ST. LOUIS — Up one game to none on the Cardinals, the Brewers had a chance to stomp on their opponents’ throats with a win before going back to Milwaukee for two, maybe three games. Instead, they blew such an opportunity by blowing a three-run lead and falling to the Cardinals 5-4 tonight.
With the series tied at 1-1, now it will be three games in Milwaukee.
Early on, it appeared the Brewers would continue the dominance that led to a 10-0 opening win on Tuesday by whooping on starter John Stuper. Charlie Moore hit an RBI double in the second inning, and two more runs were scored in the third on a Robin Yount groundout and Ted Simmons‘ second homer of the series.
All was going the Brewers’ way. After two and a half innings, Milwaukee had scored three runs, and the Cardinals had yet to touch home plate in the series. Don Sutton had yet to allow a baserunner. But then, with two down in the third, Tommy Herr smacked an RBI double and Ken Oberkfell laced a single to right just out of reach of a diving Jim Gantner to make it a 3-2 game.
There are moments in a series that immediately strike you as pivotal. This was one of those such moments. If Sutton gets that third out, the Brewers hold a 3-0 lead and maintain their stranglehold of the series. Instead, the Cardinals score their first runs and gain confidence.
The Brewers would score one more run on a Cecil Cooper single in the fifth to make it a 4-2 Brewers lead. But the Cardinals kept battling.
Again with two down, former Brewer Darrell Porter hit a two-run double down the left field line that tied the game in the sixth. Why was the third out so difficult to secure? It cost the Brewers this game.
By all accounts, Pete Ladd was the Brewers’ MVP of the ALCS, and they needed him in a key spot of a tie game in the eighth. With one down, Bob McClure had put two Cardinals runners on. To this point, Ladd had retired all 10 batters he had faced in the playoffs.
The World Series may be a different story. Ladd delivered a letters-high fastball on a 3-2 count to NL MVP candidate Lonnie Smith, the first batter he faced, that was called a ball to load the bases.
“Did you see the big smile on my face heading down to first?” a knowing Smith asked after the game.
Ladd then walked the second batter, journeyman Steve Braun, on four pitches to bring in the go-ahead and eventual winning run.
“It rattled me,” Ladd admitted. “It shouldn’t have. This is not the time to get rattled. But it did rattle me. I was upset, not at myself but at the umpire.”
Inexplicable. But understandable, considering Ladd is an untested young pitcher. Rollie Fingers would have been perfect in this position.
Oh, yeah. So wasn’t Rollie available?
“Rollie was well enough to pitch,” said Kuenn, “and no, I didn’t consider using him. I’ve used Rollie when we’re ahead, not in tie situations or when we’re losing.”
It’s starting to sound like a bluff, Harvey. This is when the Brewers needed their best pitcher on the mound. And Rollie’s comments didn’t help verify Harvey’s claim.
“I couldn’t have pitched today,” said Fingers. “I’m a little stiff from not pitching for a month, not from the injury. It’s like the fifth or sixth day of Spring Training.”
I came into this hoping the Brewers would win one of two in St. Louis. After yesterday’s win, I wanted two but didn’t need it. I was fine with a loss here.
But not like this. The Brewers had this game. The Cardinals scored four with two outs and the final was a gift. The Cardinals didn’t win Game 2, the Brewers lost it. And that’s not how you win a World Series.
“Of course we would have liked to have won two,” said Kuenn, “but I’m not worried.”
Apparently not. Or you would have used Fingers.
On the bright side, Cecil Cooper had three hits to break out of his playoff funk. Gorman Thomas, however, went hitless to drop his playoff batting average below .100.
At some point, we may need to accept that Gorman simply isn’t himself on one leg. If Thomas isn’t going to hit, you don’t lose anything by putting Marshall Edwards out there. Or you can roll the dice by putting Moore or Oglivie in center and Mark Brouhard in one of the corners. I love Gorman, but he’s half of a player right now.
What do you think? Should the Brewers bench Gorman Thomas? And how big was this loss?