MIAMI – The National League Central Division title will need to wait for at least another day for the Milwaukee Brewers.
After overcoming an early four-run deficit to tie the game in the sixth, they fell victim to a rough eighth inning turned in by reliever Joel Payamps and ultimately fell to the Miami Marlins, 5-4, at loanDepot park on Saturday afternoon.
Carlos Santana's game-tying, three-run home run in the sixth provided some life, but the day was otherwise a dud for the Brewers as starter Brandon Woodruff struggled with his delivery and the offense was significantly quieter than the previous night.
Now, the Brewers will turn to Freddy Peralta to try and help finish the deal on Sunday.
"Of course I want to go out and do well and throw up a lot of zeroes. But the nature of this game is, that doesn't always happen," said Woodruff. "Maybe I did put a little too much on myself to go out there and do well, made a mistake early and had to fight through the rest of the game.
"But you know what? We've got Freddy on the mound tomorrow, he's been fantastic and we'll take it a day at a time. It's kind of crazy, the amount of emotions you go through from scoring 16 runs to losing a game like this when you know you've got the division to win.
"It's one of them baseball days. You move on, and we'll come back and play good tomorrow."
Added Santana: "We're close. Tomorrow is a new day."
Box score: Marlins 5, Brewers 4
Joel Payamps struggled in the eighth
Pinch-runner Garrett Hampson wound up on third and his speed helped net Miami the go-ahead run when, after a strikeout by Jesús Sanchez, Payamps uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Hampson to scamper home.
Payamps (6-5) wouldn't even finish the inning, with Andrew Chafin eventually doing the job as the Marlins scored just the one time.
Milwaukee's setup man since early in the season, Payamps has now allowed at least a hit in his last 14 appearances and at least a run in eight of those 14.
"It's one pitch, really," said manager Craig Counsell. "It's not been a loud-contact issue here. It's just been maybe getting ahead of a hitter, not making a pitch, falling behind a hitter with a walk. The ball in play has not been overly concerning, really.
"He was just so good at controlling counts early (in the season); he's always been very good at that. That's a little bit of what's going on. It was a leadoff walk today. It was that simple."
The Brewers then went down in order in the ninth, and the Marlins had a big win as they kept their hopes for the third wild-card spot in the NL alive.
The game changed with one swing
In a 4-0 hole to start the sixth and with left-hander Jesús Luzardo dealing, the game quickly flipped.
Milwaukee had crawled back to within 4-1 and chased Luzardo from the game, with Miami calling upon left-hander AJ Puk to face Santana with a pair of runners on and nobody out.
On the fourth pitch of their matchup, Santana turned on a 95.1 mph fastball out over the heart of the plate and deposited it 400 feet away and out to right-center to make it a 4-4 game.
In addition to being immaculately timed the round-tripper was also a milestone for the 37-year-old Santana in that it was the 300th of his career, making him the 10th switch-hitter in major-league history to hit as many.
His 300th homer was an emotional moment for Carlos Santana: pic.twitter.com/UBQTvNyRzr
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) September 23, 2023
"I feel great. I feel emotional," said Santana. "I know my team lost, but I'm happy for that. Getting 300 home runs, I've worked so hard for that. I thank God first, my family, my wife. They support me, and I'm happy for that."
One inning later, Christian Yelich reached a milestone of his own by legging out an infield single for his 1,500th career hit.
A William Contreras single came next to put two more on for Santana with a chance to give the Brewers their first lead of the game, but he grounded out against Matt Moore.
"It was pretty cool," Yelich said of his hit. "I guess a semi-big number. A lot of hits. A lot of them came here on certain plays probably like that back in the day, just doing what you can to try to help the team.
"We were trying to push one across late there to see if we could take the lead, but it just didn't happen for us."
Christian Yelich on hit No. 1,500 for him and Homer No. 300 for Carlos Santana: pic.twitter.com/BOBnXht8Uy
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) September 24, 2023
Off to a bad start
Whereas Corbin Burnes was able to pitch with a ridiculous lead – the Brewers scored 12 times in the second on Friday – Woodruff quickly found himself in a hole.
After Luis Arraez singled, Woodruff sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a Josh Bell walk.
That brought Miami trade deadline acquisition Burger to the plate, and Woodruff left a first-pitch slider out over the plate that the third baseman lifted out to left for a three-run homer.
Woodruff avoided further damage in the second.
After the speedy Jon Berti reached on a one-out, swinging bunt single, Nick Fortes pulled what should have been a double-play ball to third only to see it get past Josh Donaldson for an error.
The ball rolled down the left-field line and Berti raced around to score with a head-first slide into home, only to have the call of home-plate umpire Bill Miller overturned by a Brewers replay challenge.
Miami then tacked on another run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Nick Fortes.
Woodruff finished five innings and allowed six hits and two walks to go along with six strikeouts over 87 pitches, with Hoby Milner replacing him in the sixth.
Brandon Woodruff’s delivery was off today, and it cost him: pic.twitter.com/45Zqzg7zlw
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) September 23, 2023
"Today was probably the first time since I've been back (from the injured list) that I was fighting it," he said. "I really didn't have my good stuff. And you know what? You've going to have days like that. I made a mistake there in the first, kind of had to shift the plan a little bit and throw a lot more two-seamers today.
"It seemed to be working a lot for me. But the first inning I made a bad mistake in the middle of the plate, then after that it was just kind of a battle to get through those innings. Learned a lot from it, to be honest.
"Move onto the next one, and get ready."
What did Woodruff learn?
"Pitching a little better," he said with a chuckle. "I really wanted to go out there and put the team in a good spot and wasn't able to do that. But being able to use the fastball the way I did today, I haven't ever really used it like that – especially with the two-seamer – moving it around and changing speeds.
"I had to pitch, really. I just couldn't rely on throwing two fastballs and mixing in some other stuff. I took a lot of positives out of today."
No luck early against Jesús Luzardo
The Brewers handled Luzardo, one of the Marlins’ top starters, to the tune of 10 hits and six runs in a 12-0 victory at American Family Field last week.
It was a much different story in the early going of this one as he silenced Milwaukee's offense to the tune of a Sal Frelick single and a pair of walks through the first five innings while mixing mostly a potent four-seam fastball topping out around 98 mph and a slider.
It was around this time that the score from Wrigley Field went final: Chicago Cubs 6, Colorado Rockies 3, meaning any clinch on Saturday was going to need to come via a Brewers victory.
But the worm began to turn in the sixth, beginning with a leadoff walk by Blake Perkins and an opposite-field double by Yelich.
A sharp ground ball by Contreras then ate up Josh Bell at first base, with the ball ricocheting away from him as Perkins scampered home for the Brewers' first run.
It was ruled a hit and spelled the end of Luzardo's day.
Brewers schedule coming up
Sunday – Brewers at Marlins, 12:40 p.m. Milwaukee RHP Freddy Peralta (12-9, 3.71) vs. Miami RHP Edward Cabrera (6.7, 4.35). TV: Bally Sports Wisconsin. Radio: AM-620.
Brewers history: A look at all of Milwaukee's playoff-clinching moments
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Brewers lose to Marlins 5-4, fail to clinch NL Central Division title