MILWAUKEE — A couple of wins may have quieted the storm in the Brewers’ clubhouse, but two losses later and the winds are howling once again.
Prior to the game, Roy Howell spouted off about his lack of playing time. He hadn’t played in 12 days and it is evident that he no longer wants to be part of the team. Problem is, no one wants him to be part of any other team.
“What the hell is going on here?” Howell asked anyone willing to listen. “At this point, it looks like I shouldn’t have even bothered going to spring training.”
That’s an interesting suggestion since most Brewers fans would agree. Howell has been a negative force on this team. He rarely plays, and he isn’t willing to accept his role. Yet, with a .176 batting average, how can he demand more?
Howell came up in the 11th with an opportunity to be the hero. Runner on first, one down. Gorman Thomas had just walked, so it would appear to be a time to test whether Bill Caudill could throw strikes. Instead, Howell swung at the first pitch and popped out to the mound.
Sheesh. Just let the guy go. Put him, the team and the fans out of their collective misery.
Speaking of misery, the fact that this game had to come down to Roy Howell in the first place is enough to make a person miserable. The Brewers led 5-2 through five innings. In the sixth, starter Mike Caldwell allowed a Dave Henderson ground ball single that scored Al Cowens. With runners on first and second and one out in a 5-3 game, manager Buck Rodgers made a call to the bullpen.
A bit premature? Probably. Rodgers is fighting for his job at this point, so excuse him if he’s a bit jumpy. He saw Caldwell losing his grip on the game so he made the call for Dwight Bernard. Bernard promptly allowed his inherited runners to score on a ground ball double and a groundout, and the game was tied.
Caldwell joined Howell among the disenchanted, frustrated about being pulled so early. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’m just a player. I’m just trying to do my job. I don’t know if I’m getting a chance to do it.”
Neither team scored from that point until the 11th. And given Rollie Fingers’ history when entering tied games this season (one win and five losses), it should be no surprise that the Mariners scored on his watch.
That said, this loss can’t be pinned on Rollie. The run scored was more due to luck than skill.
Dave Henderson led off the inning with a broken bat single to left field off of the handle. He moved to second on a Jim Maler bunt, bringing up pinch hitter Manny Castillo. Fingers threw a good pitch on 0-2 and again jammed the hitter, Castillo’s bat broke, and his bloop hit went over Robin Yount’s head for the eventual game winning run.
The Brewers certainly suffered from a bout of bad luck in this game. Not only in the 11th, but in the sixth when all of the Mariners’ three runs scored that inning came on ground balls that found holes.
But the Brewers also failed to produce in key situations. With runners at first and third in the second, Mark Brouhard broke for second on a delayed steal and what should have been the front end of a double steal. Catcher Bud Bulling made a high throw to second, but Brouhard pulled up standing and did not slide. Had he slid, Brouhard would have been safe and Ben Oglivie would have scored from third. Instead, Brouhard walked into the tag for the final out of the inning.
Jim Gantner led off the Brewers’ seventh with a double and Paul Molitor reached on a bunt single. With runners on first and third and no one out, Robin Yount struck out and Cecil Cooper hit a fly ball to center. Henderson caught it, Gantner tagged and was thrown out at the plate.
Today’s run total was the team’s highest in nine days. Not sure that five runs is much to be proud of. The Brewers have now lost nine of 13 games to fall to 20-19 and into a tie with the New York Yankees for third place. They now trail the Red Sox by seven games, their largest deficit since 1980.
The winds are blowing. The egos are fragile. The slightest turbulence puts the team on edge. Time has come for change.
Game Notes: Paul Molitor’s strained shoulder is now well enough for him to play in the field, but he was the designated hitter today.