored all around, and the in-game margins were comparably larger. Still, the makings of a third extra-innings loss in five game were all there, as Cincinnati had the tying run at second with one out in the top of the ninth.
Yet it never felt like doom was coming. Such is the advantage of playing at home, a luxury the Brewers unwillingly ceded in four games in front of a partisan crowd that not even the president could call friendly to the home team.
Milwaukee won, and their playoff chances decreased significantly anyway. They had their chances. Now they need a miracle.
WATCHING THE DING DANG BASEBALL GAME: Domingo Santana, +.197 WPA (1-for-4, 3 RBI)
TRYING TO START THE WAVE: Ryan Braun, -.076 WPA (0-for-4, BB, K)
This one was a lot closer than it needed or had any right to be.
The Brewers got on the board early, proving once again that the very best parties start after two in the opening frame. Milwaukee plated four runs in the first, despite Ryan Braun and Travis Shaw doing their best to bury the pair of runners who reached to lead off the inning with a pair of strikeouts.
The big hit was Domingo Santana's two-out, three-run dong, his 29th of the season, but Stephen Vogt and Orlando Arcia teamed up to add one more, giving the Brewers a 4-0 lead after one.
The Reds scooted closer over the next few innings on the backs of Scott Schebler and Billy Hamilton, neither of whom have ever gotten a hit against anyone except the Brewers*. Schebler blasted a two-run shot in the top of the second, and Hamilton tripled and scored in the fifth.
An inning and a half after Schebler's two-run clout closed the gap to 4-2, the Brewers got both runs back on a two-run, three-base error that should have ended the inning. With runners on first and second and two outs, Brett Phillips rolled over to second base for a routine, inning-ending ground out. Scooter Gennett, despite having all the time in the world, whipped it well wide of Votto. The ball rode the edge of the wall like Tony Stewart when he's not trying to kill a guy, all the way around to the Reds dugout. Both runners scored and Phillips was able to scamper to third without a throw.
The Brewers refused to play this game with a comfortable lead, but also never allowed the Reds to draw even, trading runs throughout the night with the visitors. With the tying run on second in the top of the ninth, Corey Knebel did what the Brewers haven't done since last Wednesday, escaping the ninth without a run allowed to secure the win.
*This is factually true. Do not look it up, I checked.
NL Central (Elimination Number: 1): The Brewers’ pursuit of a division crown is on life support, but still alive following an 8-7 Cubs loss in St. Louis Tuesday. The Cubs' magic number remains one, and they will capture the division upon the occasion of Milwaukee's next loss or their next win. The Cardinals were eliminated from the division race yesterday.
NL WILD CARD (Elimination Number: 4): Milwaukee gained no ground in their only realistic path to the playoffs as Colorado pummeled Miami, 6-0, to remain a game and a half clear of the Brewers. The Cardinals, who were always going to easily handle the Cubs after Milwaukee dropped three of four, are just one game behind Milwaukee. Should Milwaukee lose even one remaining game, they'll need the Rockies to limp to a split of their schedule to force a Wild Card tie. Don’t book your plane tickets just yet.
The Reds will trot Homer Bailey out one last time, and he’ll try to avoid ranking among the historically-bad starting pitchers of the post-steroid era. Bailey’s ERA of 6.96 is the fifth-worst of the last decade among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched, ranking among such luminaries as 2011 Esmil Rodgers and 2007 Mike Maroth. Milwaukee scored three runs over six innings in a crushing loss to the Reds the last time they faced Bailey earlier this month.
Brandon Woodruff will oppose him, and the rookie has been dreadful in his last three starts since returning to the starting rotation. After allowing just four runs over his first four starts, Woodruff has surrendered 13 over his last three, spanning 17 innings. First pitch is at 7:10p.