MILWAUKEE -- Yes, it’s true. Josh Hader is human.
After yielding one inconsequential run in seven mostly dominant performances to begin the season, the Brewers’ left-handed relief ace was on the business end of Enrique Hernandez’s tiebreaking three-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning of the Brewers’ 5-3 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night at Miller Park.
That’s what is behind them. Here’s what is ahead for the Brewers: After emptying the tank for 34 pitches and having only his second loss in the past two seasons to show for it, Hader won’t be available Saturday as his team aims to avoid its first four-game losing streak of 2019.
“Good teams beat the best guy that you have, and it happened today with Hader,” Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacín said. “He’s a human. It can happen to anybody.
“We’ve got two more games, and we have a chance to do the same the next two games.”
Christian Yelich hit a two-run home run in the first inning that gave him 11 this season, matching the Brewers’ franchise record for an opening month.
But that was all Milwaukee mustered through the first seven innings as the teams spent most of the evening locked in a 2-2 tie, which persisted after Hader entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning and struck out dangerous Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger in a seven-pitch battle.
“That’s why you pitch, for matchups like that,” Hader said.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell hasn’t shied away from using Hader in what the Brewers perceive to be the biggest moment in the game, even when it presents itself in the seventh inning, and even though it risks exactly what transpired in the eighth, when the Dodgers coaxed 26 more pitches from Hader before Hernandez broke through on pitch No. 27 of the inning and No. 34 of Hader’s outing.
The homer was a stunning moment for several reasons, not the least of which was that Hader had never surrendered an 0-2 home run, and opponents were 1-for-55 with 44 strikeouts in 0-2 counts over the past two seasons. It also followed rare walks to two of the first three Dodgers batters of the inning, matching Hader’s total for all 10 of his innings this season prior to Friday, and marking only the third time since last year’s All-Star break that Hader walked multiple batters in an outing.
The second of those walks went to David Freese, who received borderline ball calls from plate umpire Brian O’Nora on a pair of pitches at the outside edge of the strike zone. After Freese walked, Hader whiffed Austin Barnes for the second out of the inning to bring up Hernandez, who’d entered the game as part of a double switch in the sixth.
And, just as stunning, Hernandez hit a fastball at the top of the zone. Hader wanted it more in on Hernandez’s hands. Still, it was not an easy pitch to power out, especially when delivered from an unconventional lefty like Hader.
“That’s a pitch in a spot where Josh is pretty good,” Counsell said.
Hernandez was asked to articulate the challenge.
Just what makes Hader, well, Hader?
“Analytics?” Hernandez said. “I don’t know -- extension, spin rate, whatever you want to call it. Drop, angle, bouncy. It gets there quick. He does a really good job of hiding it. He’s got an unorthodox windup, kind of. He’s aggressive, his hair is flowing everywhere. It always seems like his fastball is a tick higher than you think it is. It was all about matching the plane.”
Hader was more fixated on the plate appearances preceding the showdown with Hernandez.
“That’s the thing with me falling behind on those [previous] guys and walking them,” Hader said. “I didn’t set myself up too good to execute. I made mistakes and I paid for it. That’s how the game goes sometimes.”
The nine walks issued by Brewers pitchers (one was intentional) matched a dubious season high, and three of those free runners came around to score.
“It’s a good team. One through nine, that’s a good team,” Hader said of the Dodgers. “Even the bench is strong hitters. That’s a team you can’t fall behind on because they’ll have you pay for it.”