Lucroy's late RBI carries Crew to eighth straight win
Catcher plates winning run after unusual double play thwarts Bucs
MILWAUKEE -- Despite his Canadian citizenship, reliever Jim Henderson has never played goalie above the street-hockey level, but he seems to possess the instincts anyway.
Henderson finished off a rare 2-6-1 double play in the eighth inning to thwart a major Pirates scoring opportunity, and Jonathan Lucroy's RBI single in the bottom half of the frame gave the streaking Brewers the tie-breaking run they needed in a 3-2 win at Miller Park on Saturday night.
In winning their eighth consecutive game, the Brewers maintained the best record in baseball, at 9-2.
With runners at the corners, one out, and reigning National League Most Valuable Player Andrew McCutchen facing Henderson, the lanky right-hander induced a towering pop fly behind the plate, caught by Lucroy for the second out of the inning. With Travis Snider lingering off first base, Lucroy spun and threw to second to a covering Jean Segura. When Starling Marte elected to try and score from third, Segura smoothly grabbed the low throw and fired back to the plate, where Henderson was perfectly positioned to apply the tag and end the threat.
"I've never seen that one before," Lucroy said. "I've seen them where you throw a guy out at second and he stops, and the guy goes from home to third and we throw him out there, but never with the pitcher covering. That never happens."
An elated Henderson and the Brewers went to the dugout with the sellout crowd pouring it on, and with one out in the subsequent half-inning, three straight Brewers reached with singles against Mark Melancon (0-1). Lucroy was the third, plating Ryan Braun just ahead of Jose Tabata's close throw from right field.
"[Melancon] was throwing cutters, and he was up in the zone, so we were able to get good swings," said Lucroy.
Henderson (1-0) emerged as the winning pitcher thanks to that crazy escape.
"My focus there was just to get my glove out in front of the plate," Henderson said. "I really didn't know where I was positioned on the plate, because it happened so quickly. I'm glad I covered home in the first place. Some pitchers -- that ball was only 10 feet from the plate -- may just hang out by the mound. I'm glad I went to the plate so there was an opportunity for that."
Said Lucroy: "I was jacked to see him do that. I was so excited. He caught it and put it right on the guy, and it was awesome. I let him take it. He was right in front of me. I was like, 'You know what? I'm not even going to try and get in there.' It just happened so fast."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that the intent was, in fact, to draw a throw to second base and give Marte a chance to score.
"It is a play we have in place; we work on it all spring," Hurdle said. "We tag up at first, draw the throw to second and send the runner from third once the ball is out of the catcher's hand.
"We tried to steal a run, and they made a baseball play to prevent that. It had been a crazy game. We gifted them a run. It seemed like a good opportunity to catch them off guard."
First baseman Mark Reynolds delivered his own bit of sterling defense in the ninth, completing a 5-6-3 double play with a diving snare while keeping his toe on the bag. The play was confirmed after a 41-second review, erasing the leadoff walk issued by Francisco Rodriguez.
"I have a couple of years under my belt there [at first base]," Reynolds said. "I just reacted and stayed on the bag."
It was the first free pass and only the second baserunner allowed by Rodriguez this year, who bounced back to notch his fourth save.
It was a thrilling conclusion to a game started by Yovani Gallardo, whose streak of scoreless innings to start the season came to its end in the third at 14 2/3 innings, good for the fifth-best start in franchise history. Former Brewer Travis Ishikawa doubled and scored in the third, and McCutchen added a two-out RBI single in the frame to knot the score at 2.
"That pitch to Ishikawa was down but just too much over the plate," Gallardo said. "I have to get that ball away on the outer part of the plate, and he might hit a ground ball or a fly ball right at [Khris Davis]."
Gallardo took a no-decision after allowing two runs on six hits with six strikeouts in six innings. He walked one batter and faced the minimum three batters in four innings.
"[Bouncing back] is part of your job," Gallardo said. "Unfortunately, I gave up the lead with those two runs, but after they tied it up, I was going out there and putting up zeros to give the guys a chance to come back."
Carlos Gomez, who was presented with his 2013 Gold Glove Award in a ceremony before the game, crushed a leadoff home run off Edinson Volquez for his team-leading fourth bomb of the season and second leadoff blast of the year.
Davis reached on an error in the second and scored on a wild pitch with two outs and Gallardo at the plate in the second. He was stranded on third in the seventh after struggling to tag up cleanly on a rocket lineout by Rickie Weeks to left, losing an opportunity to score what would have been the go-ahead run.
"It was taggable," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Somehow Khris messed up on the tag. He went back and tagged, then left too early and retagged again. By then the play was kind of over. As a third-base coach, it's tough to tell a guy what to do if he does that in that sequence. If you leave too early and you have to come back and retag, it's tough to get him going again. I think he just messed up the timing of it."
Still, it was yet another win, complete with scoreless relief to lower the bullpen's Major League-leading ERA to 0.83. Tyler Thornburg retired both batters he faced and has now set down 14 in order.
"If we have the lead going into the late part of the game, it's going to be very tough for the other team to score a run off those guys," Gallardo said.
In some cases, it's because they're standing in the way.