By Adam McCalvy and Brian McTaggart
MLB.com |@AdamMcCalvy |
MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun and Chris Carter each hit two-run home runs and Chase Anderson pitched five innings for a winning Brewers debut in a 6-4 victory over the Astros on Friday at Miller Park -- but all anyone was talking about afterward was the sudden finish.
For the second time in Major League Baseball's busy Opening Week, a game ended on the so-called Chase Utley Rule. Entering the top of the ninth down six, the Astros scored four runs and had runners at first and second with one out when Jose Altuve hit a grounder to the right side of the infield. Colby Rasmus slid into Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar on the force play, and second-base umpire Dan Bellino immediately signalled for a double play, ending the game.
"It was interpreted right, but the rule needs clarification because I think it's wrong," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Especially when you're asking athletes to compete at the highest level as fast as they can in last-minute decisions. It is a joke we lost the game based on that when there wasn't intent or contact. It was a baseball slide."
The Brewers did not disagree.
"It's not a way that you want to win a ballgame, but at the same time, we'll take it," said Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett, who knew the Brewers had no chance for a standard double play. "The new rule, it's going to take some time to let it sink in."
Gennett and Carter each went deep against Astros starter Scott Feldman in the Brewers' three-run first inning, and Domingo Santana added an RBI double in the second to stake Anderson to a quick 4-0 lead. The right-hander, acquired in a January trade with the D-backs, scattered four hits and struck out five batters without a walk in five scoreless innings before Brewers manager Craig Counsell made an early call to his well-stocked bullpen after 85 Anderson pitches.
Feldman was charged with four earned runs on five hits in four innings in the loss. He yielded to the Major League debut of reliever Chris Devenski, who surrendered only one hit and did not walk a batter while striking out four in three scoreless innings.
"They came out swinging and took advantage of some pitches I wish I could have back," Feldman said. "You know, you make mistakes in this league that's what's going to happen sometimes. Hopefully next time I'll be sharper with my command."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Slide run halts rally: The Astros fell victim to the new slide rule on Rasmus' slide in the ninth inning, ending a rally that would have George Springer at the plate representing the go-ahead run. Hinch didn't like how the new rule was interpreted, and Rasmus said there wasn't much else he could have done.
"Since I got into this game, we've been taught how to play and to me that was very mild of a slide, so it's kind of hard," Rasmus said. "It's so bang-bang. It's quick and it happens fast. Like I said, there wasn't nothing malicious about that slide. I just picked my leg up and went on past the bag a little bit there. It's crazy. They didn't even attempt to make a throw, and they can end the game on that. We've to start governing ourselves and learning how to deal with in." More >
Gomey being Gomey: Anderson pitched with a runner on base in four of his five innings including the fourth, when Gomez lined a two-out double. Each time, Anderson escaped, getting some help from Gomez in that fourth inning when the animated outfielder was picked off second base. The scoring on the play went 1-5-4-1-5-6-7, with Brewers left fielder Braun finally applying the tag.
"When I left Arizona I told myself, 'When the lights come up, I'm ready to go.'" Anderson said. "It was good to get the first one out of the way and get a win."
White sets record: Astros rookie first baseman Tyler White just keeps on hitting. White doubled and had an infield single in his first two at-bats on Friday, breaking Ken Caminiti's club record for most hits in an Astro's first four career games, set in 1987. Including his ninth-inning homer, White went 3-for-4 and is 9-for-13 for the season, officially setting the record at nine hits. More >
Big flies: Gennett took the team lead for homers when he swatted his second dinger of the season in the first inning, but he soon had company atop the Brewers' leaderboard. Carter followed three batters later with his second homer, a two-run shot that would have counted for more had Braun not been thrown out trying to steal third base moments earlier. Carter leads the Brewers with five RBIs in the early going.
Astros starters struggling: Since reigning Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel beat the Yankees on Opening Day, Astros starting pitchers have struggled. Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers and Feldman have gone a combined 9 1/3 innings and allowed 14 earned runs and 17 hits, with none of them pitching past the fifth inning.
"We have the rule and know the rule. I don't like it, especially when it's applied in a game-ending type situation. You fight and claw back into the game. You put context into that rule, and it's pretty painful. By the way it's written, by the letter of the law, by how it's going to be governed, it is what it is. It's a shame." -- Hinch, on the game-ending ruling
"It's a free out. Getting the lead runner was all we were really focused on. I was ready to face the next guy, and then I was watching the umpire and he said both were out. What a way to end it." -- Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress, who was awarded his second save
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Gennett isn't just hitting home runs, he's walking at a rate well above his career norm. His walk in the eighth inning gave Gennett four walks in as many games this season, matching his total from his first 34 games in 2015, when he didn't draw free pass No. 4 until June 24.
"We've seen a lot of those at-bats already from Scooter," Counsell said. "It's a little thing. It's the walk; I'm not talking about the home run. It's a hopeful sign of Scooter's development as an offensive player."
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Veteran right-hander Doug Fister will be making his first start for the Astros when they face the Brewers at 6:10 p.m. CT Saturday at Miller Park. He spent the last two seasons with the Nationals and has posted a 3.42 ERA over the past five seasons with Washington, Detroit and Seattle.
Brewers: After a shaky performance on Opening Day, Wily Peralta said he was eager for a more routine workday on Saturday, when he faces old friend Carlos Gomez and the Astros. Peralta was charged with five runs (four earned) on six hits in four innings against the Giants on Opening Day, but he said he has not felt this strong on the mound in a year and a half.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.