Clutch Cutch! McCutchen walks Crew off in 9th

June 3rd, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- kept expecting someone to tap him on the shoulder and explain that this was an elaborate prank. Or that he would wake up and discover that it had been a bad dream. Until either of those things happened, he kept swinging the bat and waiting for one of those well-struck baseballs to turn into a hit.

McCutchen finally found some open space in the bottom of the ninth inning on Thursday, when he snapped the longest slump of his career -- an epic 0-for-32 -- by grounding a walk-off single up the middle for a 5-4 Brewers win over the Padres at American Family Field.

Talk about needing a moment like that.

“You look around, like, ‘Where is Ashton Kutcher? Am I being punk’d right now?’” McCutchen had said the day before.

Unfortunately for McCutchen, most of Thursday was more of the same. Looking rather weary in the wake of their longest road trip of the season, the Brewers were held to one run through the first eight innings. In the third, with a runner in scoring position and two outs in a scoreless game, McCutchen scorched a 104.9 mph ground ball along the third-base line. Padres third baseman Manny Machado made a diving stop, popped to his feet and threw out McCutchen by a step.

In the fifth, McCutchen drove in a run with a fielder’s choice to tie the game at 1, but the Padres reclaimed the lead on Jorge Alfaro’s two-run home run off Brent Suter in the sixth and extended the lead to 4-1 in the eighth in right-hander Peter Strzelecki’s Major League debut.

So, on came Padres closer Taylor Rogers in the bottom of the ninth with a three-run lead and 17 saves in 19 tries.

“There wasn't much going,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.

“We just had to get guys on,” said McCutchen.

Rogers helped out with that. After Keston Hiura led off the inning with a sharp single, Rogers plunked Kolten Wong with one slider and Victor Caratini with another to load the bases for Jace Peterson.

Typically, Peterson would not have started against Padres lefty Sean Manaea, and even if he did, right-hander Mike Brosseau probably would have pinch-hit for him in the ninth against another lefty, Rogers. But Brosseau had sprained an ankle the day before in Chicago and was unavailable, Counsell revealed after the game.

So, Peterson got a chance and delivered, swinging away in a 3-1 count and lining a fastball off the center-field wall for a triple. It looked to Adrian Houser and the other Brewers pitchers in the clubhouse like it was going to be a walk-off grand slam. Peterson was just glad it caromed far enough off the fence to clear the bases.

“At 3-1, I wanted Jace kind of going after that pitch, because he has been swinging the bat as well as anybody,” Counsell said. “Just by reading the inning and what was going on with Rogers' breaking ball, you felt like there was a fastball coming.”

"When you kind of have nothing,” Rogers said, “you're just trying to search. It's hard to be a closer when you don't have nothing and you're the last line."

The Padres tried another reliever, Nabil Crismatt.

McCutchen, 0-for-4 in the game and 0-for-32 over parts of the past eight days in spite of consistent loud contact, got one more chance. He was smiling in the on-deck circle.

“I could just feel that energy, you know?” he said. “I knew that having that opportunity, I was like, ‘This is going to happen.’”

“He's been swinging the bat great. I don't care what the numbers say,” Peterson said. “He came up big in that situation and got it done. That's what he does.”

McCutchen did it on the fourth pitch. After rounding first base, he dropped onto his back and made an angel in the infield dirt.

“I had my guardian angel with me there tonight. Shoot, I needed it,” McCutchen said. “It’s crazy how things work. I have not done that ever, for good reason. I have never been in that situation before. A big weight lifted off my shoulders there.”

For everybody.

“You're ecstatic for him,” said Counsell, who endured an 0-for-45 stretch in 2011 during his final season as a player. “You're almost as happy for him as we are to get the win. Good timing, saving it for that.”

The Brewers signed McCutchen to a one-year, $8.5 million contract in March, and he’s had his moments. On April 28, he homered and drove in all three Brewers runs in a win over his former team in Pittsburgh. On May 4, he had four hits, a walk and four RBIs in an 18-4 romp over the Reds. And as recently as this last road trip, he delivered back-to-back multi-hit games in consecutive wins at San Diego and St. Louis.

But that’s when the hits stopped coming. On Tuesday, McCutchen said on Twitter, “I’m gonna get thru this funk.” On Wednesday, Counsell gave McCutchen a day off to clear the mind.

On Thursday, he won a game.

“Guys felt bad for me, but I was like, ‘It’s part of the thing. We’ll keep battling and fighting through it. It’s better than striking out every at-bat,’” McCutchen said. “At least I had some positivity throughout it. Balls will drop. It’s going to happen. You know it’s going to. But it felt like forever.”