With 'gut-punchy' loss, Crew falls 2 games back

October 3rd, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- Two months to the day after a Trade Deadline that seemed to turn their fortunes in the wrong direction, the Brewers found themselves on the brink of being eliminated from postseason contention.

In those two months, from Aug. 2 in Pittsburgh through Sunday’s torturous, 4-3 loss to the Marlins in 12 innings at American Family Field, the Brewers are 27-30 and have fallen from first place in the NL Central to the very fringe of the Wild Card race. After losing three of four games to the Marlins while scoring nine runs in 39 innings in the series, Milwaukee fell two games back of the Phillies with three to play.

The Phillies’ magic number to clinch that spot is down to one.

Remember, the Brewers must pass the Phillies to make the playoffs -- the Phils hold the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the head-to-head season series. It’s still mathematically possible for Milwaukee to extend its streak of postseason appearances to five years in a row, but the club will have to run the table in its closing series against the D-backs while rooting hard for the Astros, who host the Phillies for three games this week. There’s only one scenario that works for the Brewers: Sweep the D-backs while the Phillies get swept by the Astros.

“The math is pretty simple but we can only take care of us,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.

Some runs would help. Miami starting pitchers held Milwaukee hitters to three runs in 22 innings in the series, including right-hander Pablo López’s seven scoreless innings in Sunday’s finale. He departed with a 2-0 lead.

The Brewers scored a run apiece in the eighth and ninth innings to force extras. They answered a single Marlins run in the 10th to extend the game. When the Marlins failed to score off in the 11th, the Brewers similarly came up empty despite having the bases loaded with one out in that inning. When the Marlins went ahead against in the 12th, the Brewers didn’t have an answer. They finished 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position in the game and 5-for-36 in the four-game series.

“If you’re a fan at home watching, you’re pretty frustrated,” said , the veteran who signed with the Brewers in Spring Training hoping to get back to the playoffs for the first time since his stint with the Yankees five years ago. “So you can only imagine how it feels being the players on the team going through these last couple of games that we’ve had -- where you kind of have the win at your hands, and then you don’t. It’s pretty frustrating; but there’s still a chance.”

When Suter was asked to describe the series, he did so like this: “Gut-punchy.” 

That was one way to put it. On Thursday, the Brewers had a 2-0 lead with two outs in the eighth inning before Avisaíl García hit a grand slam off Freddy Peralta -- who bounced back Sunday to give the Brewers a scoreless four-inning start. On Friday, the Brewers scored their only run via sacrifice fly and rode Corbin Burnes and Devin Williams to a 1-0 win over Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara. On Saturday, Williams inherited a 3-2 lead in the ninth and lost it, 4-3. And on Sunday, the Brewers had four innings to secure their 10th walk-off win of the season and just couldn’t conjure the sort of situational hitting required of the moment. 

“I think we're going to complain about that for the rest of baseball history,” Counsell said. “When you don't get runs in and when you lose a game, there's a good chance that [lack of situational hitting] was involved, but I think that's been going on for all of baseball.”

Counsell also said, “We didn't score enough runs. Absolutely. We pitched pretty darn good but nine runs in four games, that's not going to lead to winning a series.”

The Brewers came into the season intent on winning much more with the best pitching staff ever assembled in franchise history. But injuries landed every starter but Burnes on the injured list at some point, some for multiple stints, and the team lost its relief ace with the surprising trade of Josh Hader to San Diego at the Trade Deadline.

Coincidentally, the Brewers’ loss on Sunday formally clinched the Padres’ postseason berth. Juan Soto had to step out of the batter’s box at Petco Park when the fans reacted to the final score.

“There's a fighting chance left and I believe in our team,” Suter said. “Crazy things have happened in this game. It's crazy but it's not out of the realm of possibility.”