Narváez's clutch hit helps Crew avoid 'history'

October 13th, 2021

ATLANTA -- By the time Brewers catcher reached base, he had his hands up and aimed toward the visitors' dugout at Truist Park. They were pantomiming claws, as had become the rallying cry of their postseason run, but also an auspicious sign for what else his base knock might represent.

Milwaukee was hoping that Narváez’s hit would awaken its sleeping giant -- the offense -- at the right time, facing and ultimately experiencing elimination in Tuesday’s Game 4 of the National League Division Series, a 5-4 loss to the Braves.

Narváez’s fourth-inning single scored the Brewers’ first run since the seventh inning of Game 1 on Friday, breaking a string of 22 consecutive scoreless innings and a mark of 0-for-20 with runners in scoring position that opened this best-of-five series.

The Brewers felt that rally, punctuated by ’s RBI single an at-bat later, would be an inflection point. Instead, it morphed into yet another opportunity to take off that came and went with merely a whimper.

“I thought it would [take the pressure off],” Cain said. “I know as an offense, we didn't swing the bats well. I know we're definitely capable of swinging the bats better than we did in the series. It just didn't happen.”

At the very least, the Brewers staved off history thanks to Narváez’s base hit. Only the 2001 A’s (0-for-27 to start the ALDS) and 1966 Dodgers (0-for-22 in the entirety of the World Series) owned longer fruitless streaks with runners in scoring position to open a postseason series.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Brewers’ 0-for-20 mark was:
• The third-longest streak to open a postseason series
• Tied for the sixth-longest streak at any point of a postseason series
• The longest since the 2009 ALCS, when Yankees had an 0-for-26 streak

But no avoidance of history, as tepid an accomplishment as it became, will make up for what the Brewers left on the table in their fourth consecutive postseason shortcoming.

Milwaukee scored just six runs in four games and slashed .192/.263/.264 in 138 plate appearances. Of the eight postseason teams in Brewers history, only the 2020 club that played two games before being eliminated owns a worse batting average and on-base percentage.

Both Avisaíl García and Christian Yelich struck out in more than half of their at-bats -- eight times each -- and did not collect an extra-base hit. Kolten Wong went 1-for-15. Even their most consistent hitter of the postseason, Willy Adames, struck out nine times.

“It was a tough series for a couple of guys, we had a couple of guys that just didn't get going,” said manager Craig Counsell. “It's 12 at-bats or 13 at-bats, it's a small sample. That's what these playoff series are about. You don't get many opportunities. And they pitched really well, too.”

I have to play better,” added Yelich.

Milwaukee didn’t need an offense bursting at the seams to force a potential Game 5. The pitching more than pulled its weight against a Braves lineup with pop, amassing a 3.18 ERA across 34 innings.

The Brewers simply could not afford the lack of production they received, coming from an offense that slumped down the stretch (slashing .228/.306/.383 in the final month of the season) amid a skid that evidently carried into the postseason.

Milwaukee amassed just five extra-base hits in the postseason. Two of its four run-scoring hits came on Rowdy Tellez capitalizing on a rare mistake from Atlanta’s stingy pitching, including a go-ahead home run in the fifth inning on Tuesday.

If the rally an inning earlier didn’t incite a stir in the dugout, Tellez’s two-run shot certainly could have. But as four games would demonstrate, there was nothing to show.

“I think it all boils down to us on the offensive side. We just didn't swing it well. We didn't capitalize,” Tellez said. “We've got the best pitching in baseball. After this loss, it's tough. It's kind of devastating. We didn't think it would be like this. But we're going to focus on next year and come back, and we're always going to be a force here.”