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Crew forces extras with late rally, fall in 10th

Hader unhittable in 9th but tagged by Freeman's walk-off
@AdamMcCalvy
May 18, 2019

ATLANTA -- For most of their fans, weekends are for rest. For the Brewers, they are for working overtime. They played extra innings -- rather, an extra inning -- for the third straight Saturday, getting a tying double from Lorenzo Cain in the top of the ninth before Freddie Freeman

ATLANTA -- For most of their fans, weekends are for rest. For the Brewers, they are for working overtime.

They played extra innings -- rather, an extra inning -- for the third straight Saturday, getting a tying double from Lorenzo Cain in the top of the ninth before Freddie Freeman led off the bottom of the 10th with a solo home run for a 4-3 Braves win at SunTrust Park. In contrast to an 18-inning win over the Mets on May 4 and a 15-inning loss to the Cubs on May 11, this one was over in a relative blink of the eye.

Josh Hader was well rested, coming off a six-day stretch in which he logged a lone one-inning appearance. And he was sharp in the ninth while dispatching the Braves in order only to groove a 1-0 fastball to Freeman leading off the 10th. After Hader allowed only one home run to a left-handed batter (the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo last season) in his first 140 innings in the Major Leagues, he has allowed two in his last 10 1/3 innings. Notably, those left-handed hitters were two of the best in baseball: Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers and Freeman.

Box score

Then there’s this odd stat: Hader has allowed only nine hits this season in 21 1/3 innings; five are home runs.

Usually for a pitcher with Hader’s electric stuff, it’s a matter of location, and that was the case on Saturday. Hader wanted his fastball up and away. He missed up and center cut.

“That's what happens sometimes when you pitch up in the zone,” Hader said. “You're going to get beat sometimes if you don't execute your pitch. It gives them that advantage when it's up in the zone, gives them an easier chance to get it elevated. But that's just how I pitch. I'm going to stick to my strengths. Sometimes, it's going to happen like that."

Said Freeman: “It’s just another lefty throwing 94-96. You face those guys all the time. We know he throws up in the zone. I was just looking for something up. It didn’t matter if it was a slider or fastball. I just wanted to get my foot down because you know he has the ride on it.”

Is Hader’s extreme number of home runs to hits a matter of concern to manager Craig Counsell?

“That’s a pretty good hitter,” Counsell said of Freeman, “so that’s going to happen.”

The ratio isn’t something to think about?

“I’m not going to recommend Josh change anything that he’s doing,” Counsell said.

For Counsell, the loss was more a matter of offense, or lack thereof.

Jesús Aguilar delivered a two-run single in the first inning, when the Brewers stranded a pair of runners in scoring position. They came up empty in two at-bats with the bases loaded in the third, then didn’t have another hit until Braves closer Luke Jackson took over with a one-run lead in the ninth and hit Keston Hiura with a pitch. Orlando Arcia followed with that long-awaited hit, a single that put runners at the corners for Cain’s big, bouncing double over third baseman Josh Donaldson’s head.

But the Brewers couldn’t push ahead, even after Jackson intentionally walked Christian Yelich to load the bases for Ryan Braun, who struck out, and Mike Moustakas, who grounded out sharply for the Brewers’ fourth fruitless at-bat of the night with the bases loaded, continuing a quirk that has dogged them on this longest road trip of the season.

“You have to cash in on them,” Counsell said. “Those are at-bats that we want as hitters. Men on base and a chance to do some damage and really impact the game. At-bats where contact works. Where keeping the ball away from the third baseman works. We just haven’t done that. Thus, we’re making it hard on ourselves.”

Said Cain: “As a team, as a whole, we didn’t get it done.”

An inning earlier, Yelich did his part to keep it a one-run game by throwing out Nick Markakis trying to score from second on a single. But another defensive play may have worked against the Brewers. On Markakis’ bases-loaded sacrifice fly to left field in the third inning, Braun opted to throw to second base in an attempt to double-up Dansby Swanson, instead of throwing home ahead of Ronald Acuña Jr. Braun had noticed Swanson far off second base, and instinct led to a split-second decision that Braun regretted.

“I have no doubt that if I would have thrown home, I would have had him,” Braun said.

The loss dropped the Brewers to 4-5 on the road trip, with Sunday’s finale still to play.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.