Crew thrills 'amazing' fans with comeback W

June 26th, 2021

On Opening Day at American Family Field on April 1, the Brewers pushed across three runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extras in their 10-inning win. So, it seemed only fitting that on “Re-Opening Day” against the Rockies on Friday, another ninth-inning rally led to hitting a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 11th in the 5-4 victory.

“It was amazing to have all those fans in the stands. It’s unbelievable,” said Willy Adames, who missed the original Opening Day walk-off while he was still with the Rays. “For me, that’s a big part of our game. That’s the most important thing we have is the fans. We play for them; we put on a show for them. To see them come to the park and support us, and for us to give them that show with the walk-off, it was amazing. It was amazing to be part of it. Hopefully, we get more of that through the season.”

With Milwaukee down two runs after late-inning solo shots by Hiura and Kolten Wong, Omar Narváez walked to lead off the bottom of the ninth. That brought Adames to the plate, and after taking an up-and-in four-seamer for a ball, he unloaded on an inside sinker and sent it 390 feet over the left-center-field wall to knot up the game.

Josh Hader and Devin Williams then sent Colorado packing in the 10th and 11th, respectively. Manny Piña started the bottom frame on second base as the automatic runner, and a single to right by Adames nearly ended the game right there.

Instead of waving Piña home with nobody out to test Rockies right fielder Charlie Blackmon’s arm, though, Brewers third base coach Jason Lane kept Piña at third.

“That was a pretty easy one, I thought, with nobody out,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. “You take your chances with what happens next.”

Jackie Bradley Jr. then drew a four-pitch walk to load up the bases, and as Colorado shifted to a two-outfielder formation, Hiura stepped up to the plate.

Hardly anyone on the Brewers needed a big moment more than Hiura did on Friday. His struggles in the Majors (.127 batting average, .438 OPS, seven extra-base hits in 110 at-bats entering play Friday) led to him being optioned off the active roster twice this season. He nearly had that moment in his return game against the D-backs on Wednesday, when he hit a ball 414 feet that left the bat at 110.7 mph, yet it only made it to the warning track in the deepest part of Chase Field.

Hiura finally got the monkey off his back with his homer in the seventh inning that started the slow rally, and he had the opportunity to finish it off in the 11th. Hiura took a low slider from Rockies reliever Yency Almonte and lined it to center field -- yet it went straight at Raimel Tapia.

“My thing was just to drive a ball to the outfield, and worst case, get a tag on a ball if it happens to go to one of them,” he said. “At first, I thought it was a base hit, then I realized [Tapia] was playing right there, and obviously, he was playing shallow because he had a runner at third. As soon as he caught it, I was like, ‘Oh no, please, go… go… go.’”

Piña decided to test an outfielder’s arm this time, and he slid in ahead of the throw to complete the dramatic come-from-behind win.

“You’ve just got to rely on your instincts there, and I thought he did a great job,” Counsell said. “That’s probably as fast as I’ve ever seen him run. I told him he discovered he’s got a new gear today.”

All of this came on a day when the Brewers could hardly touch Rockies starter Jon Gray, who -- in his first start since he came off the injured list -- racked up 10 punchouts and allowed only five hits in five innings. It was telling that after two turns through the order, Corbin Burnes -- who took a no-hitter into the sixth -- was the only batter who hadn’t struck out.

But after some late-inning heroics, Milwaukee managed to finish off the first of 17 games in 17 days in grand fashion.