SEATTLE — The Brewers have blown a couple of leads of late as they struggle to figure out how to cope without All-Star closer Rollie Fingers. Today, it nearly happened again.
The last time these two teams met in Seattle, the Brewers were reeling. Milwaukee had fallen to seven games out of first place and manager Buck Rodgers was replaced with Harvey Kuenn. So much has changed since then.
Of course, one of those changes is the health of Fingers. Starting pitcher Mike Caldwell and the Brewers were cruising through seven innings. The Brew Crew led 6-2 through seven and a half innings, and Caldwell had allowed only five hits. Then he ran out of gas.
Then Caldwell took the hill for the ninth. Richie Zisk doubled to center. Al Cowens doubled to right, scoring Zisk. Gary Gray singled to left, and suddenly it was 6-4 Brewers with no one out and the tie run on first base.
Without Rollie Fingers available, the Brewers turned to rookie Pete Ladd. Luckily for the Brewers, Big Foot did just fine. He struck out Dave Revering looking, and Rick Sweet then hit a sacrifice fly to make it a 6-5 game. With the tie run still on first, Manny Castillo flied to left and the Brewers breathed a sigh of relief.
Offensively, “Harvey’s Wallbangers” decided to go with a game of small ball. They collected 11 hits, but not one was for extra bases. The Brewers stole two bases and bunted twice, including a Paul Molitor safety squeeze to score a run in the sixth. Most importantly, hitting was timely as the Crew scored four of their six runs with two outs.
It was pleasant to see the offense score without the long ball, and the Brewers gained a game on the Red Sox, who fell 4-3 to the A’s. But the blinking question mark right now is over the bullpen. If Rollie Fingers is out for a significant amount of time, or can’t come back at 100%, can this team survive down the stretch?
So far, so good. But having won only two of their last six games, wins aren’t nearly as automatic under Kuenn as they once were.
Game Notes: Jamie Easterly, scheduled to throw a simulated game tomorrow, will not according to Kuenn.