Lauer caps best start since May by calling walk-off homer

July 5th, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- stepped to the plate in the 10th inning with runners on first and second with two outs and a chance to win it. He was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, but Caratini’s teammates knew that he would come through.

Caratini then launched a walk-off three-run home run to secure a 5-2 win against the Cubs on Monday afternoon at American Family Field, after both starting pitcher Eric Lauer and catcher called the game-winning blast.

“I called it,” Severino said. “Normally when you have a tough day, the big moments just come to you.”

Caratini’s rough day at the plate was wiped out once he became the sudden hero, as his teammates rejoiced at home plate, flooding the catcher with a water bath.

“It’s part of it,” Caratini said. “It was four strikeouts. No one wants to strike out at all. You’ve just got to stay confident. I was able to do that, get a good at-bat and help the team win.”

As the 28-year-old stepped to the plate, his approach was simple:

“Try to hit the ball so you don’t strike out again,” Caratini said.

With an odd final line of 1-for-5 with three RBIs, four strikeouts and the game-winning home run, Caratini became the first player to strike out four times and hit a walk-off homer since Derek Norris of the Padres did it on May 29, 2015.

“That's why you just have to keep going, no matter what's going on,” manager Craig Counsell said. “Obviously he wasn't having his best game, but he got a chance to win the game. He was focused on having a good at-bat and forgetting about what happened, and as a result, something good happened.”

Lauer -- who called the game-winner from inside the clubhouse -- allowed Caratini to be the hero after giving the team a chance to win with his dominant performance on the mound.

The southpaw went six innings, striking out nine and giving up just one run on two hits and two walks. Those nine strikeouts were the most for him since April 30, when he sent down 11, also against the Cubs.

“I was getting through the ball well,” Lauer said. “It had a little extra zoom on it today. All the things we’ve been working on between starts, you’re starting to see it on the mound.”

Most importantly, though, Lauer's outing not only gave the team a chance to stay in the game, it also was a step in the right direction for the 27-year-old -- who was desperately trying to return to his early-season form after a rough June.

Lauer gave up 21 earned runs across 27 2/3 innings last month, and the left-hander was displeased with his recent performances on the mound.

But on Monday, there were no signs of that pitcher from June.

“I thought I put together some decent outings, better than results-wise what I was showing, but that’s just baseball,” Lauer said. "Sometimes you’ve got to work through it. It’s going to knock you down when you’re doing well. Just continuing to work, always learning, always trying different things, it’s a huge thing. I’m proud of myself for sticking with it.”

Lauer’s early-season success -- during which he had back-to-back double-digit-strikeout games in April and owned a 1.82 ERA through five starts -- was something that he wanted to get back to. The team knew that he could get back to it, as well.

“That's what being a Major League player is, too,” Counsell said. “There's going to be stretches of the season that aren't going your way, but you keep your head down, you keep working.”

Lauer’s outing on Monday was a step back in that direction, as his fastball reigned supreme. He threw his four-seam fastball on 63% of his pitches, en route to a career-high 21 swings-and-misses on the heater. Lauer also tied his career high with 23 total swings-and-misses.

“It was a combination of a lot of work, a lot of preparation, just going out there and feeling good,” Lauer said. “That’s what I've been missing a little bit is the pitch ability. I’ve kind of lost that and have been boxing myself in a little too much. I just went out there and pitched, and it was a good time.”