CINCINNATI -- The scowl on Jonathan Lucroy's face had been planted there since Friday night, when the Brewers catcher endured a rare three-strikeout game. Some players don't particularly mind walking back to the dugout with a bat in his hand. Lucroy is not a member of that camp.
"I care. I hate strikeouts. Hate," Lucroy said Saturday afternoon, and the scowl grew deeper after Lucroy struck out in the first inning Saturday night and appeared to do so again in the third. Then, the baseball gods offered a reprieve.
Home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott ruled a foul tip on what looked like Lucroy's two-strike swing-and-miss on a pitch in the dirt, to the dismay of Reds manager Bryan Price. Lucroy turned the extended at-bat into something positive, smacking the very next John Lamb pitch for a two-run home run that highlighted a five-run inning and a 9-1 win at Great American Ball Park.
Afterward, Lucroy admitted he swung and missed. But he offered a good explanation.
"Going back and looking at it, I actually hit the plate, and that's what he heard and that's what I felt. That's why I didn't walk back to the dugout," Lucroy said. "It was the very tip of my bat. There was actually a black mark on the plate. We got 100-percent confirmation that's what happened. It was an honest mistake.
"I don't blame [Price for being upset] at all. It's one of those things, obviously, it wasn't on purpose. I really thought I foul-tipped it, and [Wolcott] thought I did, too."
Of following that lucky break with a home run, Lucroy said, "It's one of those crazy things that happens during a game."
Lucroy's 12th home run sent the Brewers toward a big inning. The next three batters reached in chasing Lamb along with Price, who was ejected during the pitching change. Jimmy Nelson delivered a "slash" single for two more runs, and Jonathan Villar added an RBI single to extend Milwaukee's lead to 9-0.
It was the team's highest run total since May 27 at Miller Park, when it also beat Lamb.
"As we have been taught as players, just continue to move forward, turn the page and make a pitch and hope good things happen," Lamb said of the missed call. "I left the ball up a little bit and he hit it out of the ballpark."
Perhaps it was just the thing Lucroy needed to lighten his mood. His three strikeouts on Friday were his most in a game since last August, and he delicately termed his state of mind as "a little mad."
"Strikeouts are brutal," Lucroy had said earlier Saturday. "I've been trying my best to be in control, but sometimes I over-swing a little bit and try to do too much. That's a byproduct of being competitive and aggressive. When you're overaggressive, you do too much."
He's not alone. The Brewers struck out 11 more times on Saturday to drive their total for the season to a Major League-worse 855. They are on pace to break the all-time record for strikeouts set by the 2014 Astros, who whiffed 1,535 times.
The fact Saturday's swings-and-misses accompanied a nine-run outburst helped ease Lucroy's recent frustration.