December 3, 2022

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Here's what went wrong for the Crew in 2 pivotal innings

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MIAMI — For the second night in a row, the Brewers were handed an early lead via a first-inning homer. And for the second night in a row, a middle-inning hiccup tied the game. On Saturday night, however, that tie didn’t last long. And it was more than just a hiccup.

It was a four-run, three-homer bottom of the fourth inning for the Marlins, who handed the Brewers a 9-3 loss at loanDepot park. It marked the Crew’s first loss in a game Eric Lauer started this season.

Lauer, who has been dominant so far, erred. Three pitches too close to the center of the zone came back to bite him. (Milwaukee’s defense erred too, but we’ll get to that later.) 

“He made bad pitches, and they made him pay for it,” manager Craig Counsell said. “Not with singles but with homers. I think if you look at all three pitches, they were pitches he didn’t put where he wanted to. It was to the middle of their lineup and they put good swings on it.”

The first unfortunate pitch, a 90.4 mph cutter to Jesús Aguilar, was slightly above and inside the middle of the zone, but close enough for Aguilar to drive it deep to center field. Then Jorge Soler roped a fastball that Lauer left middle and slightly outside to go back-to-back, putting the Brewers behind for the first time this series.

The third misplaced pitch came two outs later: a slider toward the bottom of the zone and inside on Brian Anderson, who yanked the ball to left field for a two-run homer.

“It was just three bad pitches,” Lauer said. “I’ve got to do a better job, especially with two strikes in those situations, burying pitches and just making better pitches. … Good hitters take advantage.”

Lauer remained in the game, throwing a scoreless fifth inning before being relieved to start the sixth. It was his second-shortest outing this season, and his first allowing more than two runs since April 12 (his first start of the season).

It should be noted that Saturday’s start was Lauer’s first time coupled with catcher Victor Caratini. While Lauer didn’t think that newness had anything to do with the four-run inning — after all, it was “three bad pitches” — he acknowledged that as a battery, he and Caratini have plenty left to learn about each other.

“For our first time together, I think we talked through everything,” Lauer said. “It could have been a [bit] more smooth [at] times. [But] we talked through everything really well and we were able to be on the same page for most of the time. I had no problems with that, I just need to make better pitches.”

Behind Lauer, the Brewers were solid — until they weren’t. Second baseman Luis Urías committed his second error of the season in the sixth inning, part of Miami’s second four-run inning of the night.

With runners on first and second, Anderson scorched a pitch up the middle with a projected 100.5 exit velocity; Urías went to field the ball on a hop, but the ball appeared to glance off the top of his glove and a run scored. The play was ruled a fielder’s choice and the second baseman tagged with an error.

The ideal outcome? Urías catches the ball and initiates a double play. If that had happened, chances are only one run would have scored that inning and the Brewers would have been trailing 5-1 instead of 8-1.

“That was a big play for sure,” Counsell said. “I mean, that’s a double play. It’s a 4-1 game at that point. Get that play and it’s a man on third.”

There was a second fielder’s choice that inning that could have resulted in two outs. Shortstop Willy Adames — who hit that first-inning home run — was slow to release a ball he underhanded to Urías on second — another double play opportunity squandered.

“That inning snowballed,” Counsell said, “and not much good happened.”

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