The Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds battled to a 7-7 slopfest of a game Tuesday night. One decision and one pitch tipped the scales to the visitors.
It wasn’t a very pretty game, but there the two teams were, knotted up at seven a piece. The Brewers enjoyed and squandered a 4-0 lead and were down 7-5 after five innings of bizarro plays and the Reds doing their best 2014 Kansas City Royals impersonation. A key eighth inning rally knotted the contest back up and Craig Counsell called on Taylor Williams after Corbin Burnes locked down the middle innings in relief of a struggling Junior Guerra.
This was Williams’ fourth appearance in August; after getting roughed up against the Los Angeles Dodgers August 2, he acquitted himself well in a Brewers loss to the Chicago Cubs and was called on to mop up a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals last week. Since 8/2 and the ill-fated outing in Los Angeles, Williams dropped his ERA by .19 runs and yielded only one hit. He was fresh, had only thrown seven pitches and was one out away from giving a tie game to the Brewers, no strangers to late-inning heroics at home this season.
Jennings hasn’t been particularly effective since May. In 33 games from June 1 through August 18, Jennings has given up 33 hits in 32 1/3 IP, three home runs, an OPS of .761 and a BABIP of .309, faring only marginally better than those figures in August.
Gennett, on the other hand, has seen his career take flight in Cincinnati. (Something that wasn’t going to happen in Milwaukee, mind you. Scooter Gennett needed the change of scenery.) A .312 hitter going into Tuesday, Gennett has been *ahem* red-hot, hitting .333 with an .898 OPS and a .385 BABIP over the eight games prior. Contrary to park factors, Gennett has performed better on the road than at home at the cozy confines of Great American Ball Park, slashing .325/.374/.491 this season. After a rough July, he’s bounced back this month.
Counsell went for the LHP-LHH match-up, which might make sense if the LHP was Josh Hader instead of Jennings. Hader’s big-time fastball and slider are devastating against lefties and, despite recent use, the Brewers only needed one out. Hader certainly could be used to put the Reds away and give a potent Brewers due up (Mike Moustakas, Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw) a chance for a Gatorade bath and the team a much-needed victory to gain ground on the suddenly-sputtering Cubs.
We know what happened next: Jennings threw the one pitch that cost the Brewers the game.
While Craig Counsell doesn’t pitch, it is his decision to put Jennings in that context. Managers cannot win games, but they absolutely can lose them. Counsell is a new-era, analytically-driven manager with front office experience and part of one of baseball’s leading-edge front offices: where was that cerebral approach last night?
Disproportionate criticism from Brewers Twitter and hot takers aside, this loss can squarely be hung on the decision to yank Williams. While there was no guarantee of Gennett getting out with Williams still on the mound, there was no guarantee of a tie-breaking home run, either. Let the kid finish the job and see what happens. Bring in your best reliever for the one out needed to spur some ninth-inning theatrics.
Why fix what isn’t broken?
Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.