ATLANTA – That road magic is going to need to kick in quickly, or the Milwaukee Brewers are going to be one series and done in the 2021 postseason.
With their bats a continuing no-show, it was one fifth-inning mistake by Adrian Houser that determined the outcome in a 3-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Truist Park on Monday afternoon.
Joc Pederson hit a three-run, pinch-hit home run off the Brewers right-hander, and it was a blow that proved more than enough to down a Milwaukee team that has now been shut out by identical scores in consecutive games.
To break it down even further, the Brewers have scored a total of two runs in the series. Both came on Rowdy Tellez‘s seventh-inning homer in Game 1, meaning they enter Game 4 having not scored in 19 consecutive innings.
They’re also 0 for 16 with runners in scoring position in the series, including 0 for 8 Monday.
The fact they won a franchise-record 50 games away from American Family Field might provide a small measure of confidence going into the win-or-go-home scenario they face Tuesday.
But it’s tough to win when you simply can’t score.
And with Braves manager Brian Snitker floating the possibility Monday morning he may start Charlie Morton on short rest for what could be a Game 4 clincher, things certainly won’t get any easier for the Brewers.
“We know what we need to do,” said centerfielder Lorenzo Cain, who was banged up after running into the outfield wall trying to make a catch in the fourth inning. “It’s been frustrating. It’s been tough.
“Everybody’s frustrated. Everybody’s upset. We just have to show up tomorrow and score as many runs as possible.
“We’ve got to find a way to win.”
But he immediately ran into trouble with Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson greeting him with singles, bad news with Pederson pinch-hitting for Braves starting pitcher Ian Anderson.
Pederson took Houser deep in the eighth inning Friday for Atlanta’s lone run, and four pitches into this at-bat he did the same. Pederson took a 95 mph, four-seam fastball that was out over the plate but high and blasted it 402 feet out to right.
“It was where we wanted to go with that pitch,” said Houser. “It went over the middle a little bit. We wanted it a little more in. But, tip your cap to him, that was 3 or 4 (inches) above the zone and he got to it.
“Nothing you can really do about that.”
Added Counsell: “The first two guys are matchups we were seeking for Adrian. Those guys deserve credit, too. Both went the other way. Some nice pieces of hitting.”
Anderson coming out of the game was the positive in the situation for the Brewers after he’d limited them to just three hits with six strikeouts in 84 pitches. But a much-maligned Braves bullpen had its way for the second consecutive game with five shutout innings behind Anderson.
Milwaukee had a chance to at least put a dent into Atlanta’s lead in the eighth with runners on first and third and one out after Jace Peterson came off the bench to draw a leadoff walk from Luke Jackson and Willy Adames singled to center.
That brought up Christian Yelich whose at-bat defined the Brewers’ luck in the series as he hit a hard grounder up the middle only to find the Swanson, the shortstop, shaded that way in the shift.
Swanson gobbled the ball up, stepped on second and then threw to first for an easy double play, much to the delight of the announced sellout crowd of 41,479.
Ex-Brewer Will Smith saved his second straight game with a 1-2-3 ninth.
“Luck wasn’t on our side today with some balls in some key spots,” manager Craig Counsell said. “I think the first time through the order, we have to probably be making it tougher first time through the order.
“Some good starting pitching is making it tough on us. And, we’ve got to catch a break, frankly. Today, we didn’t catch a break.”
Making his first start in the postseason and third appearance in the playoffs overall, Peralta faced his first spot of trouble in the second when Austin Riley reached on an infield single and Adam Duvall followed with a single to left.
A sacrifice fly to right allowed Riley to tag and move to third and it appeared the Braves would open a 1-0 lead when d’Arnaud sent a fly ball to left that was easily deep enough for Riley to tag and score.
Yelich made the catch and then, rather than making a futile attempt to throw home, made a strong, accurate throw to second base as Duvall inexplicably attempted to tag and advance.
Kolten Wong applied the tag for the easy out. Credit to Yelich as well, as he’s been maligned for his defense – and particularly his arm – in left field this season. He registered five assists in the regular season.
Milwaukee entered the game hitting just .183 through the first two games and fared no better early on against Anderson, who was 2-0 with a 0.96 earned run average in four postseason starts.
He surrendered singles to Adames in the first inning and Yelich in the fourth while striking out six over that span.
Milwaukee mounted its first rally in the fifth, with Anderson plunking leadoff man Luis Urías and Omar Narváez capping off a tough at-bat by doubling to left against the shift.
Cain, up next, hit a rocket to the hole at shortstop only to see Swanson make a full-length diving stab and get up and throw to first for the out while Urías remained at third.
With Peralta’s spot due up next, Counsell pulled him for pinch-hitter Daniel Vogelbach. He hit a sharp grounder to third with Urías breaking for home, and Riley tagged him out in a rundown.
That left the inning up to Wong and he hit the ball on a line, but right at Freddie Freeman at first base to leave the Brewers both frustrated and scoreless.
Peralta exited having thrown just 57 pitches while allowing three hits and a walk with five strikeouts.
“It’s a tough decision,” said Counsell, who wasn’t ready to divulge his team’s pitching plans for Game 4 other than to state Burnes wouldn’t be a part of them.
“I think Freddy was throwing the ball great. No question about it. I think he could have gotten two more innings in an ideal scenario. But, there was a path to the end of the game for us with our bullpen.
“We needed to score, and there was a good opportunity to score. And, we have Vogelbach on the team for that situation in that spot. They made a great defensive play. We lined out.
“And, unfortunately, it didn’t play.”
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Braves shut out Brewers 3-0 in Game 3 of NLDS
Source: Yahoo Sports