Ever since Josh Hader emerged as a major weapon out of the Brewers’ bullpen, Craig Counsell has been reluctant to use him on back-to-back days, let alone three days in a row.
Today would be an example why.
For the second time in this series, Hader gave up a game-deciding home run, surrendering a two-run blast by Matt Chapman in the 8th inning to blow a one-run lead and ultimately the series against the Oakland A’s.
Hader’s second go-ahead home run surrendered in three days ruined what was another very good start from Chase Anderson, who allowed just 2 hits and 1 run over 6 innings -- a solo home run by Chad Pinder in the 3rd inning.
The Brewers’ offense struggled to capitalize on opportunities again, scoring only 3 runs, and 2 of which came on outs -- a sacrifice fly by the debuting Trent Grisham in the 4th inning, and a wild pitch check swing strikeout by Ryan Braun with the bases loaded in the 7th inning.
Still, the Brewers held a 3-1 lead with 9 outs left to get. With the game still close, Counsell elected to go to Junior Guerra -- also pitching for the third game in a row -- in the 7th inning. It was not one of Guerra’s easiest outings, working through a walk and a hit while giving up a run on a wild pitch of his own, but escaped the inning with the lead in tact.
After another 0 from the Brewers’ lineup in the 8th inning, Hader took the mound and almost immediately looked off, walking Robbie Grossman to start the inning and surrendering the go-ahead home run to Chapman. He was able to get Matt Olson to ground out after that, but that would be the only out he’d get, as Counsell replaced him with Jay Jackson. Another run allowed by Jackson would give the A’s a 5-3 lead heading into the 9th, before Liam Hendriks shut the door in the 9th inning.
After the game, Counsell told reporters that he wanted to use his best pitcher against the best part of Oakland’s lineup, with Freddy Peralta being lined up for the 9th inning. That makes sense, and normally would be the kind of thing he would be praised for. In this case, though, there was a fresh arm in the bullpen in Drew Pomeranz, and using Hader (and Guerra) three days in a row certainly takes them out of the mix for the first game in Chicago, and possibly the first two games.
Even the best managers will make a decision that doesn’t work out every once and a while. This would appear to be one of those.
In the end, a west coast series against an AL playoff contender was always going to be a tough one to win, and the Brewers didn’t perform much more poorly than expected. The fact they played a potential playoff team so close for three games is also what makes the series so frustrating.
With two months left, the NL Central will likely be decided in head-to-head games. Those start again tomorrow in Chicago with a quick turnaround for a 1:20 p.m. CDT start at Wrigley Field. Zach Davies will get the start for the Brewers.