Murphy’s Law struck Friday night at Miller Park.
Dog-tired after their cross-country, overnight flight from the West Coast that didn’t get them back home until 5:30 a.m., the absolute last thing the Milwaukee Brewers needed was to kick off their home stand with a marathon, extra-innings game.
Yet that’s exactly what happened, as they went 14 innings with the Colorado Rockies before Prince Fielder’s massive two-run homer to right sent both the Brewers and the crowd of 33,361 home happy with a hard-fought 7-6 win.
“I think we got down obviously a couple of times there and came through with big hits, there’s still energy in the dugout,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “Tough day coming back, tough travel coming back. It’s a great way to end a long day.”
It was Milwaukee’s fifth extra-inning game of the season but its first since April 27. The Brewers are now 2-3 in such contests.
Milwaukee’s bullpen did yeoman’s work in relief of starter Zack Greinke, who lasted six innings in his fourth start of the season.
Four relievers combined to toss six innings of scoreless ball before the Rockies got to Sergio Mitre in the top of the 13th inning. Seth Smith tripling in Alfredo Amezaga to give Colorado a 5-4 lead.
“Bullpen did a real nice job, all of them,” Roenicke said. “Great job by those guys. If they keep throwing up zeroes, we’re going to score some.”
That lead didn’t hold up long, though, as Yuniesky Betancourt got to closer Huston Street to lead off the bottom of the inning. He drilled a 1-0 sinker into the seats in left to tie the game at 5-5.
As quickly as he became the hero, Betancourt looked to have turned into the goat. After Ty Wigginton led off with a single, the Brewers’ shortstop booted what looked to be a sure double-play ball on a Chris Iannetta grounder, leaving both runners safe.
A Dexter Fowler bloop single to left two batters later gave Colorado a 6-5 lead.
The Rockies sent Felipe Paulino out to pitch the bottom of the 14th, and after he got Corey Hart to ground out to start things off, he walked Ryan Braun, bringing up Fielder.
After one pickoff attempt of Braun, Fielder turned around a 96-mile-per-hour Paulino fastball and sent it deep into the seats in right, setting off a frenzied celebration for a team that’s struggled putting together any kind of consistent offense lately.
“It felt good,” Fielder said with a smile when asked how the ball felt coming off the bat.
It was the fourth walk-off homer of Fielder’s career.
The Brewers got runners on in the 10th and 11th innings, but lost out on what could have been a big scoring opportunity when Fowler made a diving catch of a sinking liner to right-center by Carlos Gomez.
Replays showed that the ball actually bounced before Fowler caught it. Rickie Weeks singled two batters later, but Hart grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
After being shut out in Friday’s 1-0 loss at San Diego, Milwaukee needed just three at-bats to get onto the board against Colorado.
Weeks led off with a double to short center field that dropped between three Rockies players, Hart bunted him over to third and then Weeks scored on a groundout to shortstop by Braun.
The lead held up until the top of the third when – of all people – Rockies starter Jason Hammel got to Greinke.
After Wigginton led off with a double to left, Hammel, who’s given the Brewers fits the last two seasons on the mound, sent a 1-1 fastball from Greinke into Milwaukee’s bullpen in left-center for his first career home run.
The Brewers tied it up in the bottom of the fourth thanks to some shaky defense by the Rockies.
Betancourt led off with an infield single when Jason Giambi couldn’t handle Troy Tulowitzki’s throw from shortstop and then moved to second on a fielder’s choice. Gomez followed with a squibber to third that Jose Lopez first bobbled and then threw away, allowing Betancourt to score to make it 2-2.
Colorado regained the lead in the top of the fifth, though, and extended it to 4-2 with another run in the sixth when Jason Giambi homered to left – his fourth in two days – on a 2-1 pitch from Greinke.
Greinke got out of the inning two batters later, but with his pitch count at 89 and the right-hander appearing to be tiring rapidly Roenicke ended his night. Greinke, who flew back early to rest for his start, allowed eight hits and four earned runs while not issuing a walk and striking out nine.
The Brewers got a run back in the bottom of the sixth after Gomez reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and then scored on a pinch-hit single to center by Jonthan Lucroy.
LaTroy Hawkins then pitched two scoreless innings of relief to set the stage for Casey McGehee, who homered to left-center on just the second pitch thrown by reliever Rafael Betancourt to knot the score at 4-4.