Counsell ejected as Crew's frustrations grow

May 7th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- The final outs of the Brewers’ 4-1 loss to the Giants on Saturday afternoon at Oracle Park were rather emblematic of how the team's road trip out west has unfolded thus far. With runners at second and third, Christian Yelich hit a well-struck ball that was caught in left-center field after dying at the wall. One batter before, Tyrone Taylor had hit a nearly identical drive to the same result.

That short-lived spark of hope followed by frustration has been a recurring feeling during Milwaukee's six-game skid, the club's longest losing streak since dropping eight straight from June 3-11 last season. The Brewers have been outscored 32-to-14 in that span, getting inconsistent results on both sides of the ball.

"We've got to do a better job," manager Craig Counsell said. "We're not scoring enough runs. … Everything's got to be perfect, kind of, on the other areas, and we haven't been. All areas can help, but certainly offense takes a little pressure off the other areas."

Milwaukee's skipper was not in the dugout for the latter half of Saturday's loss after he was ejected in the top of the fourth inning for arguing a disengagement call.

With Rowdy Tellez at the plate, Giants starter Alex Cobb threw over to first base twice to check on Willy Adames, who had singled to lead off the inning. Cobb had also stepped off the rubber earlier in the plate appearance when catcher Joey Bart came over for a mound visit. Some parties on the field counted that as a disengagement while others did not.

Under MLB's new rules for 2023, pitchers are allowed two disengagements per plate appearance with a runner on base. A third step-off is ruled a balk.

When Cobb attempted to pick off Adames the second time, first-base umpire Jeremy Riggs held up three fingers to signify three disengagements. But Adames was not granted second base, as another umpire on the field had evidently only counted two.

"Their ruling was they took away the [first] disengagement because at some point after the disengagement, they did a mound visit," Counsell said. "In my eyes, it wasn't related, and the first-base umpire didn't see it that way. Apparently one of the umpires did, and that was enough to overturn the disengagement."

The Giants, on the other hand, believed that they had a disengagement remaining. A mound visit doesn't count as a disengagement under the new rules, but the timing of Cobb's first step-off led to some confusion.

"I wasn’t clear exactly if they ruled that a step-off or a mound visit. I checked with the umpire at second right after that play, and he said that was a mound visit, no step-off. So I knew I had two left at that time," Cobb said. "I threw over twice, and on the second one, [the Brewers] had seen me step off, so they thought it was the third one, which I can understand the confusion. But I made sure to clear it with the umpire beforehand. I wouldn’t have thrown over there if I thought I had two."

Counsell, along with a number of Milwaukee personnel, was quick to voice his displeasure with the call. He was tossed from the game almost immediately, but he remained on the field for several minutes, following crew chief Chris Guccione across the diamond to continue speaking his mind.

"He had every right to be upset about that," said Jesse Winker, who went 0-for-3 with a walk. "He's sticking up for his players. That's what you want."

The Brewers didn't have much else going their way on Saturday afternoon, held to six hits -- all singles -- by Cobb and the Giants’ bullpen. They got a quality start from right-hander Colin Rea and avoided being shut out for the fifth time this season thanks to Owen Miller's ninth-inning RBI knock, but they left nine on base and went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Milwaukee now has lost four of its past five series after winning five of its first six, a reversal of fortune that is indicative of the streaky nature of a 162-game season -- though it can be difficult to keep that perspective when mired in a losing stretch.

"That's why starting off good as a team is a luxury," Winker said. "You kind of give yourself a little cushion with stretches like this. Obviously, this would have been worse if this is how we started the year, but we didn't, thankfully. … Unfortunately, we're on the wrong side of the ball right now, but we'll be all right."