MILWAUKEE — For 11 innings, Brewers starter Pete Vuckovich did all he could to win today’s game. He allowed only a single run on 10 hits and three walks. He threw 140 pitches. He threw his heart and soul. And all he needed was two runs from his heavy hitting teammates.
It shouldn’t have been difficult. The opposing starting pitcher was Len Barker, who had a career record of 1-6 against the Brewers. And knowing how easily Harvey’s Wallbangers typically score runs, Vuke’s effort should have been more than enough.
Instead, Barker matched him pitch for pitch through 10 innings. Like Vuckovich, he allowed only a single run before giving way to the bullpen in the 11th inning.
This time, Slaton ran into immediate trouble. Jack Perconte led off with a single to right. Miguel Dilone bunted him to second. Slaton threw a wild pitch. Toby Harrah walked. Mike Hargrove walked to load the bases. And then Andre Thornton blasted an 0-1 pitch into the left field seats for a grand slam.
A grand slam. Really? Vuke goes 11 innings, allowing only a single run. And Slaton gives up four runs before he can get two outs?
“It was just one of those nights,” manager Harvey Kuenn explained afterwards. “Jimmy didn’t have hits best stuff.” No kidding.
That’s just how it rolls sometimes, I guess. And while it’s convenient to blame Slaton, we shouldn’t forget the offense that could score only a run through 12 innings. They also had their opportunities.
They had runners at first and second in the second inning, but Marshall Edwards lined to short. Runners at second and third with one out in the third, but Cecil Cooper popped out and Ted Simmons struck out. Bases loaded in the 11th, but Paul Molitor popped to right.
So the offense certainly deserves some blame. In fact, you can blame everyone for this loss. Everyone, that is, other than Vuckovich.
For the longest stretch under Kuenn, it was as if this team could not lose. And if they did lose, four wins would immediately follow. Now, however, they’re in the midst of a 4-6 stretch. It’s a stretch that would seem normal for any other team. But one that is hard to comprehend for this team that was unbeatable a short while ago.
“You can’t expect to play .700 baseball throughout the whole year,” Kuenn said.
He’s right. But the loss coupled with Boston’s win over the White Sox dropped the Brewers to second place, a half game back of the AL East lead.