Crew falls to 3rd as frustration boils over

Grandal ejected: 'It's been building up for the last three weeks'

July 16th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- It looked like was upset about a called third strike, but the truth is that his frustration ran much deeper than one pitch.

Grandal apologized late Monday for blowing up at home-plate umpire Jordan Baker in the sixth inning of the Brewers’ 4-2 loss to the Braves at Miller Park, saying his first ejection this season was prompted more by Milwaukee’s recently poor play than by one close call. The loss was the Brewers’ eighth in 10 games and 18th in 27 games, and it dropped them below the Cardinals into third place in the National League Central for the first time since the first week of May.

Baker just happened to be in the vicinity when Grandal lost his cool.

"It was nothing against him," Grandal said. "It's been building up for the last three weeks, and it just so happened to set me off with him. Obviously, that's not the way I want to be acting -- especially for the kids that are in the stands, for the kids that are watching at home, for the young guys on this team. I don't want them seeing me like that. In the heat of the moment I lost sight of what my job is, which is making sure [Brewers starter Adrian] Houser kept going. My relationship -- especially with Baker -- is probably one of the best ones that I have. My apologies go out to him and his crew.

“Other than that, I’m just frustrated. Not just tonight. I think it’s more about the past than just tonight.”

The Brewers remained 2 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cubs but are within one game of .500 for the first time since they were 17-16 on May 2. It is not where they expected to be after adding Grandal and re-signing fellow free agent Mike Moustakas and pushing payroll into record territory coming off a Game 7 of last year’s NL Championship Series against Grandal’s Dodgers.

“I think we’re waiting for something to happen,” Grandal said. “We need to just snap out of it. After I got thrown out, I was hoping maybe a spark would do something. It seemed like we started swinging the bats better, but we just couldn’t come through. I wish I had a secret potion, but I don’t. I just think the harder you try, the worse it gets. So don’t try -- just play. We’ve just got to take it a day at a time. Obviously we can get better in different situations, but we just can’t be trying too hard. We’re just putting more pressure on ourselves when we try to do something instead of just letting it happen.”

For weeks, it’s been assumed that the Brewers would be buyers at the July 31 Trade Deadline, but their poor play in all phases of the game -- run scoring and run prevention -- has called that into question. When the Brewers get good starting pitching like they did Monday from Houser for six-plus innings, they don’t hit. When they hit, like they did while scoring 15 runs and losing two of three games to the Giants to begin the second half, the bullpen lets them down to the tune of 16 earned runs in that series.

Blame the bats on Monday. Milwaukee went hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, including Orlando Arcia’s fielder’s-choice dribbler in the fifth inning with Keston Hiura at third base and nobody out. Hiura was overly aggressive on the play, manager Craig Counsell said, and was an easy out on the baseline for Braves starter Max Fried in what became a scoreless inning to end the left-hander’s scoreless start.

The Brewers entered the day last in the National League and 29th of 30 Major League teams with a .239 average with runners in scoring position.

“Just in general, we have to make more plays,” Counsell said. “That’s what it comes down to, whether it be better at-bats, making a play defensively, making a big pitch when it counts. Offensively, there are certainly moments that we’ve got to capitalize on. We’re not hitting into the best luck right now, but we have to find a way to make plays. That’s how we break through this. Just make more plays.”

Monday was not completely devoid of positives for the Brewers. In his sixth career start, the right-hander pitched into the seventh inning for the first time and was burned by one pitch, a low curveball to Freddie Freeman in the fourth inning which the Braves first baseman slugged off the center-field scoreboard for a three-run home run. Hiura led Milwaukee’s offense with a single in the third inning, a double in the fifth and an RBI triple in the sixth, which is when Ryan Braun also homered for the first time since June 19 and the Brewers pulled within a run at 3-2.

“We’re almost there,” said Houser. “We’ll have a [good] game here and there, but I think we’re on the right track. We have to get our way into it.”