7/20/2014 6:51 P.M. ET
Wounded Warriors wrap up trip with Brewers
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- After three dream days dressing in the uniform of their favorite team, the Brewers' VIPs returned the favor.
The whole team traveled home to Milwaukee on Sunday wearing Wounded Warrior Project polo shirts that were gifted by Shane Kruchten and Brian Schultz, the Marine Corps veterans who joined the team on its weekend trip. Guests of Brewers GM Doug Melvin, they enjoyed the full Major League experience, starting with a trip on a chartered flight during which they were handed envelopes filled with three days of big league meal money: $345.
Each day, Kruchten and Schultz shagged flies in the outfield during batting practice. Prior to Friday's series opener, they joined manager Ron Roenicke at home plate to exchange lineup cards with Nationals manager Matt Williams. On Saturday, they were part of a team contingent that toured the White House, then received a tour of the Nationals' home clubhouse from Adam LaRoche, who had heard about their trip. On Sunday, Kruchten and Schultz served on the field as batboys.
"It really feels like we're part of the team," said Schultz, who is from Wisconsin Dells. "They've really embraced us as part of the team as well. I wondered if it would be kind of weird to be in the locker room, like, 'Who's this joker?' But I haven't felt that one bit."
The two addressed the team on Friday afternoon, with Kruchten sharing a mini-documentary that detailed his return from two tours in Iraq and his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Being able to hold court for the Milwaukee Brewers was nuts," Kruchten said. "Rookies don't even get the opportunity to hold court of the Milwaukee Brewers. The entire team was quiet and watched us, and listened to everything we said. ... It was hard for me to say that. Prior to that video, only three people knew my real life story."
Of the rest of the weekend, Kruchten said, "Coming in here and being able to wear their uniform and being able to give them a Wounded Warrior Project shirt to wear, and to be part of the family, nothing can relate to it. Everybody in Milwaukee is more than jealous. It's an honor to be part of their family and go out and feel like a big leaguer for a weekend."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was more than happy to oblige.
"I think it helps our guys," Roenicke said. "I talk about this little bubble we're in. It's nice when you have to get out of it."
Heads-up Braun takes cue from 'Major League'
WASHINGTON -- Bob Uecker could have consulted his dog-eared script from 1989's Major League when the Brewers lifted the film's final scene to score their first run against the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
Only this time the speedy outfielder at second base was Ryan Braun instead of Willie Mays Hayes, and the catcher standing in the batter's box was Jonathan Lucroy instead of grizzled old Jake Taylor. Instead of "Taylor bunts!" Lucroy hit a tapper to the first-base side of the mound, where Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez picked it up and threw to first base for an out.
Meanwhile, Braun was running like Hayes. He never slowed around third base, and was so far down the line when Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche noticed, it was too late to try a play at the plate.
"I was running on the pitch, so I knew I had a pretty good jump, and from that point, it's just kind of instinctual," Braun said. "You pay attention to the play, have an idea who the pitcher is, who's at first base, and ultimately if I'm able to get a jump and they don't look me back, it's an opportunity steal a run. I've done it a few times this year on similar plays.
"More than anything, it's about being prepared. You never know when you're going to have a chance to take an extra run."
When Jean Segura had that chance an inning later, when he broke from third base the moment Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond fired a throw to first to retire Carlos Gomez on a groundout. Desmond was playing in on the infield grass, but Segura was nonetheless able to slide home safely and temporarily extend the Brewers' lead to 3-1.
"You don't think [a player will score from second base on a swinging bunt], but that's where you hope guys have instincts like he did," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Just like 'Seggy' did on his ball that he went on. That's a real good job by those guys."
The Brewers did not do as good a job in the ninth inning, when Rickie Weeks was cut down at second base on the back end of a double steal, an out that loomed large in Milwaukee's 5-4 loss.
Estrada's quick prep helped spare bullpen
WASHINGTON -- The Brewers' longest relief outing in more than seven years was preceded by all of six warm-up throws.
That's all the work Marco Estrada got in the bullpen before taking over from Matt Garza with one out, two runners on base and the Brewers already in a 5-0 hole in the bottom of the first inning on Saturday. Estrada delivered 5 2/3 innings, allowing three more runs, but saving the rest of the bullpen from a blowout in the longest relief stint by a Brewers pitcher since Manny Parra's 6 1/3 innings against the Mets on Aug. 1, 2007.
The morning after, how did he feel?
"Tired," Estrada said with a sigh. "I'm sore. Normal stuff that would normally happen after a day you would start. It was different because it's been a while since I started -- a week and a half I think. I threw six pitches in the 'pen, and then I saw Ron [Roenicke, the manager] running out there."
Compare that to his warmup routine before a scheduled start, which entails 40 pitches.
He said it took him about an inning and a half Saturday to finally feel loose. That Estrada got the Brewers through the sixth inning meant Roenicke had a reasonably rested bullpen for Sunday's series finale, including left-hander Will Smith available after missing two games with a stiff back.
"You think about if [Estrada] could only go a couple innings, and where you'd be," Roenicke said. "We'd be a mess today."
Garza's outing was only the fourth non-injury-related Brewers start this season of fewer than five innings, but three have come within the past eight games -- Wily Peralta's 4 1/3 innings against the Phillies on July 8, Jimmy Nelson's 4 1/3 innings against the Cardinals on July 12 and Garza's one-third of an inning on Saturday.
Speaking of Garza, Roenicke was impressed with one element of Saturday's nightmare outing.
"The thing I like is [he was] obviously not happy about what happened," Roenicke said. "But I looked and, I don't know what inning it was, the third or fourth inning, and this guy is back on the bench with the rest of the guys. He's a really good teammate. Most guys would have been in there [in the clubhouse] ticked off the whole game. He's out here with the guys. That was pretty great."
• Left-hander Gio Gonzalez gave Roenicke a good reason to rest Scooter Gennett in favor of Rickie Weeks, the other half of the Brewers' second base platoon. Gennett played through a sore quadriceps on Saturday before he was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning.
"It wasn't pulled or anything. It was just a little tight on him," Roenicke said. "Sometimes that's nothing and you just go through the game. We asked him about it during the game and he just said, 'No, I'm fine.' But if there was a time to get him out, I was going to get him out."