It was the tale of two contests in Saturday’s fourteen innings of doubleheader baseball, and the two could hardly have been more dissimilar.
The first contest was all Steady Freddy Peralta, literally. He pitched a complete game and looked sharp from beginning to end. In the first, Peralta induced three contact-outs. The most impressive of these was a Josh Bell flyout that ended the inning. The knock had Christian Yelich racing from deep left-center to shallow left and diving to make a fantastic catch near the foul line.
Peralta went on to strike out the side in the second. It was his best inning of the game, but it wasn’t his best moment.
Peralta’s best moment came in the third inning with Juan Soto at bat. This was after Peralta allowed Andrew Stevenson a leadoff single, after Patrick Corbin laid down a sac bunt to advance Stevenson, and after Peralta walked Trea Turner. This meant that Juan Soto was coming to the plate with only one out and runners on first and second.
There was a time when Peralta was likely to falter in such a spot. Today, he simply opened the sequence with a 94 mph fastball in the zone. It sailed into Manny Piña’s glove with Soto looking. Peralta set, took a breath, and threw Juan Soto, 22-year-old World Series Champion Juan Soto, Batting Title winner Juan Soto, Silver Slugger Juan Soto, 2018 Rookie of the Year runner up (to Ronald Acuña Jr.) Juan Soto...the exact. same. pitch.
Peralta was the first to acknowledge it was a great call by Piña (who was just a couple of innings shy of catching both games of the doubleheader today), and he was spot on with the pitch. Soto wasn’t going to take on that pitch twice. He swung, made contact, and grounded into the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Peralta dominated for the remainder of the game. He allowed no more than four Nationals batters to come to the plate in any inning and sat them down in order three times. He ended the day allowing only four hits, including a home run. He walked one batter and struck out seven. He became the first pitcher in Brewers’ history to go 10 consecutive starts with seven strikeouts or more.
Offensively, the Brewers got things going right away. In the first, Christian Yelich was on first when Avisaíl García blasted his ninth home run of the season to put the Crew up 2-0.
The Crew added on in the third. Kolten Wong opened the inning with his eleventh double of the season. A Willy Adames flyout advanced Wong to third, but that would matter little. Wong had plenty of time to score after Christian Yelich smacked a grounder just inside of the first baseline, beyond the shifted glove of Josh Bell, and into the right-field corner. For Yelich, it was an easy stand-up triple that would ultimately mean two runs for the Brewers. Avisaíl García came to bat next and knocked in Yeli with an RBI groundout to put the Brewers up 4-0.
The Crew’s offense would be mostly quiet for the rest of the day, but they had already given more than enough run support for Peralta, who would only allow one run.
The second contest was, in contrast to the low WHIP offerings of Peralta, mayhem.
While the first game only had eight hits and three walks between both teams, the second contest featured (only seven innings and) twenty hits and eight walks. The two teams committed four errors between them. Most of the contest had a frenetic energy and was punctuated by oddities.
Things started ordinarily enough. Brett Anderson allowed some traffic on the basepaths in the first but put up a scoreless inning. Lorenzo Cain got caught stealing second in the second. Willy Adames reached on a fielding error (that should have been a base hit) in the third.
Trea Turner led off the third inning with a walk, which meant that the Nationals were working on a threat because speedy Trea Turner was on the basepaths with nobody out. Sure enough, Ryan Zimmerman knocked him in with a line-drive double to right to put the Nats up 1-0.
Lorenzo Cain led off the fourth inning with a line-drive double to left. He would come around to score on another line drive to left, this time from Luis Urías. Urías’ knock would tie the game at 1-1.
Cain and Urías each had a day and formed a particularly winning combination in the second game, where the two would go 6-6. Urías knocked Cain in twice in game two.
The Nationals could have broken the game open in their fourth inning. Yan Gomez reached with a one-out single. Then, things got weird.
Jody Mercer reached on what was essentially a throwing error by Luis Urías. Josh Bell came in to pinch hit for Jon Lester and walked. Suddenly, the bases were loaded. There was one out. Brad Boxburger was ready in the bullpen. Brett Anderson had thrown 3.1 innings. He allowed four hits and walked three batters. Somehow, he had only allowed one run at that point.
The Brewers needed a double play, and Brett Anderson can induce double plays, but it’s hard to turn a double play on the fleet-of-foot Trea Turner, who happened to be coming to bat. Counsell thought it best not to tempt those odds and brought in Boxburger.
Turner worked a full count from Box, then grounded to short. It was the potential double-play ball the Brewers were hoping for, but Adames, realizing this, rushed the play. The ball went under his glove, and Turner reached. The play, and the inning, could easily have gotten away from the Brewers at this point, but Lorenzo Cain raced in from center to cover short. He tagged out Josh Bell, who had blundered into a rundown.
Somehow, the Nats only scored one run on the play to take the 2-1 lead. Box walked Soto to get to Zimmerman, and Zimmerman flew out to Cain in center field to get out of the inning with only surrendering the one (unearned) run.
The Crew came right back in the fifth inning. Christian Yelich singled on a liner to center and reached second on a throwing error. The Crew would tie the game for the second time when Kolten Wong hit his second double of the day and twelfth double of the season to knock in Yelich.
Brent Suter shut down the Nats in their fifth, striking out two, allowing a single, and ultimately putting up a scoreless frame.
The Brewers have often struggled to produce four runs in a game this season, but they put up a four-run sixth inning with apparent ease in game two of the doubleheader. Lorenzo Cain led off the inning with a walk, and Luis Urías knocked him in with a double to the left-field corner. This gave the Crew a 3-2 lead.
Next, Travis Shaw worked a walk. He advanced to second on a Jackie Bradley Jr. sac fly that also scored Urías and put the Brewers up 4-2. Yelich reached on a walk, then advanced to second on a Kolten Wong single that scored Shaw and increased the lead to 5-2. Willy Adames smacked a double that drove in Yelich and left the Crew up 6-2 at the end of the inning.
In the Nat’s sixth, Devin Williams faltered a bit to open the inning, allowing singles to the first two batters. He found his slider and used it to strike out Juan Soto and Ryan Zimmerman.
Eric Yardley ended the game with a solid inning, prompting three straight batters to ground into forceouts at second base. It secured the win, the doubleheader sweep, and the series win.
The Crew will try for the series sweep tomorrow. It should be a beauty of a pitching matchup between Brandon Woodruff and Max Scherzer.