Cardinals manager Mike Shildt concurred that John Brebbia’s stumble on Sunday was the bearded righthander’s first misstep of the season.
Brebbia permitted a game-tying homer to Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell and a game-untying double to Adam Frazier in a five-run Pittsburgh seventh as the Pirates rallied for a 10-6 victory at Busch Stadium.
“I don’t know about first one,” Brebbia said. “But definitely a big one. That’s a situation where you don’t want anything bad to happen and I let probably everything bad happen that I could have. So it’s a huge misstep.”
That Brebbia was in the game as early as he was can be traced to the wildness of lefthanded reliever Tyler Webb, who inherited a 6-3 lead in the seventh. Webb, who was going to face at least four hitters — two switch hitters and two lefthanded hitters — wound up facing only two. He walked switch hitter Bryan Reynolds and hit lefthanded-batting Gregory Polanco.
Shildt came to get Webb even though Josh Bell, another switch hitter who is much stronger from the left side (.337 to .250 at that moment), and lefthanded-hitting Colin Moran were the next two hitters. Webb had allowed just two hits in 22 at-bats by lefthanded batters.
“I wouldn’t mind flipping (Bell) over to the other side but we got a leadoff walk and a hit batter and you want to react to what you’re seeing,” Shildt said. “Brebbia’s been one of our better guys all year and he’s been good against lefties, too. It didn’t seem like Tyler had his best stuff. It wasn’t about matchups as much as it was about stuff.”
Bell overpowered a ball to right field, so much so that it didn’t end up being fair by very much.
“It ended up being a lot less fair than I anticipated,” Brebbia said. “When he hit it, I thought, ‘That’s going to bust some lights in the scoreboard above the bullpen’ and it kept going. I crossed my fingers and thought, ‘Maybe he hooked it too much,’ but that ball was too far across the middle of the plate.
“Yeah, I’d like a few pitches back. I’d like to trade some balls for strikes. I’d like to trade some hits for outs. When you make bad pitches to guys who are taking good swings, it’s not going to be good for the pitcher.”
Bell’s homer was bad enough, but then came Frazier’s double. This came after Francisco Cervelli got a double to right when Jose Martinez missed on a sliding-catch attempt and, with two out, Brebbia walked pinch-hitter Melky Cabrera on four pitches — which Brebbia noted were about the only pitches he threw where he was supposed to.
Shildt said he didn’t mind walking Cabrera to put another potential go-ahead run on base to get to Frazier, whose .313 career average and 50 career hits against the Cardinals are his best against every other opponent. One of those hits had been a homer off Brebbia.
“(Frazier) has been pesky, but we liked the matchup,” Shildt said. “We couldn’t get Cabrera to go out of the zone and couldn’t make a pitch on Frazier.”
Cabrera is a switch-hitter and Frazier is another lefthanded hitter whom manager Clint Hurdle, fortuitously as it turned out, pulled back from the on-deck circle and sent up pitcher Joe Musgrove to hit in an earlier less-threatening spot. He thus had Frazier still available for the more meaningful seventh-inning at-bat.
Brebbia said it was good that the walk to Cabrera set up a potential forceout. But he added, “The tradeoff is that when I make bad pitches with extra guys on base, there’s more damage that can be done.
“When you can execute pitches, it makes a situation like that a lot easier,” Brebbia added. “Of course, when you don’t execute pitches, it doesn’t matter who’s hitting — unless I’m hitting. You can go ‘middle middle’ all day and I’ll get myself out.
“But, Adam Frazier is not me. Unfortunately, for me.”
An inning later, after a wild pitch on a 2-1 Giovanny Gallegos offering to Bell— who already had a homer, a double, two singles and five runs batted in — Shildt the ordered Bell to be intentionally walked on a 3-1 count. That put runners at first and second with one out.
That brought up Moran, hitless in three at-bats compared to Bell having hits in each of his first four at-bats. The odds would seem to suggest that Moran would get one hit before Bell got five.
But Shildt said he wanted not to give Bell a shot at five and was hopeful of a double play off Moran’s bat. But the double, not the double play, ensued, and another runner who had been walked intentionally or quasi so, had scored.
“When it doesn’t work out, you always feel like it hurt you,” Shildt said. “But you’re playing matchups. Bell’s got four hits. He’s got a three-run homer. He’s swung the bat well all series (eight hits). We’ve got an open base with a 3-1 count. It wasn’t like we did it with an 0-0 count, which we may have done anyway.
“The ball goes in the gap. That’s clearly unfortunate but it was the right decision. And I’d do again tomorrow.”