MINNEAPOLIS — Matt Capps is still the Twins’ closer. But lefty Glen Perkins showed Sunday that he too could close out a ballgame, and with authority.
After watching Capps put two on with one out, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire called on Perkins to face left-handed slugger Prince Fielder. Perkins struck out Fielder and Casey McGehee to secure the 9-7 victory.
Facing the All-Star first baseman in a big situation, Perkins retired Fielder on three pitches, getting him to chase a slider for the second out of the inning. Then, after McGehee fouled off two fastballs and Perkins missed with two sliders out of the zone, he got the slumping third baseman to swing over a slider down and in to end the game.
McGehee snapped his bat over his knee before walking back to the dugout as the Twins celebrated the thrilling come-from-behind victory.
“That was a really hard situation; Cappy has good numbers [against Fielder], he let me know that on the mound,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve got to win baseball games, and I just thought that was a better matchup at the time.
“I think Perkins has a hot hand, and I wanted to win the ballgame, so I went to Perkins.”
Perkins has been dominan all season, giving up just seven runs (six earned) over 30 innings for a 1.80 ERA. Lefties are hitting just .209 off Perkins with 10 strikeouts in 43 at-bats.
The biggest key to Perkins’ success has been the use of his slider, which is tough on both lefties and righties, as he showed Sunday in getting Fielder and McGehee to swing and miss at it. Being able to touch 96 mph with his fastball doesn’t hurt, either.
“I’m just kind of putting it where I want for the most part,” Perkins said. “That’s a good pitch to have if I can run fastballs up there and get them off that and then throw the slider, it’s got to be tough as a hitter.”
With Perkins picking up his first career save, the Twins put together a comeback of their own Sunday against the Brewers after watching a seven-run lead slip away a night earlier.
They didn’t trail by as many runs as the Brewers did the night before, and the Twins did not wait until the ninth, but Minnesota returned the favor, handing Milwaukee a tough loss.
With their comeback, Minnesota got starter Nick Blackburn off the hook after he had a second straight rough outing, giving up six runs in just four innings.
Blackburn retired the first six Brewers in order, but all three outs in the second were hard-hit line drives. Mark Kotsay broke through for Milwaukee in the third with a 442-foot solo blast into the second deck in right field.
Milwaukee batted around in the fourth, scoring five runs on five hits, including a two-run triple by Kotsay.
Including the eight runs (seven earned) allowed on 13 hits over 4 1/3 innings Monday against the Dodgers, Blackburn has gone 0-1 with a 14.05 ERA in his last two starts, allowing 13 earned runs allowed on 19 hits in just 8 1/3 innings.
“I kind of over-adjusted from my last outing,” Blackburn said. “I struggled in it, and went out and tried to do a little too much today. We’ll just try to tune it back down a little bit and hopefully get back on track.”
After falling behind, 6-1, through four innings, the Twins’ comeback started in the fourth with a three-run home run by left fielder Rene Tosoni.
Brewers starter Zack Greinke was particularly frustrated by that pitch to Tosoni, a fastball up and away that was supposed to be buried inside.
“That pitch and the pitch to [Michael] Cuddyer before, those were the two big mistakes of the game,” Greinke said. “Other than that, I pitched real well. Those two were real bad. I don’t know that hitter [Tosoni], but that’s not a good pitch to anyone. … I don’t know why I made a pitch that bad when there’s two guys on base. I don’t get it.”
Greinke allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits over six innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. It was the sixth time in 12 starts this season he had allowed four or more earned runs, and the eighth start in which he gave up at least one home run.
With two out in the seventh, the Twins continued their rally as Joe Mauer and Cuddyer hit back-to-back singles, with the latter driving in Ben Revere from second base. Jim Thome, who earlier hit career home run No. 595, then walked to load the bases.
Third baseman Danny Valencia ripped a single to left, which was misplayed by Kotsay, allowing all three runs to score and Valencia to slide in safely at third as the Twins went from down five to the eventual two-run victory.
“It was unfortunate,” Kotsay said. “If I had come up with the ball, I thought we would have had a play at the plate with Cuddyer.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MILWAUKEE — When their home record sat at 4-14 in mid-May, third baseman Casey McGehee told reporters the Brewers would get back to .500, even if it took until September.
