The Milwaukee Brewers, 13.5 games up on the Cardinals in the standings, have all but clinched the NL Central and could even do so as soon as this weekend. They will cruise into the postseason with something they lacked in 2018: a pitching staff so good as to be kind of infuriating, a trio of aces (two of them in the top-five ERA; Freddy Peralta spent some time on the IL and doesn’t have the innings to qualify), and relievers who can be trusted to slam the damn door.
Just this past Saturday against Cleveland, Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader combined for the second no-hitter in franchise history, and the team’s reaction was more “crossing something off a list” than elation. “They’re so good that it’s going to happen for one of them,” manager Craig Counsell remembered telling his third-base coach earlier in the season. Forget that the clock has struck midnight on Christian Yelich, a boomed, baffling shell of himself in what could generously be called a two-year slump, and turn your attention to this sick changeup instead.
And yet! Tuesday night, the Brewers found themselves in an at-times excruciating but at-other-times very funny “pitcher’s duel” with the basically fine Detroit Tigers. Freddy Peralta and former Brewer Wily Peralta both went six shutout innings. Also, everyone went shutout innings. The game featured zero runs into the 11th inning, three Tigers hits, four Brewers hits, 18 Tigers batters struck out (many of them in the embarrassing fashions seen above), a two-hour rain delay in the middle of the sixth inning, three extra-inning ghost runners left stranded on third, and about seven separate instances of me thinking, “I am going to become the Joker,” as batter after batter refused to crack the game open and end it. Per a quick look at Stathead, it was the first game of the season to head into the 11th inning scoreless.
Hader may have been going as nuts as everyone watching; he opened the ninth inning with a strikeout, walked the bases loaded, and then struck out two more batters, as if he’d needed to construct some cruel, entertaining challenge for himself to stay sharp. Sicko behavior. In the top of the 11th, Yelich came up to the plate with the bases loaded and then—agh!!!—grounded into an inning-ending double play. Was it a game I would have liked to attended? No, not at all, mostly because of the rain. Do not even get me started on the dew point. Only a few scattered Brewers fans were left at the Tigers ballpark when the game finished just before midnight. But I stayed up and watched anyway, because there is something tense and thrilling about staring contests like these. By the game’s conclusion, I was not sure whether this standoff had somewhat endeared me to the runner-on-second rule responsible for ending this, or whether I would have indeed liked to squirm in agony all the way to the top of the 47th.
The ending was about as dumb and charming as the game itself. In the bottom of the 11th, extremely cool Tigers outfielder Derek Hill hit a walkoff RBI single to right, driving in ghost runner Victor Reyes. Hill also insisted in stretching it into a cute but entirely unnecessary double, something he admitted afterward was just “pure instinct.”
Losing a game while the pitchers allow zero earned runs is something Brewers fans can, and probably should, take up with Rob Manfred. Sorry.