This loss stings a little more than the rest of them.
The Milwaukee Brewers continued their losing ways on the road yesterday, dropping the opening game of the series with Colorado 6-4. All looked fantastic for the majority of the game, too.
Right-hander Ben Sheets was not dominate by any stretch of the imagination. He did, however, get through six innings with only one run allowed. That’s what an ace does for his team. Even when he does not have his best stuff, Benny still puts zeros up on the board to keep Milwaukee in the game.
Milwaukee was more than in the game though. In fact, going into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Crew was up 4-1. Russell Branyan and J.J. Hardy both hit home runs in the fifth to break a 1-1 tie at the time, and Jason Kendall snuck a triple down the right field line to score Hardy in the seventh to stretch the lead to 4-1.
Carlos Villanueva looked brilliant in the bottom of the seventh, and I waited for Villy to trot out the mound in the eighth to shut down the Rockies again. That was not the case, however. Ned Yost called on Guillermo Mota for the eighth inning.
That backfired on Ned extremely fast. Mota fell behind in the count early and often to the Colorado hitters. He gave up back-to-back singles to Jonathan Herrera and Ryan Spilborghs. The hot-hitting Todd Helton then smoked a double off the center field wall. Mota then falls behind in the count again and serves up a game-tying triple to Garrett Atkins. Needless to say, Brewers fans were falling all over themselves they were so upset.
Brian Shouse then came in the game to try and escape the jam. It didn’t work so well for Brian. On the first pitch he through, Brad Hawpe tattooed a curveball for a two-run homer. Rockies up 6-4.
After getting the wind knocked out of their sails in the bottom of the eighth, the Crew was unable to put anything together in the ninth inning. Brewers dropped their first game in their last seven, and not surprisingly came on the road. Tough, tough way to lose a game.
I don’t normally question Ned’s pitching changes, as hindsight is an unfair and unprofessional way to criticize a manager. Ned’s management of the bullpen needs to be addressed, however. After last night’s game, the Brewers manager said that he went to Mota in the eighth because he’s been Milwaukee’s eighth inning pitcher for the majority of the year. Why change now?
Besides the closer’s position, do relievers really need to have assigned roles? Did Ned not specifically say at the beginning of the year that the bullpen was stacked with quality arms, so he would mix-and-match roles with who was throwing the ball well? There has not been a reliever pitching any better than Carlos Villanueva. Using that philosophy, it would have been a no-brainer to leave Carlos in the game.
Ned’s response is that he would have left Carlos in the game, but it was a save situation. Therefore, Ned must follow his prescribed plan that has Guillermo Mota pitching in the eighth and Salomon Torres in the ninth. I don’t know why it needs to be that way, but apparently it does.
I understand that relievers want to know their roles. I understand that if Mota cruised through the eighth, we wouldn’t be having this conversation this morning. You know what though? Mota did blow up. The Brewers did lose the momentum they gained at home this past week and a half. This is a loss that can really take the wind out of a team’s sails.
It is true that Carlos could have done the exact same thing as Mota. All signs pointed to an easy bottom of the eighth for the former starter, however. You stick with the hot hand in the bullpen, Ned. I thought Yost was beginning to understand that concept when he started Gabe Kapler in center (who had an RBI single in the first, by the way). Apparently not. Save the closer’s role, relievers do not need assigned roles in the bullpen. A win does not need to be formulaic. Why go to an unknown entity in Mota when you have visual proof that Carlos is throwing the ball exceedingly well? I just don’t understand.
Records: Brewers (32-29); Rockies (23-38 )
Hero of the Game: J.J. Hardy
J.J. had a solid game all around today. He scored two of the Brewers four runs yesterday. The power has returned a bit for the Brewers shortstop, as Hardy hit another home run. He also scored on Jason Kendall’s triple in the seventh inning. The Brewers need J.J. to keep hitting if they want to be more consistent on offense. With that said, Milwaukee didn’t lose last night’s game because of a lack of hitting.
Goat of the Game: Guillermo Mota
In the eighth inning of a road game, with a 4-1 lead, Mota gave up four earned runs without recording an out. You have to pound the strike zone when leading a close game. The former Met failed to do that the entire inning. He fell behind hitters consistently, and the Rockies made him pay. Throw strikes, Guillermo.
After yesterday’s brutal loss, Milwaukee will trot RHP Dave Bush to the mound to take on LHP Greg Reynolds. Game two of the series will start at 7:05pm CT. The Brewers need to win this game. They do not want to start another losing trend on this road series.