It came down to the 80th game of the season at Miller Park, but they ultimately came up short. With a 4-0 loss to the Marlins on Saturday, the Brewers guaranteed a second consecutive losing record at home, dropping to 39-41 on the season in Milwaukee.
“I think my point in saying that before was that we weren’t just going to roll over on it, and just say, ‘Oh, well we struggle at home,'” McGehee said. “We were going to keep battling. From where we started to where we are now, we made up some pretty good ground as far as our record here I think.
“It’s a great place to play, and we didn’t do the best job of taking advantage of it at times. I think the whole thing is just a little bit disappointing overall when you look at the overall results, whether it be at home or on the road. We’ve got our work cut out for us, that’s for sure, for next year.”
With all the offense they put up over the last three days, the Brewers probably would have liked to have saved a couple runs for Saturday night.
After scoring 27 runs over the course of three straight wins, the Brewers couldn’t figure out Marlins right-hander Chris Volstad.
Any remaining doubts as to what side of .500 the Brewers would finish on overall were put to rest Saturday as well. With the loss, they dropped to 72-82 overall, guaranteeing they would finish with their second consecutive losing record.
The biggest reason behind the Brewers’ poor home and overall records could be attributed to their inconsistency, especially offensively. Fittingly, this week has provided an excellent example of such inconsistency.
Despite being among the league’s top run-scoring clubs — as evidenced in their 13-1 win over the Reds on Wednesday — the Brewers are among the leaders in being shut out as well. Saturday marked the 14th time this season Milwaukee was held scoreless.
“I think that’s going to happen when you have offenses like this,” McGehee said. “We’re kind of built on hitting the ball out of the park. We can do other things, but that’s how we’re built really, and you’re going to run into stretches where you’re not hitting the ball out or you run into tough pitching. It’s tough to sustain a barrage of power over any time.”
Volstad (11-9) tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings, scattering six hits while striking out two batters with no walks. Of those six hits off Volstad, none were for extra bases, which limited the Brewers’ ability to put together any sort of big inning.
Volstad’s success came on the heels of a five-hit shutout in his previous outing, a 4-0 Marlins victory over the Cardinals.
“I definitely tried to bring the last game into this game as much as I could,” Volstad said. “The pace I was working at helped me get momentum. I was getting the ball, getting the sign and making the pitch with not a lot of time to get myself out of whack.”
The Brewers’ biggest opportunity came in the eighth inning, when they loaded the bases with two out on three singles in a four-batter span. Reliever Jose Veras entered to face catcher George Kottaras, who ripped a liner to center field.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, it was hit right at center fielder Cameron Maybin, who secured the final out of the inning.
“You go up there and put a good swing on the ball,” Kottaras said. “That’s what I did. … He made a good play on it.”
Left-handed starter Chris Narveson delivered his fourth quality start in five chances this month, tossing 6 2/3 innings while giving up two runs on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts.
For Narveson, three hits — two first-inning singles and a seventh-inning homer — ruined what was otherwise an impressive outing.
“I felt pretty good,” Narveson said. “I know it’s toward the end of the season, but for me it actually felt pretty good. At times, I was a little erratic, but for the most part … when I missed with a pitch, I was able to make the adjustment.”
Narveson dropped to 11-9 on the season, despite posting his 11th quality start. Over his past 12 starts, Narveson has posted a 4-3 record with a 4.12 ERA, allowing 34 earned runs in 74 2/3 innings of work. In 14 previous starts, Narveson was 6-6 with a 5.87 ERA, giving up 50 earned runs over 76 2/3 innings pitched.
The biggest change, as his manager sees it, has been Narveson’s ability to realize what he needs to do to be effective.
“I think he’s kind of learned what type of pitcher he has to be, what works best for him,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “He does the fastball-changeup thing and mixes in a couple curves.
“I think he was trying to do too much with his breaking balls [earlier in the season]. He’s learned the back-and-forth game with his changeup, and that’s made his fastball better. He kind of saves his curveball for a finishing [pitch].”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MILWAUKEE — With his command issues worked out, Yovani Gallardo has looked more like a staff ace again over his last two starts. Fortunately for the Brewers, his abilities at the plate haven’t escaped him, either.
With the Brewers’ recent offensive struggles continuing on Sunday afternoon, Gallardo took things into his own hands.
