Brewers bullpen falters again in walk-off loss

Brewers bullpen falters again in walk-off loss

Brewers bullpen falters again in walk-off loss
KANSAS CITY -- It was lights-out last season when the Brewers led late, but this year is different, and this week has reinforced that.

After Francisco Rodriguez faltered on Tuesday, it was John Axford's turn on Wednesday night, as the Brewers closer let a two-run lead slip away in what became an 11-inning, 4-3 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Jose Veras' bases-loaded walk of Mike Moustakas in the bottom of the 11th snapped the Brewers' 69-game streak of winning when they carried a lead into the eighth inning, a run that dated all the way back to last July 4. If Tuesday's 2-1 loss hung on the offense, as manager Ron Roenicke argued, this one was on the bullpen.

"Somebody out there needs to step up and start throwing the ball," said Roenicke, in the most-animated postgame news conference of his term as Brewers manager. "Nobody down there is throwing the way they should be throwing.

"You have to take it to the other team for things to go your way. What we're doing now, nothing's going to go our way, the way we're playing. That's a bad ballgame to lose right there."

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Axford could have won it in the ninth inning, pitching with a lead that had grown to 3-1 after a Royals error in the top half, but his fastball would not cooperate. It cut and it ran, two things it did not do during a streak of 49 consecutive saves that ended in May.

That movement led Axford to walk Eric Hosmer with one out and Moustakas with two outs to bring up former Brewer Alcides Escobar, who tripled, tying the score at 3-3.

The Royals then won it in the 11th. Brewers right-hander Kameron Loe loaded the bases on two hits and a walk without recording an out. That brought in another righty, Veras, who walked Moustakas on five pitches.

"I was just looking for something I could put out in the air and he ended up not giving me anything too good to hit," Moustakas said. "So, I'll take the walk."

Veras has walked home a run in two straight outings, but he was not the only one fuming. Axford on Wednesday night used the same word that Rodriguez uttered Tuesday to describe his recent performance: "Embarrassing."

"It stinks right now that it's June and this is happening instead of maybe April, because we're still in the thick of things," Axford said. "We can string together some wins and get back into contention here in the [National League] Central. Right now, in all honesty, it's kind of embarrassing on my part because I don't know what's going on. I know I'm better than this."

The bullpen's bright spots on Wednesday were Rodriguez, who bounced back with a scoreless eighth inning, and left-hander Manny Parra, who threw seven of nine pitches for strikes in a perfect 10th.

But the Royals had two right-handed batters due in the 11th, part of the reason Roencike went to Loe.

"You've got Kameron Loe and you've got Veras down there," Roenicke said. "You shouldn't have to put Manny back in the ballgame. He did his job."

The Royals' comeback erased earlier work by left fielder Ryan Braun, who helped save a run in the sixth inning with a strong throw and drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh with a single. And for the second straight start, a Randy Wolf win was lost in the bullpen.

Wolf was sharp over seven innings, allowing one Royals run on six hits. He exited with a 2-1 lead.

"The bad thing is when something like that happens, it means somebody after me feels even worse than I do," Wolf said. "So it's not all about me. When something like that happens, it's not only me that feels kicked in the gut. It's a collective kick in the gut."

Roenicke tried to generate some offense for Wolf with another lineup shuffle, moving Corey Hart back to a run-producing role hitting fifth, but did not exactly witness an offensive breakout. The Brewers were 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13.

Two of those three hits came in the third, when the Brewers tied the game at 1-1 against Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez with four singles, none of which left the infield and two of which were bunts. The other clutch hit was Braun's single in the seventh.

"We had some chances to get more runs, we did," Roenicke said. "It's just the same thing. Yeah, we could bust open some games. We have chances to do that. Somebody needs to come through with some big hits more often. We do it once in a while.

"There's games where we play good games, but we're not finishing people like we should finish them."

The Brewers did play sharp defense.

Billy Butler drove in the Royals' run in the first inning and was in the middle of the action again in the sixth, when he singled in a 1-1 game.

With two outs, Jeff Francoeur doubled over Braun's head. Braun played the carom and threw to shortstop Edwin Maysonet, who relayed home to catcher George Kottaras in plenty of time for the inning-ending out.

The Maysonet-Braun duo put the Brewers ahead in the next inning. Maysonet singled off Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera to open the seventh, took second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Braun's single up the middle.

The lead wouldn't last.

"I don't see guys on this team backing down or giving up or feeling sorry for themselves," Wolf said. "Everybody, from time to time, is going to struggle, and you have to have some empathy for the guys that do."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.