MILWAUKEE — Breaking news: Josh Hader is human.
The previously untouchable Brewers closer, having already set one Major League record this season and needing just one more scoreless outing for another, instead surrendered solo homers to two of the first three batters he faced in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss to the Phillies on Tuesday night at American Family Field.
“It’s baseball. It will keep you honest,” Hader said. “We just have to keep moving on.”
“Somebody’s got to get him at some point, right? Why not us, I guess,” said Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm, who was the author of one of the two homers hit off Hader. “Nobody is perfect in this game”
All true. But just how shocking was this outcome?
Consider all of the circumstances in and around that top of the ninth:
• Hader took the mound with a 2-1 lead and a virtually unblemished record in 2022. He’d allowed zero runs and no inherited runners to score in 19 outings spanning 17 2/3 innings. Opposing hitters were 4-for-58 (.069) with 28 strikeouts. Hader had not allowed multiple hits in any outing this year.
• Hader had converted 32 consecutive regular-season saves, including 18-for-18 this season. He notched a save in each of his first 18 appearances, an all-time record.
• Freddie Freeman homered off Hader in last year’s National League Division Series to send the Brewers home, but Hader hadn’t allowed a regular-season home run since July 28, 2021 — which was also the last time he’d allowed a regular-season run. When he finished a 40th consecutive scoreless appearance in Sunday’s loss to the Padres, Hader tied Houston’s Ryan Pressly (2018-19) for the longest streak of scoreless regular season outings in Major League history.
• Hader had not allowed multiple home runs in an outing for even longer — much longer. That had last happened on Sept. 12, 2020, against the Cubs, 86 regular season appearances ago.
• The two hitters who got him Tuesday were not necessarily the top threats to slug. Bohm had no extra-base hits in his last 55 plate appearances. Matt Vierling had no home runs in 54 Major League plate appearances this season.
Then baseball happened. Bohm led off the ninth and hit Hader’s third pitch, a fastball above the zone, for a 426-foot, game-tying home run. Two batters later, Vierling gave the visitors their first lead when he hit a slider down in the zone for another home run.
“The fastball definitely wasn’t [where he wanted it],” Hader said. “It was up, I was trying to go down. He’s a good high hitter. That’s the way he does his damage, so I definitely wasn’t trying to go there.”
“You talk about the best closers in the game,” Bohm said. “He’s, obviously, at the top of the conversation, but that’s not any reason to go up there thinking that you’re already out. Just going up there — knowing that he’s got good stuff and everything like that — I’ve just got to get the barrel to one pitch.”
“The Vierling one is a little more confusing but give him credit, he hit a pitch,” manager Craig Counsell said.
Hader figures that Vierling guessed a pitch and guessed right.
“He moved up in the box a little bit, is what I could see,” Hader explained. “And then he got the head [of the bat] out. It wasn’t a putaway pitch. They definitely got to me today.”
Hader spoke to reporters about 45 minutes after the final out, but his night was not over. He said he planned to review video of his outing in an effort to revisit his plan for each hitter and see where he executed and where he didn’t.
It’s the same routine after a successful outing.
“We all fail in this game,” Hader said. “Sometimes they’re bigger than others. Sometimes my failures can be missing [one] pitch. That comes with the game, comes with the territory.”
“Unfortunately,” Counsell said, “we could only give him a one-run lead going into that inning, so we paid the price for it. He’s been so good, so it’s surprising. But you know at some point, it’s going to happen.”
The Brewers nearly let Hader off the hook in the bottom of the ninth. Andrew McCutchen, Victor Caratini and Jace Peterson all walked during a long rally against Phillies reliever Corey Knebel, but Hunter Renfroe said he hit his fly out to center field off the end of the bat, Rowdy Tellez said he barreled his fly out to center field, but hit it too high, and Pablo Reyes struck out on three pitches with the bases loaded to end the game.
The Brewers lost their fourth straight game and their sixth overall in seven games. Only a ninth-inning rally against the Padres in the opener of this homestand saved them from a longer losing streak.
“There’s a lot of key pieces we’re missing, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” Hader said. “It’s nothing we can control. As long as we focus on what we can control and try to move forward and think about the little things in each game and each inning. If we can win each inning, that’s a plus. Keep moving on with that.”