NEW YORK — What started out as a rout ended up as a thriller. But the Brewers kept their composure and again won in impressive fashion on the road.
The Crew sent Yankees starter Tommy John to the showers early, scoring one in the first and five on six hits in the third. Holding a 6-1 lead midway through the seventh, the lead appeared safe.
But that’s about the point that the clock strikes midnight for Brewers starter Randy Lerch, even on a good day. He quickly hit the wall, allowing three consecutive hits after a leadoff fly out by Graig Nettles. Dwight Bernard and then Rollie Fingers came on to try and stop the bleeding, but by the end of the inning it was a one-run nail-biter.
The drama was a bit unexpected, particularly after a Ned Yost RBI single gave the Brewers a two-run lead heading to the bottom of the ninth with Rollie Fingers still on the mound. Then, Rollie lost grip of the lead again and blew his fifth save, allowing the Yankees to tie the game on two sacrifice flies.
The game was nearly ended in the tenth when Roy Howell hit a two-out single to left with Ben Oglivie on second. But Dave Winfield pegged him out at the plate on a perfect throw, and the game continued.
Gorman Thomas, who previously in the game exacted revenge on Dave LaRoche by smacking a “LaLob” for a single (LaRoche had struck out Thomas on the same slow-pitch softball-styled looper during the playoffs last season), had power in mind in the twelfth. After Cecil Cooper led off the inning with a single, Gorman smashed a booming shot over the left field wall off of reliever Shane Rawley to give the Brewers a two-run lead.
Of course, this was a game filled with dramatic twists and turns, so the bottom of the twelfth wouldn’t be easy. After Rollie Fingers reached the end of his line (he went 4 2/3 innings for his longest outing of the season), Jamie Easterly took the mound. Oscar Gamble and Jerry Mumphrey reached to start the frame, and the Brewers appeared to be in big trouble. But Graig Nettles failed to get a bunt down and would then strike out. Roy Smalley singled to load the bases with one out, and then Dave Collins hit a swinging bunt that Easterly would field and tag out Oscar Gamble at the plate. With two down and the bases still loaded, catcher Juan Espino flied to center to finally end the game.
It was a marathon game, a roller coaster of emotions. But as the Brewers have repeatedly shown under Harvey Kuenn, this team is a powerful, strong-minded and resilient bunch.
The Brewers go for the sweep tomorrow.
Game Notes: After Boston’s 12-3 loss to the Tigers, the Brewers now trail the Red Sox by two games for the AL East lead. … Gorman Thomas now has 19 home runs, tying him with teammate Ben Oglivie and Cleveland Indian Andre Thornton for the league lead. … Thomas is 13-for-24 with five home runs and 13 RBI on the six-game road trip. … Jim Gantner, nursing a sore shoulder, is making improvement and will try to throw in a couple of days. … Don Money has a sore hamstring, but still played.