The Milwaukee Brewers’ 34th come-from-behind victory in 2023 might also wind up being one of their most memorable when all is said and done.
“It was a crazy game,” conceded manager Craig Counsell after having just watched his team rally for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-5, at American Family Field on Friday night.
The Brewers fell behind one batter into the game, took a two-run lead in the fourth and then saw the bullpen blow it in the top of the eighth before the offense utilized a patient, fundamental approach at the plate – and some major good fortune – to tilt the momentum back in Milwaukee’s favor in the bottom of the inning.
“That felt like playoff baseball right there,” said Owen Miller, whose at-bat off the bench against Jeff Hoffman ended up being the most important of the game.
“September is where everyone gets excited,” added Tyrone Taylor, who also came off the bench in the eighth and factored into the rally. “As a player I try to treat every game as if it’s the same. We want to win every game. But at the same time we know that this is what it all comes down to. At the end of the day, this is where you find out whether you’re going to be in the playoffs or not.
“We’re going to continue to show up one game at a time, try to be our best selves and see what happens.”
The craziness unfolding late was made even more entertaining by the fact that right around the same time in Cincinnati the Reds were completing a comeback of their own that they’d ultimately win in walk-off fashion, 3-2, over the Chicago Cubs in the nightcap of the teams’ doubleheader.
The Cubs won the opener. So if the Brewers had lost and the Cubs had swept, they’d have seen what was a three-game lead in the National League Central standings trimmed to 1 ½ games by night’s end.
Instead, Milwaukee gained a half-game and at 75-59 is 3 ½ games in front of Chicago.
“We haven’t had one like that,” Counsell said. “But there’s going to be different ways to win games. It’s not always the same. Tonight we did it a little differently, but it’s a win.”
The Brewers have taken 10 of 13 – with all three losses in that stretch coming by a single run – and can clinch the tiebreaker over the Phillies (who are in the top wild-card spot at 74-60) with a victory either Saturday or Sunday.
Here are three takeaways from the victory.
Tyrone Taylor, Owen Miller deliver in crunch time
Good teams get contributions in big moments from unexpected players, and such was the case for the Brewers in the eighth.
After having had the air sucked out of the ballpark when the Phillies scored four times in the top of the frame, Milwaukee’s offense came right back against a pair of tough relievers in José Alvarado and Jeff Hoffman.
Rookie Andruw Monasterio started things off with a single against the hard-throwing lefty Alvarado. After a groundout by Christian Yelich, Willliam Contreras singled and Carlos Santana walked to load the bases.
That brought Taylor to the plate as a pinch-hitter for Sal Frelick, with Counsell going for the lefty-righty matchup.
Taylor fell behind in the count, 1-2, before battling back to draw a walk that made it a 5-4 game.
“I think I did a good job of slowing things down before I got up to the plate,” Taylor said. “I was focusing on my breathing. I just felt confident there. He’s a really good pitcher and the first strike he threw me was a sinker and it felt like it went from one side of the plate to the other, dotted, and I was like, ‘Oh, dang, that’s a pretty good pitch.’
“It was a good battle, but I was able to help the team.”
Alvarado exited at that point for the right-handed Hoffman, who fanned Willy Adames to get to within one out of emerging with the lead.
That brought Miller to the plate, and playing in his first game for the Brewers since July 31 he worked a five-pitch at-bat from Hoffman that he capped with a ground ball to third base.
Most everyone expected Alec Bohm to field the ball, run over and step on third and end the inning. Instead, the ball trickled under his glove as he attempted the back hand and rolled slowly down the left-field line as Contreras and Santana scored to give the Brewers a 6-5 lead.
“With the bases loaded right there I knew he was probably to come at me right there, didn’t want to walk me,” Miller said. “It was 2-2, he threw a slider and I was glad to put the bat on it and just put a little pressure on them.
“I didn’t know if he was maybe going to go to third with it or maybe go to first, but once I heard the crowd get kind of loud there I figured that it got by him.”
The play was then capped by Taylor scoring all the way from first, diving in head-first and touching the plate with his left hand just ahead of the tag attempt to give the Brewers a valuable insurance run.
“My first job there was just trying to get to second base and beat a throw there,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t even aware it got past him until I got to second base. Then when I saw that I was like, ‘Keep running, and if (third-base coach Jason) Lane sends me, then go.
“He did, and I’m thankful I got in there.”
Devin Williams made his second chance count
The Brewers held a 3-1 lead going to the eighth when things began spiraling.
The Phillies used a leadoff walk and then a pair of singles to pull to within 3-2 against Joel Payamps, who recovered to retire the next two batters before Counsell turned to closer Devin Williams for his first four-out save opportunity since May 28.
“That’s what it called for,” Williams said.
It didn’t go well, as Trea Turner hit the third pitch he saw from Williams – a hung changeup – over the wall in left to give Philadelphia the 5-3 lead and Williams his fourth blown save.
“It was a little rushed getting ready, but other than that it was fine,” said Williams, who finished the inning off a batter later by getting Bryce Harper to tap out.
Williams then – happily – sat through the long bottom of the eighth. Trevor Megill was also warming up, but Counsell went back to his closer.
“If there was another pitching change by them or the inning kept going then we were going to probably pull the plug on it,” Counsell said.
Williams responded with a no-drama ninth, getting a strikeout, flyout and then groundout from Bohm to end it and improve his record to 8-3.
“It’s nice when the offense can pick us up and give me another chance to take it home,” said Williams. “They gave me a two-run lead to work with. With no one on base, I’m going right at guys.”
Williams wasn’t surprised with how the Brewers were able to pull victory from the jaws of defeat.
“We’re a resilient group,” said Williams. “It’s not over until you make the last out. Just keep fighting, make the other team work and we were able to take advantage of some mistakes.”
Brewers starter Freddy Peralta would have won for the sixth consecutive time were it not for Turner’s homer.
As it was, the right-hander settled for his 14th quality start after allowing two hits, a run and no walks with 10 strikeouts over his six-inning, 94-pitch outing.
Peralta allowed a leadoff homer to Kyle Schwarber and then only a single the rest of the way in retiring 18 of the final 19 batters he faced to continue his recent run of domination.
Over his last seven starts, Peralta has posted a 1.71 earned run average and WHIP of 0.79 with 69 strikeouts while limiting opposing batters to a collective .158 average.
“He was so, so good,” Counsell said. “He just got in a rhythm, and it was like, an effortless rhythm. A lot of execution. The fastball was really good. Everything was working and that made it really tough on them.
“Excellent, excellent effort.”
Pitching against another dominant righty in Zack Wheeler, Peralta generated 17 whiffs with mostly four-seamers (54%) and changeups (21%) as the Brewers improved to 16-10 in his starts.
“One hundred percent locked in with those guys,” Peralta said. “Knowing how important the situation is and knowing how important winning games is right now. The Phillies were coming in hot and they’ve been playing pretty good.
“I had all my stuff working. I had my plan for tonight. Schwarber was able to do what he had to do, but (after that) I wasn’t thinking about it because he was the first hitter of the game and I was just trying to move forward and execute.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Brewers rally beats Philadelphia Phillies 7-5