SAN FRANCISCO -- The Brewers outplayed the Giants in nearly every way possible for eight innings at Oracle Park on Friday. But the ninth inning got away from closer Josh Hader in a hurry, and what would have been a feel-good, morale-boosting win turned quickly and cruelly, resulting in Milwaukee’s worst loss of the year.
For much of this game, the Brewers had everything working in their favor. Flawless defense that far outshone a sloppier effort from their opponent. A breakout fifth inning featuring a bases-clearing double from Andrew McCutchen that gave Milwaukee a healthy lead. And a gusty, if not imperfect, performance from starter Brandon Woodruff, who looked to be in line for one of his more hard-fought wins of the year.
But then the ninth inning arrived, and didn’t end quickly enough. The Giants pounced on nearly everything Hader offered up, belting three homers, with the dagger coming off the bat of Mike Yastrzemski in the form of a walk-off grand slam, sending the Brewers to a crushing 8-5 loss.
It was the first time in MLB history a team hit three homers in an inning including a walk-off grand slam, according to Stats by STATS.
It happened only two days after Hader’s last ineffective outing, when he did not retire a single batter and allowed a three-run walk-off homer to Jose Miranda in a loss in Minnesota.
“It was the fastball tonight,” manager Craig Counsell said. “They jumped on some fastballs. I think we’ve got to get to work and try to help him. Location's always something that's obviously important. He's lived with a great fastball; hitters know a fastball is coming, and that's been dominant. We've just got to take a look at it and get him straightened out.”
Two of the homers were hit off the fastball, with one -- a momentum-shifting solo shot by Darin Ruf -- coming off a changeup. Yastrzemski delivered the final blow when he connected with a 96.1 mph fastball, which left his bat at 105 mph and traveled 420 feet to straightaway center. A no-doubter, as the saying goes.
“He's looking to make pitches, and he's not making a lot of pitches right now,” Counsell said. “He's just searching to make pitches.”
Hader chalked it up to poor execution and trying to feel his way through things that may have resulted in losing some of his usual aggressiveness.
“I think it’s just the execution part of the pitching,” he said. “I don’t think it’s anything big. I think it’s the ‘finish’ part of pitching. If you can execute the pitches you need to make and limit the mistakes, you’re going to put yourself in a better position.”
Hader has allowed runs in five of his past six appearances, a total of 12 earned runs over 4 1/3 innings.
He was asked if he is healthy: “Yeah.”
Hurting at all? “No.”
“I feel like I’m trying to feel things I don’t need to and I lost the aggressiveness that I normally have,” he said. “So, it’s just little things. But I’ve just got to move on and bring it tomorrow.”
Woodruff, who threw a career-high 112 pitches and navigated through a load of traffic on the basepaths, was supportive of Hader and reiterated the team’s confidence in him as the Brewers’ closer.
“He is the best closer in the game, in my opinion,” Woodruff said. “And he is the best at what he does. And sometimes it just happens. And I'll tell you what, the good thing about Josh is that he has the right mindset for that closer job and he understands that role so well.
“It's a hard game. Baseball, stuff happens. He's fine. I know he's upset. Anybody would [be], but he's the perfect guy for that role. I know he'll be just fine.”
These were similar words heard after the same thing happened two days earlier. With two games remaining until the All-Star break, the search for answers continues.
“It wasn't a good night,” Counsell said. “We've got to get to work and see what's going on, and try to help him fix it.”