Brewers Blow Late Lead, Squander Chance To Move Back Into Playoff Position As Wild Card Race Tightens

In 4,111 career plate appearances — including 722 for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2020-21 and three more Thursday night for the Miami Marlins — Avisail Garcia had hit 134 home runs but never once had the veteran outfielder done so with the bases loaded.

That changed in his 4,112 plate appearance when Garcia’s sent a 1-2 fastball from Freddy Peralta over the center field fence at American Family Field.

The two-out blast in the eighth inning wiped out a 2-0 deficit and proved to be the difference as the Marlins held on for a 4-2 victory for the Brewers, who squandered an opportunity to move into playoff position for the first time August 6th.

Milwaukee took the field Thursday tied with Philadelphia for the third and final National League Wild Card spot thanks to the Chicago Cubs, who finished off a three-game sweep of the Phillies with a 2-0 victory earlier in the day.

That fact wasn’t lost on Brewers starter Eric Lauer, who stuck out nine batters while allowing just one hit over five scoreless innings. His offense backed him up with two runs in the second but failed to cash in after loading the bases against Marlins lefty Braxton Garrett in the third.

Lauer made the lead stand and had only thrown 71 pitches when his day came to an end after five. Peter Strzelecki preserved the lead by stranding a pair of runners in the sixth and Milwaukee again threatened in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with one out, but came up empty when Victor Caratini lined into a rally-killing double-play.

“I thought we had good at-bats, it just didn’t work out for us,” Counsell said.

Looking to bridge the gap to his high-leverage relievers, Counsell turned to Peralta for the seventh. It was only Peralta’s second appearance since returning from his second IL stint of the season and his first relief appearance since last opening day but he needed only nine pitches to get through the seventh so Counsell sent him back out for the eighth.

Peralta stuck out Charles Leblanc for the second out of the inning but walked Brian Anderson on four pitches to bring up Garcia. He was a strike away from escaping the jam when he left a fastball up and over the plate just enough for Garcia to send it over the wall in center.

Peralta credited Garcia and blamed himself for digging himself into the hole in the first place.

“He just had a great approach against me,” Perlta said. “I was supposed to make better pitches to the hitters I faced before him. I wasn’t commanding my pitches and that’s why I wasn’t able to get those other guys out so that’s why I had to face him.”

With the Brewers’ pitching staff operating with an all-hands-on-deck approach due to the urgency and stakes of this final week, as well as a rash of injuries, Counsell said he wouldn’t hesitate to turn to Peralta again in a similar situation and could do so as early as this weekend against the Marlins.

“It’s a tough spot, for sure, but certainly I’ll give Freddy the ball any time,” Counsell said. “I don’t care what the situation is, I’ll give Freddy the ball. No question about that. I’m happy to give Freddy the ball whatever the situation is.”

The loss leaves Milwaukee a half-game back of Philadelphia but thanks to losing the season series to the Phillies, the Brewers are essentially 1 1/2 games back since there are no tie-breaker games to determine postseason berths this year.

With six games to play, the Brewers aren’t ready to count themselves out but know that time is running out to make a move.

“We still have an opportunity in front of us,” Counsell said. “We have to come out and play a good game tomorrow.”

NL Wild Card Standings

(Through Sept. 29)

  1. Braves 97-59 (+13)
  2. Padres 86-69 (+3)
  3. Phillies 83-72 (—)
  4. Brewers 83-73 (-0.5)

Friday Wild Card Contender Matchups

Brewers vs. Marlins, 7 p.m. (CT): Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes (11-8, 3.11 ERA) and Miami right-hander Sandy Alcantara (14-8, 2.32 ERA) face off in a battle between the reigning NL Cy Young winner and the leading contender for this year’s award.

Phillies at Nationals (DH) Noon., 6 p.m.: After dropping 10 of their last 13 games including five in a row, the Phillies will try to get back on track and regain control of their playoff destiny with a doubleheader against the Nationals in Washington. Left-hander Bailey Falter (5-4, 4.21 ERA) will start the opener for Philadelphia while right-hander Noah Syndergaard (9-10, 4.12 ERA) gets the ball for the nightcap.