Sixth unravels in 'crazy' sequence for Ziegler
D-backs reliever follows balk, walk with untimely error in defeat
MILWAUKEE -- The unraveling of the bottom of the sixth inning Sunday was so devastatingly swift that even the players closest to the dramatic action could hardly believe it.
"It was crazy," said D-backs catcher Miguel Montero. "I didn't even get a chance to second-guess myself. It was like, 'OK, here we go' -- boom, boom, boom, boom -- and I was like, 'What was going on over here?'"
In a span of just a few minutes and only 13 pitches -- plus a balk and an error -- from reliever Brad Ziegler, a tie game became a decisive five-run inning for the Brewers, who rode it to a 9-4 victory that gave them a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-five National League Division Series.
Ziegler, the veteran sidearmer acquired July 31 from Oakland, had been right on target for Arizona in the regular season, running up a 13-appearance scoreless streak at one point and generally giving the D-backs everything they'd hoped to get out of him.
But almost everything that could have gone wrong with Sunday's outing did.
DEEP-SIXEDThe Brewers took the lead for good in a five-run sixth inning that saw four hits, a balk, two walks and a squeeze play.
Brewers' sixth-inning play by play
- Rickie Weeks grounds out to short, one out.
- Jerry Hairston doubles to left.
- RHP Brad Ziegler replaces RHP Daniel Hudson.
- Ziegler balks, Hairston to third.
- Yuniesky Betancourt walks.
- Jonathan Lucroy safety squeeze bunt, Hairston scores. Lucroy to second, Betancourt to third, throwing error by Ziegler, 5-4 Milwaukee.
- Ziegler intentionally walks pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay.
- Corey Hart singles to center, Betancourt scores, 6-4 Milwaukee.
- Nyjer Morgan singles to center, Lucroy scores, Kotsay scores, Hart to third, 8-4 Milwaukee.
- Ryan Braun singles to center, Hart scores, 9-4 Milwaukee.
- LHP Joe Paterson replaces Ziegler.
- Prince Fielder strikes out swinging, two outs.
- RHP Bryan Shaw replaces Paterson.
- Weeks grounds into forceout, three outs.
"I just picked a bad day to have a bad day," Ziegler said. "It happened really quick, and I didn't execute -- that's the bottom line."
It was a rough day before he threw his first pitch. With Jerry Hairston Jr. on second, Ziegler was nailed for a balk by second-base umpire Bruce Dreckman before he delivered a pitch against Yuniesky Betancourt, sending Hairston to third. Ziegler then pitched around Betancourt with a four-pitch walk to set up a double play.
That didn't happen, and it got worse. Much worse.
What followed was a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Jonathan Lucroy that pushed across the go-ahead run, Ziegler's error throwing home putting runners on second and third. After an intentional walk to load the bases, the bashing Brewers chipped away at Ziegler, knocking three singles in the span of four pitches to rack up four more runs.
The difficulties for the D-backs began with the balk, but the inning really started to unravel with the bunt -- and Ziegler's decision to scoop it with his glove toward home, sending it past Montero to the backstop near the D-backs' dugout.
"I should have just taken the out at first, but knowing that was the lead run over there, I wanted to try to cut it down," Ziegler said. "I got to the ball pretty quickly, but it wasn't a smart play. The smart play would have been to go to first."
Said Montero: "I think he kind of went too fast, tried to speed up the game too much and not let it slow down, and unfortunately, that was the rally."
Nobody on the D-backs was surprised that Lucroy put down the bunt in that situation. He'd done it before, and with a good baserunner in Hairston coming down the line, it was a perfect storm.
"Mr. Squeeze always comes through," said Corey Hart, who followed the intentional walk that ensued with a bases-loaded single up the middle. "He always gets the bunt down. Then, you just try to take advantage. We found three holes right there and never looked back."
And they found them quickly. Hart jumped on the first pitch for an RBI single, Nyjer Morgan did the same for a two-run single and Ryan Braun capped the rally and ended Ziegler's night by stroking a single on the second pitch.
That was the part Montero really couldn't believe.
"They were all jumping right away," he said. "To be honest, I wasn't thinking they would be that aggressive."
Thing is, the inning started out so innocently. The D-backs had rallied on a two-run homer from Justin Upton to tie the game in the fifth, and starter Daniel Hudson retired the leadoff hitter to end a string of retiring eight of nine batters -- the only hit a single from opposing pitcher Zack Greinke.
But after Hairston doubled down the left-field line, that was it for Hudson after 93 pitches.
"I felt like I had enough left to at least get a couple more outs," Hudson said. "It wasn't my call, obviously."
Said manager Kirk Gibson: "He actually started to throw the ball well at the end. But when Hairston got the double, I had to take him out."
Ziegler recorded no outs while allowing four earned runs.
"Ziegler's a ground-ball pitcher, and he didn't give up a ground ball," Montero said. "It's unfortunate, because he's been having a good year, all year long. There's always a first time, and today was the first."
And Ziegler, like the rest of the D-backs, has to put it behind him like a bad dream.
"It's disappointing, for sure, especially the way we fought back," he said. "The bottom line is I didn't do my job."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.