MILWAUKEE — The Brewers lost the final game of a three-game series with the Yankees today because of one pitch. And that one pitch may have been off target due to one, ridiculous distraction.
With the Brewers leading 2-0 in the fifth, the Yankees mounted a rally. Jerry Mumphrey led off with a walk and John Mayberry singled to right. But Mike Caldwell, who was fantastic on this day, was primed to get out of the jam. He got Butch Wynegar to fly out to right and struck Graig Nettles out looking on a pitch that just clipped the outside corner.
Well, Nettles didn’t think it clipped the outside corner. He thought it was a ball. And when Yankees don’t get their way, they throw a fit. So Nettles threw a fit and his bat, nearly propelling into the stands. Umpire Dan Morrison immediately tossed him, and Nettles went into bar room tough guy mode, screaming and beating his chest, proclaiming he’d kick Morrison’s tail if not for the fact that manager Gene Michael and third base coach Joe Altobelli were holding him back.
As Nettles threw his annoying tantrum, Caldwell stood on the mound waiting. And waiting.
Finally, Roy Smalley stepped to the plate with two on and two down. It was a good match-up for Caldwell. Smalley, a switch hitter, was hitting a mere .159 from the right side.
The first pitch from Caldwell was launched into the left field seats, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead. It was the only run-scoring hit for the Yankees on the day, and the Brewers, too, would be done stepping on home plate.
Once the Brewers were unable to break through in the seventh, it was essentially over. Goose Gossage came in and strangled every bit of life out of the offense. With two on and one out in the seventh, Gossage came on and induced fly balls from Robin Yount and Cecil Cooper. When the Brewers reached on a walk by Ted Simmons and a single by Ben Oglivie to open the eighth, Gossage started throwing his notorious slurve to strike out Gorman Thomas and Roy Howell.
It’s a shame that the offense couldn’t score runs because Caldwell deserved better. He pitched a complete game, allowing only the three runs on four hits, though he did walk six. But it was that one hit — that one pitch — that would cost him.
Caldwell simply let a distraction get to him. Unfortunately, the Yankees are full of distractions and the Brewers have to know how to handle them.
Although recent news may present a significant distraction for the Brewers that could be New York Yankee caliber. It was announced that three or four local sports figures, including at least one member of the Milwaukee Brewers starting lineup, have been interviewed by federal investigators in recent months in connection with purchase of drugs from a local man. While no member of the team appears to be in any legal trouble, the Brewers aren’t talking. And as many as five Brewers were contacted during the investigation, though one was cleared.
You think Graig Nettles’ tantrum was a distraction? That’s nothing. This could change the direction of the team if they don’t handle it properly.
Game Notes: The loss ended the Brewers’ seven-game winning streak … The Brewers had seven hits, but six of them were by Ben Oglivie and Marshall Edwards, who each had three … Ben Oglivie hit his 17th home run in the fourth inning, his sixth in four games.