Gallardo delivered his second straight strong start and scored the game’s first run, in the fifth inning, and the Brewers won, 2-0, over the Cubs to avoid the three-game sweep.
“It all starts with locating the fastball,” Gallardo said. “I was able to do that tonight and throw my offspeed for strikes, and everything worked out.”
In tossing seven scoreless innings, Gallardo (12-7) allowed just four hits and three walks while recording five strikeouts. He picked up his first win since Aug. 8, against the Astros, while not allowing a run for the first time since July 22 at Pittsburgh.
Leading off the bottom of the fifth, Gallardo doubled to the gap in right-center field, setting up the Brewers’ best scoring opportunity of the day. Two outs later, left fielder Ryan Braun delivered the run from second base with a double of his own.
Braun’s double snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak for the Brewers. In the eighth, third baseman Casey McGehee added an insurance run with a solo home run, his 21st of the season.
“Our pitchers have really been throwing the ball well for the last couple of weeks, so it’s nice to finally pick somebody up,” Braun said.
After being shut out in the first two games of the series by Cubs starters Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, the Brewers finished the series with just two runs, the first off Casey Coleman, the other off reliever Thomas Diamond.
Before the doubles by Gallardo and Braun, the Brewers had opportunities in the first, second and third innings but could not capitalize. Their biggest chance came in the first, with Corey Hart and Braun on first and third and only one out, but Prince Fielder grounded into an inning-ending double play.
In the second inning, Lorenzo Cain was stranded after a one-out single, and in the third, McGehee grounded into a fielder’s choice, stranding the bases loaded.
“It’s been interesting,” said manager Ken Macha, reverting to his favorite adjective. “Two runs. That’s a little like the San Diego series [from April 29 to May 2]. We scored two runs there and won one out of four. We got two runs here. We played three games, and somebody was shut out in every one of them.”
Coleman was nearly as impressive as Zambrano and Dempster, tossing six strong innings while allowing just the one run in the fifth on five hits with three strikeouts.
Gallardo’s outing was his second straight of seven innings or more and four hits or fewer. The last time he went seven innings without allowing a run was on June 24, when he tossed a five-hit shutout against the Twins.
The performance also was his best since coming off the disabled list on July 22 following an oblique strain, an injury he sustained on July 4. Though he admitted that his success begins with locating his fastball, it was his offspeed stuff made the difference.
“Gallardo’s tough. You have to give him his due,” said Cubs manager Mike Quade. “You don’t want to be behind on him — he’s got a devastating curveball. His breaking ball is very tough. He didn’t make many mistakes, and we didn’t have many opportunities to capitalize on them.”
Before his injury, Gallardo was 8-4 with a 2.58 ERA, allowing 32 earned runs in 111 2/3 innings pitched. Opponents were hitting just .224 against him, as he struck out 122 batters and allowed 48 walks.
In his first eight starts following the injury, he went 3-3 with a 7.23 ERA, allowing 34 earned runs over 42 1/3 innings. Opponents batted .314 with a .875 OPS against him over that stretch, though he recorded 49 strikeouts against just 17 walks.
In his last two starts, he has given up just two runs on eight hits and five walks over 14 innings, for a 1.29 ERA with 10 strikeouts.
According to Macha, though, the change has had more to do with location than any aftereffects of the oblique injury.
One thing that’s remained consistent throughout is Gallardo’s offensive prowess. Entering the game, he was batting .259 with four home runs and eight RBIs. He boosted that average to .268 with his double, one of his many big hits on the season.
“He’s been unbelievable. His whole time in the Major Leagues, he’s really swung the bat well,” Braun said. “I think he deserves the Silver Slugger this year for a pitcher. I’m serious.
“When you have him in the lineup, it’s like having an extra weapon. It’s like having a DH when you’re playing in an American League ballpark. He’s that good. He’s a tough out, he drives the ball and he has good at-bats.”
MILWAUKEE — As dominant as Jaime Garcia had been lately, the Cardinals’ prospects of winning the series against the Brewers certainly looked good heading into the finale.
Add his 2-1 record with a 1.08 ERA against the Brewers this season with just three earned runs allowed on 20 hits and it would seem everything was in place for St. Louis to head out of town on a winning note as they looked to stay in the National League playoff hunt.
Instead, Garcia delivered the worst starting performance of his career, as the Cardinals lost, 8-1, on Wednesday for a tough road series loss after taking the series opener on Monday.
