October 03, 2011
MILWAUKEE — The fan on the left in the photo above added a particularly cruel insult to the injury suffered by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday night.
Right-hander Brad Ziegler(notes), the player that Chokey McChokerson is taunting, had just turned in the worst inning of his life. In the playoffs. And it dearly cost the D-backs in a frustrating 9-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, who took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five NLDS.
The raw stats don't do justice to Ziegler's meltdown, but check them out anyway: six batters faced, zero outs, four runs (all earned), three hits, two walks (one intentional and the other Yuniesky Betancourt(notes)!), a balk and a ridiculous error. He threw 13 pitches and all four strikes that he threw were hit by the Brewers.
The score was tied at four when Ziegler entered the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. By the time he left, the Brewers had put five runs on the board. The only reason his ERA for the series is 108.00 is because he got an out in Game 1. Otherwise, it would be infinity.
Ziegler didn't lose Game 2 by himself — there's something to it when you hear "We win as a team and we lose as a team." But if the team charter happened to take off for Phoenix 20 minutes early and nobody told Ziegler and he wasn't on the airplane, well, there's always Megabus.
The worst part of Ziegler's nightmare inning — or the worst-looking part, anyway — was the throwing error. Standing a skinny 6-foot-4 with an underhanded delivery, Ziegler already looks like an exotic bird when he pitches. But after Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy(notes) laid down a safety squeeze bunt with runners at first and third, Ziegler made an ill-advised and wild flip attempt to get the runner at home, making himself look like a real dodo:
Ugh. Not exactly Derek Jeter(notes) against the A's with the flip. Catcher Miguel Montero(notes) might have been running for hours if not for the grandstand stopping the ball. After the game, Zieger stood tall (not just literally) and owned his biggest mistake.
"I should have just taken the out at first," Ziegler said. "Knowing that was the lead run over there (at third), I wanted to try to cut it down. And I got to the ball pretty quickly, but it wasn't a smart play. The smart play would have been: throw the ball to first."
"Before it happened, I looked over at Roberts and said, 'Watch him bunt here.' You've got a catcher that can handle the bat pretty well," Ziegler said. "... I totally expected it, I just didn't execute; I should have taken the out at first. We probably didn't have a shot at it even if I made a good throw."
Before he even thew a pitch, Ziegler was called for a balk, which advanced the lead run to third base. Ziegler seemed incredulous about the call at the time, though it appeared he paused in the middle of his delivery. Again, it's hard to tell with him when he does his flamingo gyrations.
Ziegler denied that the call bothered him, but manager Kirk Gibson wasn't so sure.
"We kind of unraveled there," Gibson said. "The balk really seemed to get to Ziggy."
Ziggy. You see? A term of endearment. They're still going to let him on the plane.
After issuing an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay(notes) — hmm — Ziegler started throwing sinkers that didn't sink. Corey Hart(notes), RBI single to center. Nyjer Morgan(notes), two-run single to right. Ryan Braun(notes), RBI single to center. Game, essentially, over.
And it especially burned because the D-backs appeared to have the Brewers on the ropes. Arizona had come back from a 4-1 deficit, thanks to a solo home run by Chris Young and a two-run shot by Justin Upton(notes) in the fifth against Zack Greinke(notes). The D-backs seemed on the verge of taking home-field advantage back to Chase Field.
The Brewers clearly have outplayed them so far, but should Milwaukee have expected to get so much help from Arizona in the first two games? Gibson's mismanagement in Game 1 and now this?
"The last thing you want to do is kick two games and go down 0-2," he said. "It's no secret: We can't lose again. But we've been about as low as we can get and battled our way out of it."
OK, OK, save it for the plane ride home. And don't forget Ziggy.