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Cain a game-day decision for Wild Card Game

Hiura OK after close calls, long game; Gio part of postseason plans
@AdamMcCalvy
September 30, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Lorenzo Cain's availability for Tuesday’s National League Wild Card Game is expected to come down to a game-day decision, said Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell on the eve of his team’s must-win matchup against the Nationals. Cain sprained an already-hurting left ankle on a hard slide into home plate

WASHINGTON -- Lorenzo Cain's availability for Tuesday’s National League Wild Card Game is expected to come down to a game-day decision, said Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell on the eve of his team’s must-win matchup against the Nationals.

Cain sprained an already-hurting left ankle on a hard slide into home plate in the ninth inning of Saturday’s loss at Colorado and missed Sunday’s regular season finale. He was on the field for an optional workout on Monday afternoon at Nationals Park to take batting practice and (gingerly) run the bases.

The Brewers must submit a 25-man roster for the game on Tuesday morning, and that will provide the first clue about Cain’s status.

“A lot would have to go wrong for me to not play this game,” Cain said.

Said Counsell: “We need time. The more time the better, the more treatments the better. We’re not going to get the amount of time that we really want, and it’s going to impact him. I think we know that. He’s going to do a little bit more today. He’ll go outside and do some things, and then we’ll just have to make a decision.”

Before the injury forced his exit on Saturday, Cain proved he can impact a game at less than 100 percent. Battling a sore left knee and with his left ankle heavily taped, he made two sensational catches to protect narrow Brewers leads against the Rockies, including a leaping catch at the center field wall to pull back what would have been a tying, two-run home run.

Date Result Highlights
Oct. 1 WSH 4, MIL 3 Watch

Asked how he was feeling Monday compared to Sunday, Cain paused and said, “OK.”

Could he put a percentage on his likelihood of playing Tuesday?

“I plan on playing,” Cain said. “It all depends on how I feel, but I expect to be out there. … I want to be out there. I’m doing everything I can to be out there.”

The Brewers were, however, sure about their other banged-up players. Left fielder Ryan Braun will start in left field against the Nationals after sitting out Sunday and Monday with a left calf strain. And third baseman Mike Moustakas was able to return to the lineup over the weekend at Colorado after missing two games with a flare-up of the right elbow discomfort he’s battled lately.

But in the case of Cain, Counsell could not rule out making a decision that his veteran outfielder would be unhappy with.

“That’s my job, right? That’s our job,” Counsell said. “He does have to cross a certain threshold of things to even consider him. And he has passed some tests for us to consider this already, but we’re not over the hump yet. It’s going to be a tough decision, and we’ll get all the information we can before we make it.”

Hiura survives scares

The Brewers twice avoided disaster in Sunday’s regular season finale after the outcome of that game became essentially meaningless by virtue of the Cardinals’ beating the Cubs and clinching the NL Central. With their bench emptied by the end of a 13-inning, 4-3 loss, second baseman Keston Hiura played the whole game, and found more adventure than he would have liked in the late innings.

In the 12th, Hiura had to twist out of the way to avoid a 93 mph fastball high and tight. And in the 13th, he collided with first base umpire Brian Gorman on the game’s penultimate play as he tried to cover first base on a bunt. Hiura didn’t get over in time, so it went as a throwing error on catcher Jacob Nottingham that set up the Rockies to win on a wild pitch.

“I’m happy that nothing happened to [Gorman] and everyone came out unbruised,” Hiura said. “It was a little weird play.”

Hiura missed two weeks in late August and early September because of a strained left hamstring, but said his legs felt fine coming out of a long game.

Gio to figure in Brewers’ plans, pending advance

Whether veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez would make the roster for the NL Wild Card Game against his former team remained to be determined as of Monday afternoon, since Gonzalez just pitched on Saturday. But he will be part of Milwaukee’s plans should the team advance to the NL Division Series, Counsell said.

Gonzalez, the lone left-hander to start a game for the Brewers aside from Drew Pomeranz in an Aug. 7 bullpen game, pitched to a 3.50 ERA in 87 1/3 innings during the regular season. His final two outings were in relief of Brewers Wild Card Game starter Brandon Woodruff.

“Frankly that’s where a couple of our decisions lie [for the Wild Card roster] with our pitchers who’ve pitched recently,” Counsell said. “Gio is going to be involved with our playoff pitching as we move forward. However we answer the first question, he’s going to factor in in a big way.

“He’s pitched very, very well for us down the stretch. He pitched in a different role as we brought Brandon back. He pitched wonderfully and really handled that challenge. The first time in 10-plus years he pitched out of the bullpen, and he handled it really, really well. That’s a really good thing for us moving forward if we find ourselves in that situation down the line.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.