With their lineup, the Brewers were bound to rough up Garcia eventually. But with the way the rookie left-hander had shut them down in four previous starts, it would have been hard to predict they’d hand him his worst outing of the season.
“Obviously, they have a great lineup and good team,” Garcia said. “It was just one of those days that I tried to do too much.
“It was just me not having confidence tonight and being lost out there.”
Entering the game, the Brewers had scored just seven runs — three earned — on 20 hits in 25 innings against Garcia with 22 strikeouts against 10 walks. They doubled their run total on Wednesday, putting up seven runs on seven hits in just four innings.
“Tonight might have been the result of being more aggressive,” said left fielder Ryan Braun, who drove in four of the Brewers’ eight runs. “When you’re aggressive and putting pressure on the other team, it seems to be advantageous.
“He didn’t make too many mistakes, but the ones he did make, we were able to take advantage of.”
A couple of those mistakes — two walks — played integral roles in the Brewers’ big innings.
With one out in the third inning, Garcia walked Rickie Weeks, who stole second base. One strikeout later, Garcia surrendered three straight hits, an RBI single by Ryan Braun, a Prince Fielder ground-rule double and a two-run single by Casey McGehee.
An inning later, it was much the same story.
After shortstop Alcides Escobar led off with a single, Weeks walked again, with two outs this time, to spark the Brewers. Right fielder Corey Hart followed with a single, scoring Escobar, and Braun blasted a three-run homer just over the wall in center field.
“That was completely, 100 percent my fault,” Garcia said of the home run. “[Pitching coach Dave] Duncan went out there and told me we need to do something with sinkers and I threw a changeup.
“That happens when you try to do something else.”
Garcia’s line marked a career-worst outing for the rookie. Garcia had surrendered as many as eight runs in a game on Aug. 3, but only four were earned. His previous high in earned runs allowed was five.
“I think he was just in the middle of the plate,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “He had good stuff through a lot of it, but if you look at the pitches that they hurt him on for runs, he just got the ball in the middle.
“That’s something he hasn’t done very often. It was one of those nights.”
The disappointing outing by Garcia only added to what has been a rough start to a crucial road trip for the Cardinals.
With the Reds losing to the Rockies on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Cardinals could potentially have gained two games in the division race with wins. Instead, they remain six games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central with 25 to play.
All eight of the Brewers’ runs on Wednesday and 16 of their 18 runs in the series scored with two outs. For Garcia, shutting down opposing hitters with two outs had been a strength before Wednesday’s rough outing.
“That’s been one of his real keys, he’s been really good putting hitters away,” La Russa said. “Mistakes with men in scoring position, you’ll get burnt.”
Garcia certainly deserved some blame for Wednesday’s loss, but his counterpart kept the Cardinals’ offense quiet for the second straight night. Left-hander Chris Capuano tossed seven strong innings, giving up just one run on four hits while not allowing a walk. Capuano (3-3) also struck out two batters.
The Cardinals’ only run on the night came from Albert Pujols, who went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and a double. Colby Rasmus and rookie Matt Pagnozzi were the only other Cardinals to reach safely against Capuano, with Pagnozzi picking up his first career hit.
It was yet another poor offensive night for the Cardinals against a soft-tossing lefty, which is starting to become a troubling theme.
“I think there’s something there,” La Russa said. “We’ve got better hitters against left-handed pitching than we’ve done here in the last couple weeks. Prior to this, we were getting our wins against left-handers, but we’re getting shut down pretty regularly now, so we’ve got to do something about it.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Following last night’s thriller, which featured career save No. 600 for Trevor Hoffman, we had a sidebar on his Brewers teammates’ reactions to the moment.
While that story captured the emotions and feelings in the clubhouse, there was far too much to fit in after the game. With a guy like Hoffman who’s frequently described as the “best teammate,” there was hardly of lack of things to say in the home clubhouse.
Braun: “Like we were going to the playoffs”
According to left fielder Ryan Braun, the emotion following the final out of the game was far greater than the meaningless early September game that it starter out as.
“It felt like we were going to the playoffs,” he said. “It was exciting. I think it was exciting for all of us to have something to celebrate, for all of us to have been a part of something so special. That’s something that we might not ever see again. Who knows if anybody else ever gets to 600 saves.”
