As another trade deadline comes and goes, the messages have been the same from the Brewers front office: Don’t sacrifice the elite level of defense for a bat. Their moves were in line with these feelings. Their “splash” acquisition of Carlos Santana was a step in the right direction to solve their hitting woes while getting an elite fielder.
It makes sense if you are the Brewers. Their hitting struggles have been very well publicized, but they are still in the thick of it for the division. They have been guided by their pitching staff, which is full of both bonafide stars in Corbin Burnes and Devin Williams, but also new names who have made a name for themselves such as Joel Payamps. Their fielding, the often-forgotten third side of a successful team, has been just as elite. They are in the top 10 in team fielding percentage and their great efforts from guys such as rookie Joey Wiemer complements well with their terrific pitching.
However, like a good pitching staff will have off days, or a hitter will find a slump, there are bad days in the field. Unfortunately for the Brewers, they showed some of their worst fielding efforts at the most inopportune time on Wednesday. A pair of errors in the ninth and the Brewers failed to hold onto a slim advantage, losing to the Nationals 3-2.
Wednesday saw Wade Miley return to the mound, his first appearance since joining the injured list on July 17 with elbow discomfort. On a limited pitch count, he was solid. After a clean first two innings, he allowed a double to Alex Call, setting up Jake Alu to single to center. After a second-inning home run from Tyrone Taylor gave the Brewers the lead, it was now tied at 1-1 following the Alu single. Miley ended up getting pulled after 60 pitches, going four innings and giving up just three hits while striking out five.
The Brewers got the lead back in the sixth, as Brice Turang opened with a walk and got to second on a wild pitch from MacKenzie Gore. A base hit from Joey Wiemer and a double from Christian Yelich brought Turang around to score, putting the Brewers up 2-1. With a great chance to give the bullpen some insurance runs, the Brewers struck out three straight times to end the threat and keep it a 2-1 game.
With the one-run lead, the game fell right into their ideal pitching script. Elvis Peguero and Payamps were lights out in the seventh and eighth, carrying the momentum set by Hoby Milner and Bryse Wilson in the innings prior. The Brewers couldn’t add anything offensively, so it was Devin Williams with a chance to secure the save and the series victory entering the bottom of the ninth with a 2-1 advantage.
That’s when the game went off the script.
First, Corey Dickerson reached on an uncharacteristic error by Santana at first. Next up, Dominic Smith reached with a line drive to left. Struggling to get an out, Williams then walked the pinch-hitter Keibert Ruiz to load the bases. The wheels fully came off one batter later. Alex Call hit a grounder to Andruw Monasterio at third, who made a wide throw to home, allowing Dickerson to score and tying the game. The wide throw bounced too far for William Contreras to grab it in time to get the sprinting Smith out at the plate, who slid past the tag and gave the Nationals the 3-2 win in heartbreaking fashion for the Crew, who finished their road trip out east with a 1-5 record.
The Brewers now head home to open up a four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The first pitch on Thursday is 6:15 p.m.