Brewers hold breath for Contreras after 'scary,' 'exciting' ending

Perkins finds redemption with brilliant throw on game-ending play at the plate

June 16th, 2024

MILWAUKEE – The Brewers got a 5-4 win over the Reds on Sunday at American Family Field, but it came with a huge scare in the final moments.

, the National League’s leading catcher in every flavor of wins above replacement, was being evaluated for a concussion on Sunday evening after the home plate collision that decided the game, and the Brewers’ eighth straight series victory over the rival Reds.

“That’s a scary ending,” Brewers closer Trevor Megill said. “Exciting ending. Big win.”

It came after center fielder , dejected two nights earlier after an ill-advised bunt gave the Reds the final out of a series-opening loss, fired a perfect throw home to end a Reds rally that began with Brewers shortstop ’ throwing error. That was a blemish on a day when Adames’ three-run home run had given the Brewers the lead, and Christian Yelich’s squeeze bunt provided the run that proved decisive.

If it sounds like a lot going on all at once, it was. But instead of cheering the final out of a big win, the sellout crowd and Brewers players alike fell into a hush as Megill met Contreras at the site of the final tag while Contreras lay face-down.

Asked in his postgame press conference whether Contreras was OK, Brewers manager Pat Murphy said, “Not sure. We’ve got to get him checked out. You get a head snap like that, you can be pretty spooked.

“Trust me, in the heat of the moment, as tough as that kid is -- he catches every day. This kid wants to play. That, in itself, is a rarity. But you take a hit like that, you’re a sitting duck and your head gets snapped. Who knows? Hopefully he doesn’t have a concussion, and hopefully he’s fine.”

The Brewers said Contreras, who has started 70 of the Brewers’ first 71 games, including 58 games behind the plate, wasn’t available for an interview because he needed to undergo testing. But he was in the clubhouse as usual packing for the Brewers’ road trip to the Angels and Padres.

Teammates took that as a promising sign.

“That’s our guy, so I’m hoping everything is fine,” Perkins said. “He looked to be in good spirits. He’s tough, you guys know that.”

Perkins proved his mental toughness by bouncing back from the dejection of two nights earlier, when he admitted he shrank from the responsibility when the tying and winning runs were in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Two days later, he had his redemption. After Adames’ error on Stuart Fairchild’s routine ground ball put Sunday’s tying runner on second base with one out in the ninth, Megill retired dangerous TJ Friedl on a popup and the Brewers opted to intentionally walk the even more dangerous Elly Da La Cruz. That brought up Santiago Espinal, and when he dumped a soft single into center field, Perkins charged it and threw home to a waiting Contreras.

“Off the bat, we all thought it was a run for sure with Stuart’s speed,” Reds manager David Bell said. “In the end, it was just a great play by their center fielder. He got to it quick, was playing pretty shallow and made a perfect throw.”

Just like Perkins’ catch of a low line drive to end the eighth inning, this was a tougher play than it appeared. He said he was “nervous” going into the at-bat because Brewers first base coach Quintin Berry had just moved Perkins way in and toward right field based on Espinal’s spray chart.

It wound up being just the right spot.

“It’s very tough, because the ball doesn’t give you any energy going through,” Murphy said. “You have to create your energy, which takes a second. And then you have to make a strike [throw] over the mound in that clutch situation. That’s a big-time play. …

“I grabbed him after the game and said, ‘Hey, I know you don’t want to be the hero, but you just were.’”

For Perkins, it was the beauty of baseball.

There’s almost always a game the next day and the day after that.

“You’ve got your highs and your lows, and I got to contribute today. That was really cool,” Perkins said. “All good learning experiences. I didn’t have to wait too long, which is great. Credit to Murph and all of our staff, too, for letting me get back out there.”

For all that went into it, from Colin Rea’s quality start to a Yelich walk that preceded Adames’ go-ahead homer to Perkins’ redemption and Contreras’ toughness, Murphy was as outwardly excited about this win as much as any of the Brewers’ 42 victories this year.

“We’re not great,” he said, “but that’s the way you play championship ball.”