Crew still searching for post-Hader mojo

August 4th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- The post-Josh Hader era is not going according to plan.

The Brewers absorbed another painful defeat on Thursday afternoon at PNC Park when bullpen newcomer Matt Bush let a 10th-inning lead get away in a 5-4 loss to the Pirates that completed a three-game sweep and added to Milwaukee’s draining week.

After winning seven of their first eight games coming out of the All-Star break, the Brewers have dropped four in a row, including three straight following Hader’s trade to the Padres on Monday. The Brewers had their reasons for dealing their longtime relief ace, as articulated by president of baseball operations David Stearns. That logic didn’t dull the hurt of three consecutive late-inning losses, including back-to-back walk-offs in spots Hader might have pitched.

The obvious question was this: Did the trade disrupt the good thing the Brewers had going?

“You’d be lying if you said it didn’t have an effect, but at the same time it’s like, we’re pros,” Christian Yelich said. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to perform at your best and get the job done. We weren’t able to do that those last three days. That didn’t really have anything to do with not having Josh.

“I know that’s probably going to be a storyline and the thing that’s talked about, especially because of the timing. But we just didn’t play good enough. We just have to regroup, get back out there [Friday against the Reds at home], get back on track and stack a few in a row and see if we can get back headed in the right direction.”

Asked a version of the same question, Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff said, “Look, we have a job to do when we come to the baseball field, regardless of who’s in this room. This is our team, and we’ve got a dang good team.”

The Brewers’ troubles against the Pirates predate the Hader trade. Thursday marked the fifth consecutive loss to Pittsburgh in which Milwaukee led in the sixth inning, though this one might have hurt the most. Victor Caratini and Mike Brosseau homered for a 3-1 Brewers lead through six innings, but Yelich and manager Craig Counsell were ejected amid a game-tying Pirates rally that started against Woodruff in the seventh.

After the Brewers reclaimed a 4-3 lead in the 10th, the Pirates rallied again. Bush surrendered a double to Bryan Reynolds on his first pitch to make it a 4-4 game. After a pair of intentional walks sandwiched a flyout to load the bases, Bush spiked an 0-2 curveball for a game-ending wild pitch.

“I’m trying to bury it, but obviously not that much,” Bush said. “It got away from me a little bit.”

Bush has surrendered runs in each of his first two appearances since coming to the Brewers from Texas via trade on Monday. He has been charged with four runs (three earned) on four hits in his first 1 1/3 innings with his new team.

Bush was pitching in a spot that might have made sense for left-hander Taylor Rogers, the Major League piece acquired by the Brewers in the Hader trade. He’s an All-Star closer in his own right, but Counsell said all parties agreed Thursday morning that he was unavailable for the series finale after overnight travel to Pittsburgh on Monday into Tuesday, then a warm-up during Tuesday’s game and an inning in Wednesday’s game.

Thus, the bottom of the 10th went to Bush.

“This is not an easy game,” Bush said. “Sometimes it does not go our way. That happened with me today and our ballclub. But we have to bounce back and stay positive."

The Brewers had earlier chances to avoid the peril of extra innings, but finished the day 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Two of those outs warranted stars if you were scoring at home; Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes snared Tyrone Taylor’s shot down the line with the bases loaded for a double play to end the ninth inning, and left fielder Ben Gamel made a diving catch of Hunter Renfroe’s line drive with the bases loaded to end the 10th.

“I think you have to give them credit for making two great defensive plays,” Counsell said. “That’s not the ball not bouncing our way, that’s them earning the win.”

It’s been that kind of week.

“I think we’ve definitely been in better spots,” Yelich said. “We’re dealing with a little adversity right now. It depends how we respond.”

“We’re here for each other,” Woodruff said. “We’re going to play for each other. We can’t do anything about it except go out and do our job, and that’s what everybody is going to do.”