The pitch, reliever Andrew Chafin said later, went right where he wanted it, a fastball down and away to Milwaukee Brewers slugger Mike Moustakas. Too bad for the Diamondbacks the ball didn’t end up where Chafin wanted.
Moustakas blasted a go-ahead, three-run home run off Chafin in the eighth inning, a crippling shot that sent the Diamondbacks to an 8-3 loss, one of their more crushing defeats of the season.
It came on a day when their ace, Zack Greinke, handed off a one-run lead to the bullpen after seven strong innings. The bullpen, for the second time in three days, could not finish the job.
The Diamondbacks continue to post results in line with those of a mediocre team. In eight games since the All-Star break, they are 4-4. Through 99 games, they are 50-49. With a chance to move into sole possession of the second wild-card spot on Saturday night, the Diamondbacks instead fell to 1 1/2 games back.
“It’s an important time in the season for us,” Greinke said. “It was a pretty big game, I would say. We definitely didn’t have any easy route to victory with the 3-2 lead or whatever. And their top of the order is pretty darn good, so it’s a tough, tough, tough inning for whoever is going to have to get through that inning. It’s a really tough one.”
BOX SCORE: Milwaukee 8, Arizona 3
On this night, that chore fell to Chafin. Two nights earlier, the Diamondbacks gave the ball to their most trustworthy reliever only to watch as right-hander Yoan Lopez coughed up three runs and the game.
Chafin hasn’t had the same caliber of season as Lopez, but he has been one of manager Torey Lovullo’s more dependable arms. He couldn’t get the job done either against the Brewers’ potent lineup.
With the Diamondbacks’ leading 3-2, the Brewers’ Christian Yelich led off the eighth with a soft liner back to the mound. Chafin tried to snare it but had it tip off his glove, allowing Yelich to leg out an infield single.
“That’s one of those things where you just react to it,” Chafin said. “You try to make the play and by the time it hits your glove you realize, ‘Dang, I should have let that go’ because it would have been an easy out. It’s all part of it. I should have been able to pitch through that.”
He couldn’t. Chafin jumped ahead 0-2 on the next batter, Ryan Braun, but couldn’t put him away, instead walking him on six pitches. After Chafin called it “a quality at-bat, I guess,” he was asked if he were tipping his hat to Braun.
“I ain’t tipping my hat to sh–,” he replied.
That brought Moustakas to the plate. Chafin fell behind 2-0, came back with a fastball down and away and Moustakas crushed it out to left for his 26th home run of the year.
“Right where I wanted it,” Chafin said. “I wanted to go heater down and away. He just went with it. He beat me on that pitch.”
The Brewers scored three more runs in the top of the ninth off right-hander Zack Godley, giving manager Craig Counsell enough of a cushion that he felt comfortable removing his best reliever, Josh Hader, who had thrown 12 pitches to get out of a jam in the eighth. That could allow the Brewers to have Hader available should he be needed on Sunday.
Hader might have benefitted from the large strike zone of home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez, who rung up Christian Walker to end the inning on a slider that appeared to be low. Gonzalez called several similar pitches strikes throughout the game.
“I’m not going to go there,” Lovullo said when asked about the strike zone. “I don’t want to get fined.”
Walker was furious in the moments after the call; he appeared to remain angry throughout the final inning.
“It was a ball low,” Walker told reporters after the game. “It is frustrating, for sure. I feel like you put yourself into some good positions as a hitter and it doesn’t always work out, but we try to do the best we can. Hitting is extremely difficult, so when you feel like you get cheated … it can be frustrating.”
He was asked if he could have done anything different knowing Gonzalez’s zone had been sizeable all night.
“Everything we do in our practice is to take balls and swing at strikes; I’m a better hitter when I’m doing that,” Walker said. “Even if I swing at that pitch, it’s probably just going to get rolled over or something — a slider low and away. There’s some borderline stuff that you put up with, but it’s just frustrating.”