Coffey: “I was 100 percent spectator”
Perhaps most excited about the achievement — more so even than Hoffman himself — were Hoffman’s bullpen mates.
Reliever Todd Coffey described his feelings as “beyond goosebumps” as he become more of a spectator than a teammate. After that, he went on for a few minutes about the emotions he felt both when Hoffman entered the game and recorded his 600th save.
“As soon as he walked out of the bullpen, the entire bullpen was up and I think we were all clapping louder than the fans, we were hollering louder than the fans,” Coffey said. “I don’t think any of us actually realized we were in the bullpen. We were all out there with Hoffy.
“We were hanging over, we even thought about, ‘let’s just jump the wall and go. Then we thought, ‘we better not jump the wall.’
“I think me, Zach [Braddock] and Kam[eron Loe] all hit the pile at the same time. I think I felt the whole pile moving when we hit it. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget. He’s always there for every one of us. For us to be there for him, it’s amazing. He cares less about himself and more about his teammates than anything else.”
Davis: “Just incredible”
Others had less to say, but their thoughts were no less insightful.
Veteran left-handed starter Doug Davis recalled being part of a similar moment early in his career.
“Definitely the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Davis said. “My first win was John Wetteland’s 300th save. I thought that was impressive, but this, twice as many saves, it’s just incredible.”
Bush: “An amazing number”
Another Brewers starter, right-hander Dave Bush, took particular notice of the number of people in the dugout during that final inning, as everyone wanted the best view they could get of Hoffman’s historic save.
“It’s an amazing number, one that nobody’s ever gotten to before,” Bush said. “I can’t even fathom at all what it takes to reach that.
“It was exciting. Probably the most people I’ve ever seen in the dugout in the ninth inning. Everybody was coming down here because they wanted to be as close to it as they could. As a player, moments like that are few and far between. To be his teammate and to be around for something like is just awesome.”
Lucroy: “I’m totally lucky and blessed”
After beginning the season at Double-A Huntsville, catcher Jonathan Lucroy called the game Tuesday night, including Hoffman’s thrilling ninth.
As he waited on the mound for the all-time saves leader, with “Hell’s Bells” blaring from the stadium speakers, Lucroy said he had goosebumps and began to shake from the nerves.
He stayed relaxed behind the plate, though, and didn’t change a thing. Until the final out as he ran down toward first base.
“It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and cherish,” Lucroy said. “To be able to remember something like that, it’s a blessing for me to even be able to experience it.
“To see him achieve a goal like that is just something that every baseball player lives for. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. He totally deserves it. It’s an honor for me to even be here and just experience it.
“I was jacked up and excited. I told myself I was going to sacrifice my life to get an out for him if I needed to. I was going to go everything I could to get an out, no matter what I had to do, I was going to sacrifice everything for him.
“For somebody like that, to put in the kind of work he has, to play for as long as he has, and have the kind of character that he has, and for something like that to happen to him, and for me to even be there and be a part of it, it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“I was the first one [to the mound]. Usually I run down to first base and back up on ground balls, but I cut it off halfway. I was going to go get there first as fast as I could. I grabbed him and he grabbed me in a headlock and then everybody else hit and we went at it.
“It’s not very often you see grown men crying out there and there were grown men crying on the field. It was very emotional, I was trying to hold back as best I could. It’s just the payoff for so much hard work and just shows you that if you work hard and be a good person in this game there’s a lot of good things that happen to you.
“I’m totally lucky and blessed to even be here. To experience that, I don’t even deserve that. I don’t even deserve to be on the same field as that guy.”
Axford: “My heart was racing the entire time”
Of course, no story about Hoffman’s historic accomplishment would be complete without some mention of his replacement, rookie John Axford.
As has been the case all season, Axford had nothing but positive things to say about his mentor in the Brewers bullpen.
“He’s meant everything to my development because he carries about his business perfectly. He does everything right,” Axford said. “That’s been the best mentor for me. I just try to watch him and see what he does and see how I can build upon that. Every time I go out there I just try and do right by Trevor. I just want to do basically what Trevor would do and do things the right way.
“My heart was racing the entire time once the ‘Hell’s Bells’ started. My heart was going and it didn’t stop the entire time until we’re actually here right now and I’m still talking a mile a minute. I still feel the emotion and the rush from it. I think it was absolutely unbelievable.”
