The emotion of the 2011 National League Division Series continues to catch fire with the Diamondbacks.
After the Brewers’ Ryan Braun hit .500 (9-for-18) and led Milwaukee to a series win over the Diamondbacks, he admitted not using performance-enhancing drugs during the season and the series against Arizona. Yet, he was later banned for 65 games in the 2013 season but later admitted he took the illegal substances.
That affirmation caught D-backs’ manager Kirk Gibson between the eyes and since that series, Gibson said he wanted to a face-to-face “conversation” with Braun. The bad blood between Gibson, the D-backs and Braun has simmered for three years and reached another plateau Tuesday night.
With the Brewers down by one run in the seventh and runners on second and third and one out, D-backs’ reliever Evan Marshall faced Braun. Marshall’s first pitch was behind Braun and plate umpire and crew chief Ted Barnett immediately went to the mound.
On the next pitch, Marshall seem to take out the last three years of Braun’s denial and then subsequent admission with a fast ball to his back. Barnett quickly ejected Marshall and the result of hit-by-the pitch loaded the bases.
Brad Ziegler was brought in and Jonathan Lucroy hammered the first pitch he saw from the Arizona reliever above the 413 foot sign in left center field stands for his third career grand slam and the Brewers beat the Diamondbacks, 7-4 before 18,148 in Chase Field.
The loss was the Diamondbacks’ second straight and they are now losers in five of their last six games. The defeat also put them 14 games under .500 and 14 ½ games behind the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants.
While Lucroy’s slam was the game-winner, post-game discussion evolved around Marshall and his confrontation with Braun. With first base open and the D-backs holding a one-run lead, one option remained and that was to pitch around Braun to load the bases.
“I was trying to go down and away, that’s my pitch, and the pitch got away,” Marshall said of the pitch which hit Braun. “You try and throw your best against their best but, like I said, it got away.”
Marshall said he was surprised when Barnett raised his right arm and issued an immediate ejection. On the pitch before, Barnett walked to mound but Marshal said that visit was somewhat cordial.
“(Barnett) asked me about the pitch (which was thrown behind Braun) and told him it got away,” Marshall said. “He didn’t say anything else and the game resumed. Yeah, I was surprised by the ejection because there was no warning.”
With that hit-by-pitch, the Brewers loaded the bases and Lucroy quickly cleared the decks with the first career grand slam given up by Ziegler in his seven-year, major league career.
“It was a fast ball and I got too much of the plate,” Ziegler said. “Right now, (Lucroy) is one of the hottest hitters in the league and he didn’t miss it.”
If Gibson was critical of Braun’s behavior and comments, he was impressive in holding his anger. In his post-game meeting with the media, he said all the right things and declined comment on whether Marshall threw intentionally at Braun.
“Marshall did not leave it over the plate,” was all Gibson would say. “(Braun’s) hurt us in the past and they beat us. That’s disappointing.”
The loss took a bite out of a creditable performance from starter Mike Bolsinger, who was recalled from Triple-A Reno late Monday. Bolsinger filled the spot vacated by Bronson Arroyo was placed on the disabled list. Bolsinger is also slated to start Sunday against the Giants in Chase Field.
In going 6.1 innings, the right-hander gave the Brewers three runs, two on solo home runs from Aramis Ramirez leading off the second and the first of two on the night to Lucroy, leading off the sixth. Leaving with a 4-3 lead, Bolsinger gave the game to the protection of Marshall and Ziegler, who could not preserve the win.
“I thought my fast ball was decent and if I’m going to give up home runs, it’s not bad if they’re solo shots,” Bolsinger said. “Thought I threw a lot of strikes and the change was working. Didn’t have the best curve ball, so I have to continue working on that.”
Despite a 4-1 lead, the Diamondbacks could not halt the Brewers’ advance.
After Lucroy’s slam, and his second home run of the game, the D-backs’ offense disappeared as it had Monday night.
Following Martin Prado’s single, which scored Paul Goldschmidt in the fifth to create that 4-1 lead, the D-backs managed one run the rest of the way, and that was Roger Kieschnick‘s first career home run leading off the ninth inning.
VOTE OF APPROVAL
Despite a soaring ERA of 7.11, manager Kirk Gibson expressed a vote of confidence for reliever J. J. Putz.
After allowing three runs in the ninth inning Monday night, Putz appeared to be out of sync with his normal splitter, his out-pitch. His ERA is currently the highest on the club but Gibson told reporters before Tuesday’s game with the Brewers in Chase Field that the manager continues to feel comfortable with Putz.
“His spilt has to have better command,” Gibson said. “I have no problem with his fast ball and it’s been decent. He lives on that splitter so needs to address some things.”
With two stints on the DL last season and one earlier this season, Putz’s value has diminished. His closer role have been over by Addison Reed, whom the Diamondbacks acquired in the off-season in a trade with the White Sox.
In 17 appearances before Tuesday’s game, Putz had a 1-1 mark and that ERA over seven runs per game. Through 12.2 innings of work, he allowed 15 hits and 10 earned runs.