CLEVELAND — For the second game in a row and the fourth time this season, the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians played to extra innings. Following the Indians’ 11th inning win today, each team has one such a contest twice.
Not only did the Brewers have opportunities, but they had the lead. They took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI single by Don Money. They then extended that lead to two when Ben Oglivie singled home Cecil Cooper in the sixth.
The most damaging pitch of the game, however, occurred in the bottom of the sixth. Bob McClure, who had been pitching shutout ball for 5 2/3 innings, served up a two-out pitch that Andre Thornton sent over the wall for a two-run home run to tie the game.
The Brewers retook the lead on an RBI single by Jim Gantner in the top of the seventh, but back-to-back singles to lead off the bottom of the eighth would be too much to overcome. Mike Hargrove‘s double play ball resulted in a run, tying the game and eventually sending it to extra innings.
Dan Spillner walked both Ted Simmons and Ben Oglivie to open the 11th inning. Instead of letting home run hitter Gorman Thomas swing away — or at least force a wild Spillner to throw strikes — manager Harvey Kuenn called for the bunt. Thomas obliged, moving Simmons and Oglivie up a base.
Unfortunately, the Brewers may have sacrificed their best chance to win. Don Money was intentionally walked to load the bases and then Ed Glynn was summoned from the bullpen. That put the game on the shoulders of Charlie Moore and Jim Gantner. Moore popped to first and Gantner flied to center. Opportunity missed.
The question should be asked: Would you rather have Gorman Thomas and his AL-leading 26 home runs swinging away with runners at first and second and no outs or Charlie Moore with the bases loaded and one out? Do you trust Moore and Gantner enough to bring in a run that you’re willing to sacrifice Thomas?
Moore is hitting .242 and isn’t close to the extra base threat that is Thomas. I’ll answer the hypothetical for you: I’d much rather have Gorman swinging away.
But Kuenn chose to sacrifice, which may have been the expected strategy. But I can’t help but think things would have ended much differently had Gorman been given the green light.
Then, of course, came the bottom of the 11th. Andre Thornton flied out and speedster Miguel Dilone singled. He promptly stole second, and appeared to have stolen third. Instead, home plate umpire Larry McCoy said the pitch hit batter Ron Hassey on the foot, and Dilone was sent back to second. After Rick Manning flied to center, it appeared the Brewers dodged a bullet. Instead, Von Hayes hit a weak grounder to the right side, just out of the reach of the outstretched glove of Cecil Cooper.
“After Manning flew out,” Kuenn said after the game, “I thought we had escaped, but that ball Hayes hit just found a hole.”
It did. It’s easy to blame a bad bounce or bad luck. But the Brewers controlled their own destiny in this game, and they let it get away.
Luckily, the Boston Red Sox also lost, so the Brewers maintain a 2.5 game lead in the AL East.