Brewers' risky strategy backfires in 10th

Jeffress faces Turner after intentionally walking two to load bases

June 18th, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- The Brewers granted Justin Turner one final at-bat on Friday night, and Turner made the most of it.

In one of his more interesting calls in a calendar year as Brewers manager, Craig Counsell ordered consecutive intentional walks to left-handed hitters Chase Utley and Corey Seager to load the bases in the bottom of the 10th inning for Turner, who had already smacked a pair of long home runs in the game. Turner fouled off three straight Jeremy Jeffress fastballs, then pounced on a meaty curveball and lined a single over third base for a 3-2 Dodgers win at Dodger Stadium.

It was the sort of tactical decision that makes baseball so much fun to dissect, though the Brewers were reluctant to do so in a somber clubhouse.

"It's two things," Counsell said. "It's J.J. [Jeffress] on a right-hander, and we've got a chance to get out of the inning on one pitch."

Counsell and Jeffress were forced into that scenario after Will Venable led off the bottom of the 10th inning against Jeffress with a ground-rule double to right field. A.J. Ellis then executed a sacrifice bunt, putting the winning runner at third base with one out and two left-handed hitters coming up.

The intentional walk to Utley was reasonably straightforward; he has fared far better against right-handed pitching this season, and giving him first base put a double play in order. So the Brewers' choice came down to the left-handed Seager (.278 average, .842 OPS against right-handed pitchers this season, and seven double plays in 267 total at-bats), or the right-handed Turner (.232 average, .676 OPS against right-handed pitchers, and eight double plays in 221 at-bats entering that inning).

Jeffress, meanwhile, has wide splits in a relatively small 2016 sample. Entering the night, left-handers were batting .323 with an .891 OPS against him, and right-handers .203 with a .446 OPS.

So Counsell opted to walk Seager and face Turner, who homered in the first inning off Zach Davies and in the eighth against Tyler Thornburg, who had retired 35 of the previous 36 hitters he'd faced. Banking on a ground ball, Counsell also employed a five-man infield, with former third baseman Ryan Braun coming in from left field. 


"I think it's what you do there, set up force at home with a heavy sinker guy," Turner said. 

Was Turner surprised the Brewers actually did it?

"No, not at all," he said.

Jeffress politely declined comment on the outing. Entering the night, he had not allowed a run or a walk on the road.

"You take your chances. [Jeffress] got him to two strikes, and we didn't quite execute the pitch," Counsell said.