Adventuresome eighth sinks Brewers
Two-out walk, disputed fair ball costly for Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers were crying foul Friday night, but veteran umpire Brian Gorman was convinced he made the right call.
Pinch-hitter Tony Clark hit a disputed go-ahead double in the middle of a four-run D-backs rally that the Brewers and most of the 42,810 fans at sold-out Miller Park were convinced was a foul ball. Whether the baseball kicked up some chalk was a matter for debate, but the final score was not in a 5-2 Brewers loss that ended their four-game winning streak.
"If any part of the ball hits any part of the line, it's fair," said Gorman, who has been calling big league games since 1991 and has a World Series to his credit.
He had video evidence all cued up in the umpires' dressing room. It was a closeup of the left-field foul line from the Brewers' television feed. Most of the baseball-sized indentation was indeed on the foul side of the line, but a sliver of white chalk was missing.
"Doesn't it look like it hit some of the line?" Gorman asked a reporter. "That's about as close as you can get to the line and just nick it. But any part of the line is fair."
Over in the Brewers' clubhouse, it came as little surprise that some saw it differently. But whether or not Gorman's call was the right one, it was a tough-luck loss for the Brewers, who endured an outstanding start by Arizona's Jon Garland before scratching out a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for a short-lived 2-1 lead.
Carlos Villanueva (1-3) came out of the Brewers' bullpen for the eighth and retired the first two hitters he faced before issuing a two-out walk to Conor Jackson that would cost him. Mark Reynolds followed with an opposite-field single that left runners at the corners and prompted Brewers manager Ken Macha to call for early-season escape artist Todd Coffey.
"Two outs, nobody on and a two-out walk," Macha said. "Walks will absolutely kill you."Coffey got the ground ball he was looking for from Justin Upton, only Upton didn't hit it hard enough. The baseball rolled about halfway to third base and stayed fair as Brewers third baseman Bill Hall watched it. It went in the books as an RBI single that tied the game at 2.
Coffey didn't have time to pout over that play. Clark hit the very next pitch for his go-ahead double, prompting Hall to launch an animated protest and Macha to race from the dugout for a conversation of his own.
The call stood. Chris Snyder followed Clark's hit with an RBI single for insurance before the Brewers escaped the inning. Arizona closer Chad Qualls worked the ninth for the save.
"Regardless of the calls or whatever, I didn't get my job done," said Coffey, who had stranded all 10 of his inherited baserunners before Friday night. "I didn't come in there and stop it. That's the bottom line."It irritates you a little bit, but [Gorman] saw what he saw. I saw what I saw. Regardless of what I say, if he calls it a fair ball, it's a fair ball."
To Macha, it didn't necessarily matter.
"We didn't pitch well enough tonight to win," Macha said. "Whether that ball's fair or foul, we didn't pitch well enough. Too many walks."
Brewers catcher Jason Kendall hesitated to offer his own opinion besides a quick "I thought it was foul."
"That's baseball," Kendall said. "Manny threw a great game, we just didn't get the breaks. What can you do other than go get them tomorrow?"
Manny was left-handed Brewers starter Manny Parra, who had lost each of his first starts this season but was pitching a gem through five innings Friday. He breezed through them on just 63 pitches and was getting more efficient as the game progressed. After throwing 17 pitches in each of the first two innings, Parra threw nine in the third, nine more in the fourth and 11 in the fifth while allowing only one runner past first base. That was in the first inning, when Parra's error on a pickoff attempt allowed Jackson to reach second base.
But then he needed 30 pitches to get through the sixth. Felipe Lopez and Eric Byrnes collected consecutive one-out hits, Byrnes' a long double that hit high off the left-center-field wall. Parra struck out Jackson for the second out and then pitched carefully to Reynolds, walking him on four pitches.
Up next was Upton, who worked into a full count. Kendall called a changeup for the payoff pitch, and it was high. Lopez trotted home for the game's first run.
"The way I had been throwing [the changeup] all game, it was a go-to pitch," Parra said. "In my mind, it was either that or a fastball, and when he put it down I had all the confidence in the world in it. I was really making sure I threw it for a strike, and it was up a little bit."
Macha, who has encouraged Parra to throw more changeups, was happy with the outing.
"Manny's best start of the year," Macha said. He gave us six real good innings and almost pitched his way out of a jam there in the sixth."
Macha might have been even more pleased had Coffey retired Clark and given the Brewers a chance to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning with the game tied at 2. But while Major League Baseball did institute an instant-replay system last season, it's only used to determine fair or foul on home run balls. Clark's hit was not reviewable."Even if we did have replay and we saw that, we'd call it fair, wouldn't we?" Gorman asked. "We've got evidence."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.