MILWAUKEE -- It was shaping into the unluckiest inning you’ll ever see for Corbin Burnes and the Brewers.
Then, out of nowhere, it was like it started raining four-leaf clovers.
Along the way, the largest crowd to watch the Brewers play a ballgame in nearly two years -- 41,686 strong, a sellout -- was left stumped while the umpires sorted through the weirdness that was the top of the fifth inning.
Bottom line: Yoán Moncada stepped right over home plate while trying to score Chicago’s first run of the night, a misstep that helped Burnes turn around a tough inning and get through his 11th quality start in 17 trips to the mound this season, sending the Brewers to the 4,000th victory in franchise history.
“I think I was in la-la land like the fans were, because I had no idea what was going on,” Taylor said. “I was just glad that they got it right.”
The inning started like a bad dream for Burnes, who had faced the minimum through the first four frames and was staked to a 4-0 lead. Moncada led off with an infield single that took a wicked hop and caromed off second baseman Wong’s glove. Andrew Vaughn hit an infield single that rolled slowly to third baseman Luis Urías. Brian Goodwin blooped a base hit to left field that ticked off the glove of a sliding Christian Yelich.
Then Leury García hit a breaking ball that was about to bounce in the dirt for another infield dribbler -- 16.1 mph off the end of his bat, according to Statcast -- to no-man’s land on the left side for what looked like a run-scoring hit.
“I don't think anybody found a barrel that inning,” Tellez said. “You know, broken bats, some weak-hit balls just found perfect spots.”
Said Burnes: “It seems like every other start or every third start, they have one of those innings where they hit every ball with a negative exit velo and they get hits out of it. It’s incredible.”
Burnes’ fortunes suddenly turned.
First, Burnes’ ill-advised shovel home struck plate umpire Jeremie Rehak on the left knee instead of sailing to the backstop and allowing the Sox runners to keep running. Second, pitching coach Chris Hook and the entire Brewers infield converged around the mound for a discussion with Burnes, giving Milwaukee’s replay room time to relay to the dugout and manager Craig Counsell that the Chicago runner who had crossed home plate had not actually stepped on it.
Moncada missed it by an inch as he ran by. He didn’t realize it until he saw the replay on the stadium scoreboard.
“It was my fault,” Moncada said. “I felt bad that it happened.”
Said Burnes: “Once Hooky left the mound, Counsell yelled from the dugout, ‘Hey, he missed the plate’ we’re going to step off and appeal here!’ I guess they knew all along he missed the plate. There was just so much craziness going on it took a while for the phone to get answered [in the dugout]. We all saw it. He missed the plate, clear as day.”
So, Burnes took the mound, then stepped off and tossed home to appeal.
Safe, said Rehak.
The Brewers challenged the call and got a different result.
“That's how you have to do it. You have to appeal it first, and then challenge that he touched the plate,” Counsell said. “It was a great job by our replay guys. They did a heck of a job staying with that play. It's kind of a chaotic play. It didn't look like there was anything good happening for us there, but they did a heck of a job getting the information to us.”
Predictably, White Sox manager Tony La Russa protested to the umpires, including crew chief Dan Iassogna. After a long discussion, the umpires went back to the headset for guidance from New York on the rules.
Because there had been a mound visit, did the Brewers still have the right to challenge the call?
“Normally, you have like 20 seconds, and the guy doing their replay says, 'Hey, you missed the plate,' and you make the call,” La Russa said. “But when you have that much time, which includes a trip to the mound by the pitching coach, that's very unusual. I remember when we worked on the replay, and I was working on it myself, we were always looking at things that teams would do to increase the number of seconds or minutes they had to make the call -- and one of them was a trip to the mound.
“So, that's what I said. I said, 'Something isn't right here.'”
By rule, however, the Brewers were indeed within their rights to challenge. Only if there had been a pitching change would the Brewers have been denied that option.
Final answer: Moncada was out, García’s single was converted to a fielder’s choice, and the Brewers’ lead remained 4-0.
Burnes, who had done some light throwing during a delay that spanned more than 11 minutes, promptly walked Zack Collins to force in a run, and this time it actually stayed on the scoreboard. That snapped Burnes’ scoreless streak at 17 innings, but he stranded the bases loaded without allowing any more, then worked a scoreless sixth to lower his ERA to 2.12.
That’s the second-lowest ERA among Major League qualifiers, just behind the Brewers’ scheduled starter on Sunday, Brandon Woodruff (MLB-best 2.04), and three spots ahead of teammate Freddy Peralta (fifth at 2.29).
There are a number of pitchers right on the edge of having enough innings, including injured Mets ace Jacob deGrom and White Sox veteran Lance Lynn, who would rejoin the list of qualifiers if his makes his start as scheduled Sunday. But bookmark this stat: According to Elias, the last team to finish a season with three of the top five qualified ERAs in MLB was Cleveland in 1954: Mike Garcia second, Bob Lemon fourth, Early Wynn fifth.
“I don't even think about anything like [the strange fifth] bothering Burnes because he's such a dog on the mound,” Taylor said. “It's hard to get him off his game.”