SAN DIEGO — The Brewers began their longest, toughest road trip of the season on Monday night without their all-world closer (Josh Hader was needed at home with his pregnant wife), without one of their All-Star starting pitchers (Freddy Peralta landed on the injured list), without their shortstop and spark plug (Willy Adames was already on the IL) and, from the fourth inning on, without their hottest hitter after Hunter Renfroe tweaked a hamstring and left the game.
And so they began their longest, toughest road trip with their longest, toughest loss, falling, 3-2, to the Padres after 10 innings of missed opportunities at Petco Park.
Twice, a Brewers reliever won a tense battle with early season National League MVP candidate Manny Machado to extend the game. But twice — in the fourth inning and again in the 10th — Brewers hitters loaded the bases with nobody out and emerged with nothing to show for it. Milwaukee’s 2-for-13 performance with runners in scoring position wasn’t much worse than San Diego’s 3-for-13, but the Padres’ José Azocar lined a two-out single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th and that was the ballgame.
“You try to not be too hard on yourself about it, but you just know those are the type of games that we have to win,” said Brewers designated hitter Andrew McCutchen, who lamented bouncing into a 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the 10th. “We just let that one get away from us.”
It was a loss with a cost, both in the sense that the Brewers’ top two relievers with Hader inactive, Brad Boxberger in the seventh inning and Devin Williams in the ninth, expended 28 and 24 pitches, respectively, and in that Renfroe is suddenly among those who might be unavailable for a time. He scored from first base on Tyrone Taylor’s two-out, two-run double in the second inning but tweaked his right hamstring along the way and left the game in the fourth.
The timing is terrible. Monday marked the start of an 11-game, 10-day trip to visit the Padres, Cardinals and Cubs, and was the first of 15 consecutive game days. Renfroe, who batted .405 with three home runs in his last 10 games leading into this trip, will undergo an MRI scan on Tuesday and didn’t sound as if he expected to be available for Tuesday’s matchup against Padres left-hander Blake Snell.
“I’ve popped my hamstring before, yeah, but we don’t really know what it’s going to be,” Renfroe said. “I may be back in three days; I may be back in four weeks. I was seeing the ball well all week. The timing always sucks, but it really sucks now.”
Renfroe watched from the clubhouse as the Padres scratched their way back into the game, led by former Brewer Trent Grisham’s double off Brewers starter Adrian Houser in the fifth inning to set up a run-scoring groundout, and Grisham’s tying safety squeeze bunt against Boxberger in the seventh.
Presented with their own opportunities, the Brewers either came up empty or found themselves tipping their caps to a Padres defender. That was the case in the fourth inning, when San Diego shortstop Jake Cronenworth made a terrific defensive play to deny Kolten Wong multiple RBIs on a grounder up the middle with the bases loaded. And with two runners aboard in the sixth, when Jace Peterson’s hard shot up the middle hit the pitcher on the foot and deflected for an inning-ending double play.
“We had some chances. It could have been something as easy as a sac fly, a broken bat flare, just something,” McCutchen said. “We didn’t get the job done. Anything we touched or hit, they made a play on it or something like that. It seemed they had a horseshoe hanging out of their gloves here.”
The late innings were an armchair manager’s delight. The Brewers opted to have Williams pitch to Machado with a base open in the bottom of the ninth and won; Williams got a swinging strikeout to force extra innings. Then the Brewers opted to have Miguel Sánchez, just up from Triple-A, intentionally walk two batters in the 10th after the winning run reached third base with one out.
Sánchez got the second out of the inning but not the third before Azocar’s base hit to center field ended the game.
“It was a good ballgame, and we lost,” manager Craig Counsell said. “I don’t think there’s damage done to the ’pen or anything like that. We’ll see what Hunter’s injury brings. It’s a tough game. We’re playing a good baseball team, and these are tough games to win.”