Halton stuns Reds with walk-off homer
After late rally and Gomez's amazing grab, Brewers complete comeback
MILWAUKEE -- Carlos Gomez did it again, and the Brewers matched their biggest comeback win of the season.
Gomez's leaping catch robbed the Reds' Jay Bruce of at least a go-ahead double and maybe more in the top of the ninth inning before Milwaukee's Sean Halton delivered his first career walk-off home run to finish a 6-5 win at Miller Park on Sunday.
Trailing, 5-1, after the sixth, the Brewers scored five unanswered runs over the final three innings with the benefit of only two hits, a stunning finish to a game that threatened to get out of hand after a wild Yovani Gallardo surrendered three runs in the top of the first.
"Gomez makes that great play against the Reds -- again. You gotta love it," said Halton, soaked head to toe in Gatorade. "We had great energy coming into the dugout after that play, and it carried over to the offensive side."
The Brewers scored once in the seventh inning and three times in the eighth to tie the game at 5 on Jonathan Lucroy's sacrifice fly, but the Reds threatened to go back ahead in the top of the ninth. With two on, two outs and Brewers closer Jim Henderson pitching, Bruce sent a deep fly ball to straightaway center field, where baseball's most notorious home run robber timed his jump.
Gomez leaped and made a play reminiscent of the game-ending catch that robbed the Reds' Joey Votto of a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning on July 8.
If Bruce's fly ball was also bound to clear the fence, it would be the fifth home run Gomez has taken away this season, the most for an outfielder in at least the last 10 seasons, according to John Dewan's Fielding Bible.
"That's pretty good," Gomez said with a big smile. "It's not only five home runs, too, it's the situation that I save that run. That means a lot to us and the pitcher has more confidence in us because they know they have the best over there."
But was Bruce's fly ball bound to be a home run? Even in the Brewers' clubhouse, there was a bit of friendly debate.
Gomez watched replays and was convinced the baseball would have either just cleared the fence or bounced off the top and over, and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke agreed. Bruce was not quite as sure.
"I knew I didn't kill it. I knew it was going to be a close play," Bruce said. "I don't ever really know to be honest with you. You can say it was going out, it wasn't going out -- it was an out."
Gomez's catch to rob Votto back in July provided a dramatic final out for a Brewers victory, but on Sunday it merely preserved the tie. So with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning and Zach Duke pitching for the Reds, Halton connected with a 1-0 changeup and sent it over the center-field wall.
Halton's third career home run capped the Brewers' biggest comeback victory since they overcame a four-run deficit to beat the Phillies on June 7.
"I don't think there's a better feeling," Halton said. "Growing up wanting to be a baseball player and a Major Leaguer, that's the top of the mountain, I think.
"I had a couple [walk-off hits in the Minor Leagues], but nothing even comes close to this one, that's for sure. Especially against a team that's playing well, in the hunt."
Halton began the game as the Brewers first baseman, but ended it at third as part of a Spring Training-style line shift orchestrated by Roenicke to start the ninth inning that involved seven different players.
The result was Halton playing third base for the first time in the Major Leagues, a position he had manned only once in the Minors.
"With [regular third baseman Aramis Ramirez] still a question mark for today, the choices of where we were going to put people, we felt OK with [Halton] going over there," Roenicke said. "At that point, we had to do what we could do to try to score some runs and catch up. When you exhaust all your bench, you're sometimes left with not the ideal situation, which we were."
Said Halton: "I loved it. I think everyone else was nervous, but I was good."
The Brewers' comeback let Gallardo off the hook for a start that began with a miserable first inning.
Gallardo did not record an out until his 31st pitch of the game, and threw 39 pitches in all during the Reds' three-run, three-walk, two-hit first inning. Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart nearly made the inning much worse for Gallardo when he hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to the left-field warning track.
"To be really honest, I had no clue where the ball was going," Gallardo said. "It wasn't easy. You never want to go out there feeling that way. But after throwing  pitches, I was able to settle in a little bit, eat some innings and save the bullpen as much as I can."
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo responded to Gallardo's 39-pitch grind by breezing through a 1-2-3 bottom of the first inning on only nine pitches. The veteran right-hander baffled the Brewers for 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits, including Caleb Gindl's fifth-inning solo homer.
Gallardo, meanwhile, did his best to keep the Brewers close. He worked six innings and allowed five earned runs on seven hits, with three walks and five strikeouts in his poorest outing since a 4 2/3-inning, three-run no-decision against the Cubs on July 30 in which Gallardo suffered a left hamstring strain that landed him on the DL. In his first five starts since being reinstated, Gallardo had gone 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA.
"Yovani did a nice job of keeping us in the ballgame after that first, when things certainly didn't go well for him," Roenicke said. "This game, it's a strange game. You don't know what's going to happen."