Junior Guerra, Brewers unable to score sweep of Giants
SAN FRANCISCO — After winning three straight games at AT&T Park, then taking a quick lead in Sunday’s series finale, you couldn’t blame Ryan Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers for getting greedy.
“When we went up in the first inning,” said Braun, whose two-run home run provided that early edge, “certainly you’re thinking about making it a sweep.”
Instead, Junior Guerra lost the strike zone and it burned him, Matt Albers yielded three runs in his first game off the disabled list, and the Brewers, despite getting two more hits from Christian Yelich and home runs from Braun, Hernan Perez and Travis Shaw, lost 8-5 to the San Francisco Giants.
Next up, another tough four-game road series against the Los Angeles Dodgers that will carry the Brewers past Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
“We’re well aware of where we’re at in our schedule and how challenging it’s been — we were going through a bit of a rut,” Braun told MLB.com. “So it’s good to come out and get (the road trip) off to a good start. We’ve got our hands full in L.A. — it’s a really good team.”
Asked about Tuesday’s 3 p.m. deadline, Braun said, “Of course it’s on our radar. We know they’re doing everything in their power to put together the best team possible. I’m sure they’re trying, but obviously it has to make sense.”
A starting pitcher was on general manager David Stearns’ wish list before Guerra took the mound Sunday. He faced the minimum before walking eight-hole hitter Gorkys Hernandez in the third to begin his downfall.
Guerra then walked opposing pitcher Andrew Suarez on four pitches and Andrew McCutchen on five before Buster Posey ripped a double to the left-center-field gap for a 3-2 Giants lead in a four-run inning.
“I felt good out there. I felt like I could go all nine, easily,” Guerra said. “Those walks that inning, everything turned around. I couldn’t get ahead of guys, I couldn’t throw the first pitch for strikes and the third inning just went upside down.”
How does he explain it?
“You can’t really explain it,” Guerra said. “It just happens out of nowhere, and so quick.”
San Francisco had been held to two or fewer runs in 11 of its 22 games in July.
Hernandez hit his 12th home run and scored twice, Brandon Crawford had two hits and Evan Longoria had a sacrifice fly, his first RBI since spending more than a month on the disabled list.
The Giants had lost four straight and six of seven before winning on a day when they didn’t have manager Bruce Bochy. Bochy left the team late Friday to attend the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York, leaving bench coach Hensley Meulens as interim manager.
“That was what we were hoping for yesterday when we shuffled things around a little bit,” Meulens said. “It was really nice to see these guys put some runs on the board so we could break that spell.”
Suarez (4-6) allowed four runs in six innings for his first victory since June 29.
The Giants extended their lead to 5-2 against Guerra and then 8-3 against Albers.
Despite the loss, the Brewers headed off for Los Angeles after winning a series in San Francisco for the first time since 2010.
The Brewers (61-47) fell 1½ games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central Division after the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-2.
“In advance (of the series), three out of four on the road is good, for sure,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We got out to an early lead today, and the Junior inning was just a weird inning. But they capitalized on it.
“We get a double play in that situation and it’s a different game. But they capitalized on his wildness there in the third inning, and that’s what a guy like Buster Posey does to you.”
The Brewers will face more hitters the likes of Posey ahead. Manny Machado will be making his Dodger Stadium debut tonight, and after four games there the Brewers return home to host National League MVP contender Nolan Arenado and the Rockies.
“We know this is an important stretch for us,” Braun said. “It’s important we play good baseball, because if we don’t, we’re not going to beat good teams.”
It was 5-3 Giants entering the bottom of the fifth, when Albers returned from a shoulder injury to make his first appearance since June 11.
A single and a one-out walk preceded Pablo Sandoval’s two-run triple after he fouled off a trio of two-strike pitches and worked a count that began 0-2 to 3-2. Sandoval then scored on another sacrifice fly before leaving the game with a right hamstring strain.
The three-run rally wound up deciding the game.
“Overall, I take the positives out of that,” Albers said. “I got hot quick, felt good coming out. The execution just wasn’t quite there. They put together a couple good at-bats right there.”
The Brewers’ best chance to answer Posey’s clutch hit came in the fourth inning after singles by Mike Moustakas and Perez against Suarez in a 4-2 game.
Manny Pina was next and hit a hard grounder right to Longoria, who stepped on the bag at third base and threw across the diamond for an inning-ending double play.
All-Star first baseman Jesus Aguilar has six hits in his past 47 at-bats (.128) after an 0-for-4 that included a highlight play in the seventh.
With Yelich at first after his second infield hit of the afternoon, Sandoval’s replacement, Austin Slater, reached over the rail of the Brewers’ dugout to catch Aguilar’s foul popup, then threw to pitcher Sam Dyson in an effort to double-up Yelich. The initial call was safe, but the Giants challenged and it was overturned for an inning-ending double play.
Counsell said Aguilar is due for a day off during the Dodgers series.
“He didn’t have many hits the last couple days, but we’re setting the bar pretty high here,” Counsell said. “I think this is a baseball season. This is what you get.”
Giants officials are awaiting results after right-hander Johnny Cueto met with doctors regarding his sore elbow. Cueto is winless in four starts since coming off a two-month stay on the disabled list. ... Right-hander Hunter Strickland (fractured right hand) threw off a mound in the bullpen before the game.
Brewers right-hander Freddy Peralta (4-2, 3.74 ERA) makes his second start since getting called up from the minors when Milwaukee begins its four-game series against the Dodgers today in Los Angeles. Peralta is holding opponents to a .150 batting average.