Brewers lose lead, game in wacky 7th inning
Early advantage doesn't hold as struggles by Garza, arms too much
ATLANTA -- When Brewers reliever Brandon Kintzler exited Thursday night's 5-4 loss to the Braves at Turner Field, so did sanity. Milwaukee's strong offensive effort was lost in a botched pitching change that was the highlight of a 47-minute seventh inning.
Clinging to a one-run lead with men on second and third, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke tried to bring in lefty Will Smith to face Braves pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit. But there was only one problem: Zach Duke came running in from the bullpen.
Roenicke had told umpires he wanted Smith, so Duke could not pitch.
"It was my fault," Roenicke said. "Miscommunication."
So, what happened?
Well, pitching coach Rick Kranitz and bullpen coach Lee Tunnell each missed Thursday's game to attend the high school graduations of their children.
Minor League pitching coordinator Rick Tomlin was serving as pitching coach, and bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel was running things down in the bullpen.
When things began to go south for starter Matt Garza -- who gave up four runs in 6 1/3 innings -- in the bottom of the seventh, Roenicke wanted Kintzler and Smith to warm up in the bullpen, but failed to properly communicate his wishes.
"I didn't go back and tell Rick Tomlin who to get up and bring in, so it was my fault," Roenicke said. "It's just, you do things the same way every day and then when it changes, it just changes what goes on and I had to make the change."
During the inning, Roenicke sent backup catcher Martin Maldonado down to the bullpen to relay the message, rather than calling on the bullpen phone. However, Maldonado thought Roenicke wanted Duke to warm up and told him to get loose.
But neither Duke nor Smith got warmed up in time before Roenicke moved to pull Kintzler out of the game.
"No left-hander was up," Roenicke said. "Maldy told Duke to get loose because that's who Maldy thought it was going to be, but really I wanted Smith. So, when I went to home plate, I told them Smith. And that's why when Duke came in, it couldn't be Duke."
So, Smith came in to pitch without throwing any warm-up tosses in the bullpen and began throwing off the mound. That's when the umpires stopped the game again.
Crew chief Fieldin Culbreth initiated a review for record keeping and a rules check to determine how many warm-up pitches the pitcher is allowed. After the review, Smith was determined to only be allowed eight warm-up pitches.
"You get eight pitches between innings," Smith said. "That's normally how many I throw in the bullpen anyway, so it wasn't that bad."
Once the game resumed, Smith was good to go.
"The adrenaline took over," he said. "It was just another inning trying to get people out."
After a bout of confusion that lasted about 10 minutes in total, Smith finally toed the rubber against Doumit, who plated the game's tying and winning runs against a drawn-in infield. The loss dropped Milwaukee to 24-2 in games when they score four or more runs.
"You always do that. Always," Roenicke said of bringing the infield in. "Oh, absolutely. When you're on the road, that's an automatic. You can't let them tie."
Smith added: "That's the situation of the game. The infield had to be in. The ball slipped through. It happens."
Garza proved strong through his first six innings, giving up only two runs. One of those was a solo shot off the bat of B.J. Upton, his former teammate with the Rays. However, Garza's night went off the rails in the seventh.
He gave up singles to Chris Johnson and Dan Uggla before giving way to Kintzler and the madness that ensued. He was unhappy that he let his gem unravel and gave away Milwaukee's two-run lead.
"You're never satisfied when you don't win," Garza said. "Just in limbo. It is what it is and just keep going. Keep your head up."
The Brewers lineup became only the second team to score more than two earned runs against Braves starter Aaron Harang this season despite missing Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Braun, who left the game with tightness in his right side.
Jean Segura, filling in for Gomez in the leadoff spot, recorded three hits and scored Milwaukee's first two runs thanks to two RBI hits from Jonathan Lucroy. Lucroy notched his 17th multi-hit game and is batting .500 (12-for-24) against Atlanta in 2014.
The Brewers added two more runs as the game went on and threatened one final time in the ninth against Craig Kimbrel, but failed to score again after the deflating seventh. Milwaukee is now 8-12 in May and has seen its lead over St. Louis in the NL Central Division shrink from 5 1/2 games on April 30 to only 1 1/2.
"It hurts, but we've just got to keep going," Garza said. "We've just got to keep fighting and grinding this month. We've got some guys banged up and some guys nursing some things, so we've just got to keep going and keep finding a way."