Suppan laments one bad pitch in loss
Brewers starter misses location on Burrell's big homer
MILWAUKEE -- The strategy was sound, but Jeff Suppan is upset at himself over the execution.
The shot that swung momentum heavily in favor of the Phillies came off the bat of Pat Burrell, whose three-run homer in the third inning highlighted his team's 6-2, series-clinching win Sunday in Game 4 of the best-of-five National League Division Series.
In a game-changing turn of events, the Brewers opted to intentionally walk slugger Ryan Howard with two outs and Shane Victorino on second base after he doubled. Five pitches later, Burrell took Suppan deep with a blast that seriously damaged Milwaukee's chances of evening the series.
"I thought we had a good game plan," said Suppan, who was tagged for five runs on six hits in three innings. "You always want to stay out of crooked innings. That was a tough deficit right there.
"I didn't make my pitch right there. Solo home runs are solo home runs. The three-run home runs are different. That's something that you are always trying to avoid."
The tough part of that sequence is Suppan and catcher Jason Kendall had a brief meeting at the mound to discuss strategy right before Burrell gave his team a comfortable cushion. The count was 2-2 and the Brewers had been constantly showing Burrell pitches away. So to change things up, the Brewers' pitcher and catcher talked about throwing Burrell up and in.
Kendall positioned himself on the inside part of the plate, and Burrell crushed Suppan's 88 mph fastball, which caught too much of the plate.
"We were trying to elevate a little more. We didn't do it. Stuff happens. That's baseball," Kendall said. "We pretty much made one mistake. That was it. The bottom line is they played a better series than we did."
Suppan isn't questioning his rationale. It was just an ill-timed pitch.
"He hit the pitch I wanted to throw, but he hit the location I didn't want to throw it," Suppan said. "We stayed away with that cutter I threw down and away, down and away."
In his brief conversation at the mound with Kendall, Suppan said, "I think we have up and in right here."
Kendall responded: "Absolutely."
"I probably overthrew the pitch," Suppan said afterward. "I did overthrow the pitch, and I threw it down the middle. He's got a lot of power."
Suppan got in more trouble in the third inning when Jayson Werth followed up Burrell's homer with a home run to center, as the Phillies went back-to-back to grab a 5-0 lead.
Jimmy Rollins opened the game with a home run off Suppan.
Brewers manager Dale Sveum firmly backed the decision to start Suppan, who had his struggles this past month. In September, he was 0-3.
A hero on the Cardinals' 2006 World Series title team, Suppan made his 10th career postseason start. Even though he had a rough September, the veteran had a knack of stepping up in big games.
"I don't think there was any question of him starting," Sveum said. "He got the rest he usually does, and one pitch difference, he's out of the inning and it might be a different ballgame.
"Obviously, you'd like to have that one pitch back that changed the game around."
Leading into his three-run homer, Burrell singled off Suppan in the second inning on an outside pitch that was slapped past first baseman Prince Fielder.
Burrell added a solo home run off Guillermo Mota in the eighth inning.
Suppan last faced the Phillies on Sept. 14 at Citizens Bank Park. That day, he also struggled, giving up six runs in 3 2/3 innings.
"They seem to put some good at-bats against me and do some damage," Suppan said. "My goal was to stay in as long as I could and keep us close. I didn't reach that goal."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.