Blazek escapes trouble of his own making

Brewers reliever makes error in eighth, but works way out of jam

Blazek escapes trouble of his own making

MILWAUKEE -- For a moment, Michael Blazek was furious. The Brewers reliever still has the tan to show for all those mornings of Spring Training pitchers' fielding practice, and yet he had just botched a comebacker in a one-run game, giving the Astros a pair of at-bats with the go-ahead runner on base in Sunday's series finale at Miller Park.

"You have to learn to get over it, forget about it and move on," Blazek said.

He did just that, stranding those runners on base with a critical assist from catcher Martin Maldonado and sending the Brewers to a 3-2 win sealed by a bullpen renovated by necessity after an injury-filled Spring Training.

Tyler Thornburg, Blazek and closer Jeremy Jeffress combined for three innings of hitless, scoreless relief. Those three pitchers are playing more prominent roles with left-hander Will Smith (knee) and right-hander Corey Knebel (oblique) enduring extended stints on the disabled list.

"I still think right now, anybody can go in any situation," Blazek said. "We've got guys down there capable of getting big outs when we need it. Whether it's the fifth inning, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth -- for me, I don't really look into much to where it is. I'm just kind of trying to prepare myself in the later innings."

Blazek made his own trouble in the eighth inning. After striking out Carlos Gomez to open the frame, he walked pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena. Speedy Astros leadoff man Jose Altuve followed with a comebacker right to Blazek, who threw the ball past shortstop Jonathan Villar and into center field.

"It just kind of sped up on me really quick there," Blazek said. "I caught it and I really wasn't anticipating catching it at first. When I caught it and I spun around, I was trying to lead Villar to the bag, which you're not supposed to do that, you're supposed to throw to the base. Just a mistake that I made, but 'DJ' [pitching coach Derek Johnson] came out and kind of settled me down, told me not to beat myself up too much about it."

Jeffress has been there. Every relief pitcher has.

"It's tough, but the thing about it is you need to know that you're in control," Jeffress said. "The game doesn't move unless you throw the ball. Just settle down, take some breaths and get right back at it."

Blazek did so by retiring George Springer on a fly ball to center field, with Maldonado making a terrific, hockey goalie-style stop when outfielder Keon Broxton's throw sliced up the third-base line.

Blazek then retired Carlos Correa on a groundout to strand runners at second and third.

"It's definitely a confidence boost," Blazek said. "Hopefully you don't have to deal with that again."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for 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.