“It’s a cool kind of turn around. At the beginning of the year, I got my first save and Hoffy went in and got a hold for me. Now I got to go in and save that game for him, which is probably going to be the best hold of my entire life right there. I’m definitely glad I was in that game for sure.”
McGehee: “The ultimate professional”
Third baseman Casey McGehee admitted he was nervous when Hoffman entered the game. In fact, he was just hoping the ball wasn’t hit to him.
Once the final out had been recorded, however, McGehee was thrilled to be a part of such a big moment and to have played with someone who is the all-time leader in any category.
“I think the reaction of all the guys kind of let everybody see how important to this team and to us he is,” McGehee said. “You couldn’t have asked for it to happen to a better guy. He’s the ultimate professional with everything he does.
“There’s not too many people you played with that you can say you played with the all-time best anything. When my career is over and I’m sitting around telling stories at a bar somewhere, that’s going to be one of the ones I tell.
“You can’t block that out, we all knew what was going on. Most of us, we’re huge fans of the game. Coming up, we remember watching Trevor Hoffman when he was in his prime and he was virtually unhittable. To be any small part of it, it’s pretty special.
“Some of these guys that got called up today, first day in the big leagues, not a bad way to start your big league career.”
Fielder: “Happy to be a part of it”
The final out was recorded by Prince Fielder, as veteran shortstop Craig Counsell fielded a ground ball and fired to Fielder at first.
As Fielder closed his first-baseman’s mitt on the ball, he joined McGehee and Lucroy as the first three players to embrace Hoffman on the mound.
“It was awesome,” Fielder said. “Coming into this year, you knew he was close to getting it. Everything he had to go through to get to it and he finally got it, I’m really happy for him. It’s really awesome.
“It [ranks] up there just because it’s your teammate and it’s a really special moment and something that nobody else has ever done. That’s what makes it even more special and I’m just really happy to be a part of it.
Narveson: “Pretty amazing”
But none of it would have been possible had it not been for an impressive seven-inning performance by lefty starter Chris Narveson.
His brilliance on the mound was lost in the shuffle, but everything was set up by one of Narveson’s best starts of the 2010 season.
“That was pretty amazing,” Narveson said. “To be able to witness it and be the guy that started that game, was pretty special.”
MILWAUKEE — Judging by their reaction after the final out in Tuesday night’s 4-2 victory over the Cardinals, you might think the Brewers had just won the World Series.
While that may not have been the case, what they experienced certainly ranks up there pretty close. As shortstop Craig Counsell fired to Prince Fielder at first, all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman recorded career save No. 600.
“To have that final out hit to Milwaukee’s own, sure-handed Craig Counsell, that was rather fitting,” said Hoffman.
As Fielder caught the feed from Counsell, the Brewers mobbed Hoffman on the mound.
“To be a part of it was great because of how much admiration we all have for Trevor,” Counsell said. “That’s what makes it special. Hopefully, that came out [in the celebration]. The way he does his job is the way we all try to do ours.”
For rookie John Axford, the moment presented a fitting role reversal.
When Axford entered with one out in the eighth, he appeared to be in line for the five-out save and his 21st of the season. Instead, the historic moment finally arrived for Hoffman.
“We all understood that this was a moment for him,” Axford said. “I was just hoping inside that he was going to go out there. I know he deserves it and I knew he could get it done.”
After the emotional on-field ceremony that ensued, Axford was reminded by teammate Zach Braddock of an interesting relationship between Hoffman’s save No. 600 and the first of the 2010 season for Axford.
On May 23 at Target Field, after Hoffman had surrendered the closer’s duties, he delivered a scoreless eighth for a hold with the Brewers leading, 4-2, over the Twins. Three months later, it was Axford who delivered the hold in front of Hoffman.
“I felt like I had a big stake in it, too,” Axford said. “It really is unbelievable. It’s probably the best hold I’ll ever have in my entire life right there.”
Not only was it likely the most memorable hold of Axford’s career, it was also the most exciting win to date for Brewers starter Chris Narveson.
“You can’t beat starting a game with Hoffy coming in and getting 600,” Narveson said. “That will be one of the best games I’ll ever be a part of.”
When Hoffman began to warm in the bullpen during the bottom of the eighth, fans and players alike began to take notice.
