MILWAUKEE – One poorly placed pitch and one short fence in a hitter-friendly park turned into three runs, eliminating the Mariners’ hopes of a sweep of a team that came up one win short of the World Series last year.
Minutes after giving up his first run on a bases-loaded squeeze bunt by Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson, Mariners starter Mike Leake left a first-pitch cutter over the middle of the plate that Orlando Arcia was able to sneak over the wall in short right field for a three-run homer.
The four-run fourth inning was all the Brewers would need in Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Mariners at Miller Park.
“I often say that in a game it can come down to one pitch here or one pitch there,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “Certainly Arcia is an aggressive hitter and got on that first one there, and it was a big hit in the ballgame.”
Leake had some regrets about that cutter.
“I could have placed it a little better,” Leake said. “I could have gone off the plate testing and tested where he was at first, instead of going at him. That was the big hit. I thought it was out off the bat.”
The Brewers, who are locked in a battle with the Cubs and Cardinals for the National League Central Division, avoided a sweep by a rebuilding Seattle team. The Mariners were looking for their first true series sweep since taking four from the Royals in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 8-11. They have twice taken both games of a two-game set.
The Mariners have won six of their last eight and were competitive in defeat, which hasn’t always been the case this season.
Leake took the loss to fall to 7-7. He worked six innings, allowing the four runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
He cruised through the outing with the exception of the fourth. Ryan Braun led off with a single, and Eric Thames followed with his second double of the game. After striking out Lorenzo Cain, the Mariners intentionally walked Travis Shaw to bring Anderson to the plate as the Brewers had their pitcher bat in the No. 8 spot in the order.
It was typical baseball strategy by the Mariners, but Anderson executed a perfect bunt to the first-base side of the mound, and Braun was aggressively running from third. Leake had no other play but to throw to first for the out.
The Brewers got a workable outing from Anderson, who allowed two hits in the first five innings. His only major trouble early came when he had to work around his own walk of Leake and his miscue on a play at first base put runners on the corners with two outs in the third inning. A big strikeout of former teammate Domingo Santana ended the drama.
The Mariners finally got to Anderson in the sixth. With one out, Santana reached on an error in left field by Christian Yelich and scored on Daniel Vogelbach’s double into right field. The Brewers lifted Anderson after Vogelbach’s double, but his replacement, Matt Albers, gave up an RBI double to Tim Beckham that cut the lead to 4-2.
“Offensively, we need to do a little bit more,” Servais said. “Anderson had a good changeup, and he was effective using it.”
Matt Festa and Dan Altavilla gave the Mariners scoreless innings to keep the Brewers to just four runs. But with a late-innings lead, Brewers manager Craig Counsell went to his bullpen to lock it down. Junior Guerra pitched a scoreless seventh and left-hander Josh Hader, who hadn’t pitched in the series, carved up the Mariners in the eighth and ninth for a two-inning save.
“Counsell couldn’t wait to go to him,” Servais said of Hader. “He’s really good and one of the better relievers in the league. I was hoping to get out of here not see him at all.”
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