SAN FRANCISCO – The Milwaukee Brewers keep coming up with terrible ways to lose ballgames.
A day after Josh Hader surrendered six runs in the ninth inning, Jandel Gustave committed a bases-loaded balk with two outs in the eighth that proved to be the difference in a 2-1 defeat to the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park.
"We've had some tough ones here," said Brent Suter, who factored into the eighth before Gustave's appearance. "We're trying to do our best to win. There's some frustration here, but nothing crazy.
"We've lost two tough ones back to back. Try to split the series tomorrow. That's basically what it is."
After the offense scored in the top of the eighth to tie it at 1-1, Suter (1-3) took over for starter Eric Lauer and allowed consecutive one-out singles.
After recording the second out, Suter was pulled in favor of the former Giant Gustave, who responded by hitting Evan Longoria with his second pitch to load the bases.
That brought Mike Yastrzemski – author of the walk-off grand slam that beat the Brewers Friday – to the plate.
Gustave was ahead in the count, 1-2, when home-plate umpire Pat Hoberg ruled the right-hander balked, scoring Austin Slater.
Gustave eventually struck Yastrzemski out. The balk was the third of the season for the Brewers, and the first by a pitcher other than Lauer.
"The plate umpire saw a start and stop, and that was basically what happened," is how crew chief Bruce Dreckman described the play to a pool reporter. "It was pretty much a rulebook, textbook balk. Pretty cut and dried."
When asked for further explanation of the play, Dreckman said: "It's a start and a stop. When they start bringing their hands up, they can't just bring them up and stop in mid-stroke of their pitching delivery. So, that's what it is.
"They're bringing their hands up and they stop, for the purpose of the rule."
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In the Brewers' clubhouse, it wasn't nearly as cut and dried.
"Apparently they saw a little flinch when he came up," manager Craig Counsell said. "Something that wasn't normal."
Suter and Gustave were at their lockers afterward watching the video on Suter's phone.
"There's not a lot there," Suter said. "But it's slow-mo. Maybe in live action they saw something more. But that's a tough call in that situation.
"A 1-2 count, two outs...it's the ump's right to call a balk, but it's a tough way to lose, for sure."
Willy Adames singled to lead off the ninth and quickly moved to second on an errant pickoff throw by Dominic Leone, but Leone recovered to retire Rowdy Tellez, Andrew McCutchen and Kolten Wong to end it.
Giants right-hander Alex Cobb was dominant through seven innings, limiting the Brewers to three singles while utilizing his heavy sinker to generate 12 ground-ball outs.
Milwaukee finally broke through against him in the eighth, when Hunter Renfroe led off with a drive to center that Slater misread. It dropped for a double and Renfroe hustled to third thanks to the miscue.
Omar Narváez, up next, sent a sacrifice fly to left that allowed Renfroe to tag and score, drawing the Brewers even and ending Cobb's day after 99 pitches.
Box score: Giants 2, Brewers 1
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"His velo's up a little this year, so that's helping him out a lot on the outer half," Renfroe said of Cobb. "The splitter's always been there. It's a good pitch. All his pitches have great movement to them.
"He kept us on the fence a little bit there, hitting corners and painting and staying on the outer half. He did a good job."
Jonathan Davis – who'd already made the highlight reel earlier in the fifth by robbing Thairo Estrada with a diving catch in center – then drew a walk from John Brebbia and immediately stole second with Christian Yelich coming up.
But, true to how things have gone of late for the Brewers' offense, Yelich struck out and Davis was thrown out trying to steal third to leave it a 1-1 game.
Following San Francisco's ninth-inning offensive outburst in Friday's 8-5 loss, Lauer more than did his part by limiting the Giants to just two hits over six innings.
The first, a two-out double to left-center by Estrada, was borderline as Yelich ran the ball down but wasn't quite able to reel it in. Lauer followed by walking David Villar but stranded the pair after a flyout.
The big mistake came with two outs in the sixth, when Ruf – who was among the three Giants to homer off Josh Hader the previous night – went up and got a fastball that was out of the zone and hammered it out to left for the game's first run.
"That was where we were trying to go with it, and he just got to it," Lauer said. "Sometimes, good hitters get to good pitches. We were trying to set something up there and he jumped on it.
"So, tip your cap to him."
Lauer then finished out the seventh to match a season low with two hits allowed. He issued three walks – all to No. 7 hitter Villar – and struck out four.
His seven innings matched a season high last hit on May 20 against Washington and his 108 pitches set a new high.
"I think it could have been better," said Lauer. "I was locating well early but I didn't feel like I had great stuff all day. I felt like I was getting a little outside of myself. I didn't feel like the velo was necessarily there that I wanted, but I was able to have some guys make some great plays behind me and keep us in the ballgame."
The Brewers announced after the game that Aaron Ashby and not Jason Alexander will start opposite right-hander Logan Webb in Sunday's finale.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A bases-loaded balk sinks the Brewers this time against the Giants