In the dugout, teammates were asking Axford if it would be him or Hoffman in the ninth. As the Miller Park speakers began to play “Hells Bells,” their questions were answered. With that, they became spectators along with everyone else in attendance.
“I had beyond goosebumps,” reliever Todd Coffey said. “I was completely removed from the bullpen and everything. I was 100 percent spectator at that point.”
For the players on the field, however, the moment was more nerve wracking than anything before Counsell and Fielder recorded the final out.
“The one thought that kept going through my mind was, ‘Don’t hit the ball to me,'” said third baseman Casey McGehee. “I think I probably was more nervous than he was.”
Once save No. 600 was in the books, celebration ensued. From all directions — the outfield, infield, dugout and bullpen — Brewers players and coaches sprinted to the mound.
First among them was rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who embraced Hoffman after playing an integral role in the historic moment.
“It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and cherish,” Lucroy said. “I got goosebumps standing on the mound waiting for him to get in there.
“I’ll never forget it the rest of my life.”
MILWAUKEE — When the night began, Tuesday’s game meant far more to the Cardinals than the Brewers. That all changed when Trevor Hoffman entered in the ninth.
With a two-run lead, the Brewers called Hoffman’s number, setting him up for career save No. 600. Hoffman delivered as he pitched a scoreless ninth in the Brewers’ 4-2 victory over the Cardinals at Miller Park.
Before Hoffman’s historic 600th save, the game was highlighted by a number of unusual happenings on the field.
Brewers manager Ken Macha was tossed by second-base umpire Tim Timmons, and Brewers center fielder Chris Dickerson, Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan and then a male fan sitting in the stands near home plate were all ejected by home-plate umpire Bob Davidson.
“It was an interesting evening,” Macha said. “One coach, one manager, one player and one fan. Everybody got thrown out.”
The flurry of ejections began in the bottom of the second inning, when Timmons called interference on Brewers runner Craig Counsell for leaving the baseline in an attempt to break up Chris Narveson’s double play. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who initially appeared to score on the play for a 3-0 Brewers lead, was ordered back to third base while Macha rushed out to argue.
That call was crucial until the fifth inning, when McGehee’s two-run single off St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse (2-7) snapped a tie and gave the Brewers a 4-2 lead. McGehee also hit an RBI double in Milwaukee’s two-run first inning, and he claimed the club lead with 90 RBIs.
“We scored all our runs with two outs,” Macha said. “That’s what the bugaboo’s been. The other team scoring two-out runs. Tonight, that was ours on all four runs.”
That cushion was enough for Narveson (11-7), who matched a season-high with nine strikeouts and limited St. Louis to two runs on four hits in seven sharp innings. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, when the Cardinals strung together four in a row, including RBI singles by Yadier Molina and Colby Rasmus.
Narveson watched a 1-0 lead slip away from the bullpen in the seventh inning of his previous start in Cincinnati, so this time he handled the inning himself. Narveson retired nine of the final 10 men he faced, and erased the exception — Matt Holliday, who walked leading off the sixth inning — on a strikeout-throwout double play.
He set down the final five Cardinals hitters he faced in order, including three strikeouts.
“I felt like I had all my pitches working and was able to execute when I needed to,” Narveson said. “I kept them off-balance. The knocks that they had, they did some good pieces of hitting. It’s going to happen at some point during the game.”
The 33,149 fans in the stands — or at least the 33,148 who avoided Davidson’s ire — might remember the flurry of ejections as much as McGehee’s clutch hit or Narveson’s mound gem.
One inning after Macha was tossed by Timmons after the call at second base, Cardinals pitching coach Duncan was ejected in the bottom of the third inning for arguing balls and strikes for Lohse, who was charged with four runs on seven hits in five innings.
Dickerson was ejected after striking out for the third time to end the fifth inning. Dickerson, who was upset in the first inning after his apparent ball four turned into a check-swing strike, took issue with Davidson’s called strike 3 to end the fifth and slammed his helmet.
Two innings later, Davidson turned his attention to a male fan sitting in one of the front rows behind home plate. Davidson alerted security officials to the man, who was removed.
“It was kind of a crazy game,” said left fielder Ryan Braun. “A lot of action and a lot of action early. I don’t really know what was going on, but I’m happy we won and I’m thrilled for Trevor.”