“Amazing play,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Our best play of the year, it feels like.”
Wong’s defensive wizardry proved the pivot point in Milwaukee’s 3-1 win on a frigid night at PNC Park. The play helped limit the Pirates to a single run in the bottom of the sixth inning before the Brewers finally strung together some hits in the seventh, sending them to a fifth victory against the Pirates in as many tries this season on a night Aaron Ashby and four relievers combined to pitch a one-hitter.
It marked the 22nd time in franchise history that Brewers pitchers surrendered one or fewer hits in a game, the first since Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader threw a combined no-hitter in Cleveland last September. Included on that list is CC Sabathia’s disputed one-hitter for the Brewers at this ballpark in 2008, a memory one couldn’t help but conjure Wednesday after the Pirates’ only hit was so close to being an out.
On this cold night, every hit was earned. The temperature when Pirates opener Dillon Peters threw his first pitch was 40 degrees and falling, and Adames’ flyout to left field in the first inning — 105.9 mph off the bat with a 93 percent hit probability, per Statcast, was a signal of what was to come. Counsell said a home run seemed “impossible.” Both teams remained hitless and scoreless into the sixth.
In the bottom of that inning, the Pirates broke through against Ashby.
Ashby walked Diego Castillo leading off the frame, and Bryan Reynolds followed with Pittsburgh’s only hit on a ground ball off the glove of a diving Mike Brosseau, which caromed far enough for Castillo to reach third. He scored from there on Ke’Bryan Hayes’ double-play grounder, with Wong making that slick stop up the middle and teaming with Adames to keep the inning from unraveling.
Considering the Brewers’ go-ahead rally to come, “it was a huge play in the game,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said.
“That’s why they’ve handed [Wong] multiple Gold Gloves over the course of the last four or five years,” Shelton said. “He’s really good and Willy’s really good at short, and they made a hell of a play. I don’t think you’re going to see that play made in too many places.”
Was Adames surprised Wong was able to make that particular play?
“No,” he said. “It’s a Gold Glove, man. He’s a Gold Glover.”
Said Brosseau: “I had a front-row view of that at third base and it was so perfect. Clean dive, and then as he’s on the ground, a little — I don’t even know how he moves his arm that way. Good wrist flexion, I guess. Perfect feed to Willy, and then Willy obviously with the cannon over to first. If that’s not No. 1 on Top 10, then something else pretty special must have happened.”
“I almost stuck my glove out,” Ashby said, “and I was like, ‘Oh, I think they’re playing right there!’ Kolten made an unbelievable play.”
Even Hader, from way out in the bullpen, marveled at the athleticism.
“That was stupid. That was sick,” Hader said. “I thought that was definitely one of the better plays I’ve seen in the league.”
When Ashby walked another batter in the inning, Counsell turned to the bullpen for the final 13 outs. Trevor Gott, Brad Boxberger, Devin Williams and Hader didn’t allow any hits the rest of the way, with Hader becoming the first reliever since the Pirates’ José Mesa in 2005 to record a save in each of his first 10 appearances in a season.
Ashby finished with a career high for innings (5 2/3) and strikeouts (six) but rued his career-high five walks.
Brosseau, meanwhile, was playing the “what if” game on the Pirates’ only base hit. With the Pirates’ leadoff man aboard and Reynolds batting, Brosseau played shallow to defend a bunt. But Brosseau looked at Brewers coach Jason Lane right before the pitch and got a signal to move back a couple of steps.
“Looking back on it, especially after we ended it with one hit only, you always have that 20/20 hindsight vision,” Brosseau said. “Double-play depth there, something cool potentially could have happened at the end of the day.
“But we’ll be OK. A one-hitter, we’ll take those.”