Milwaukee Brewers win, 1-0, in Pittsburgh after SP Matt Garza Ejected
The Milwaukee Brewers have had several heartbreaking losses lately. But tonight, in a must-win situation in Pittsburgh against the Pirates, the Brewers were able to pull out a needed 1-0 victory despite starting pitcher Matt Garza’s ejection in the 5th inning.
The game was a nervous, tension-filled one from the start. Almost no one was getting on base for either team, and when someone did, he didn’t score. Brewers and Pirates kept trying to get on; two Pirates (both in the form of center fielder Andrew McCutchen, in different innings) managed to reach after being hit by a pitch. (More on that in a bit.)
Let’s put it this way. Logan Schafer’s sacrifice fly in the 9th inning was by far the biggest hit in the game, as it scored the only run for either team.
So it was a pitcher’s duel throughout. But it wasn’t a usual type of pitcher’s duel at all due to the fact that Brewers starting pitcher Matt Garza got thrown out in the fifth inning after hitting McCutchen for the second time.
Here was the situation. There were two outs. No one was on base. Garza had a 1-2 count, and pitched inside to get McCutchen — who’s famous for leaning over the plate — to step off the plate a bit. (As Garza said later on in the after-game press conference, you can’t take chances with McCutchen as he’s a dangerous hitter — my best paraphrase here, as I don’t have a transcript.)
Now, there is no way in the world that Garza wanted to throw at McCutchen, OK? This is a playoff game of sorts for the Brewers, as they know they must win if they’re to have any chance of overtaking the Pirates for the second and final Wild Card slot. No runs at all had been scored, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player was at the plate in McCutchen, and he’d already been hit once by Garza so Garza knew he had to be careful not to hit him again.
That said, it’s not because Garza hit McCutchen that Garza ended up getting thrown out. Instead, it’s because Pirates starting pitcher Edinson Volquez threw inside twice — two purpose-pitches — to Ryan Braun that both benches were warned. And once the benches are warned, even if a pitcher isn’t intentionally trying to hit another batter, the umpires basically have no choice whatsoever: They have to throw out whatever pitcher actually hit someone.
So we go back to Garza in the 5th inning. It’s a tie game, nothing to nothing. McCutchen is, as usual, standing right on top of home plate. McCutchen is one of the best hitters in the NL, and Garza can’t give him anything, so probably the best outcome for Garza if you can’t get McCutchen off the plate would’ve been a walk.
But McCutchen also is a very fast runner. So if you put him on, you risk him stealing a base or two and creating a run. Which is the main reason Garza was trying to get McCutchen to back off a bit from the plate — that’s the only way Garza has, as a pitcher, to force McCutchen to hit Garza’s pitch. (I know all this “inside baseball” stuff may throw some of you. If it does, don’t worry; just skip to the next paragraph or so down.)
Anyway, because of Volquez’s actions in nearly hitting Braun twice (and throwing in the same place both times), when Garza hit McCutchen twice (albeit in two different innings), tempers would’ve flared and the benches might’ve cleared if the umpires hadn’t thrown Garza out. That’s the main reason the umpires don’t have much discretion in those cases; they are trying to prevent brawls where people get hurt, then the league office ends up fining people and issuing suspensions. And when both teams are still in the playoff hunt (no matter how tenuous it might be for the Brewers), the last thing you want is for someone’s season to end via injury because of a bench-clearing brawl.
So Garza was out, and so was Brewers manager Ron Roenicke (as that’s what the rule is; both must be ejected). The game could’ve turned ugly fast for the Brewers . . .
Except that every relief pitcher who was brought in subsequent to Garza’s ejection, starting with Marco Estrada, put up goose eggs.
Look. I’m a Brewers fan, but I’m also a baseball fan. I understand that McCutchen was hit badly in Arizona on August 2 due to a stupid, intentional action. That nearly ended McCutchen’s season right then and there.
I also understand that the Pirates don’t especially like the Brewers, because for years the Brewers would go into Pittsburgh and wipe the floor with the Pirates. Even when the Brewers had horrible teams that seemingly couldn’t beat anyone else, the Brewers just had the Pirates number, and it showed.
But I also know this: There’s no way, in a playoff hunt, that Garza wants to hit McCutchen right there. It would be a stupid act. More to the point, it would be a senseless one, as he has to know that McCutchen is still upset over the August 2 HBP that nearly ended his season . . . Garza’s job was to get McCutchen out, not to hurt McCutchen.
And Garza said as much in the postgame press conference. He wasn’t necessarily kind about it, as he said, in essence, that McCutchen “isn’t his guy” and that Garza pays attention to what’s happening right now, not what happened to McCutchen back on August 2. But as Garza said, you would have to be “an idiot” to believe Garza was intentionally trying to hit McCutchen under the circumstances — especially as Garza had no way to know at the time that his bullpen would step up and that the Brewers would actually find a way to win this game after losing three heartbreakers.
Anyway, the Brewers 1-0 win has kept their playoff hopes alive. My hope now is that Wily Peralta can come out on Sunday and pitch as well as the rest of the Milwaukee starters have done for the past two weeks, and shut the Pirates right down . . . and that the Brewers offense wakes up enough to win another game.