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Yankees 6, Brewers 7: Five-run lead not enough for Montas

The 5-0 lead quickly given to Frankie Montas didn’t last, as the trade deadline addition struggled again before Milwaukee walked it off.

MLB: SEP 16 Yankees at Brewers Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Yankees traveled to Milwaukee to face a Brewers team that projects a nice parallel with them on a few levels. Coming off an NL Central win in 2021, the Brew Crew held a comfortable grip on a postseason berth and possible repeat crown in the first half, but recent scuffles have changed things a bit. They are only close in the postseason race due to the Padres’ own slump as the lowest current Wild Card seed.

Tonight’s pitching matchup was supposed to give the Yankees a considerable advantage. Even while recognizing the struggles of Frankie Montas in a Yankees uniform, he should have been capable of comfortably beating both Milwaukee’s backend starter, Adrian Houser, and the inferior Brewers offense. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the feeling that we were seeing the same pitcher on both sides was palpable, as Montas played down to his competition and squandered a 5-0 lead. He was gone by the time Milwaukee tied it and long-showered when the Brew Crew walked it off, but his woes remained the story of the night.

The Yankees ‘offense jumped the Brewers’ starter in the first inning. Houser’s been notoriously better at home than on the road in 2022, with a very respectable 3.21 ERA in American Family Field, but that didn’t materialize in tonight’s outing. Five of the seven first Yankee hitters reached base, and three came in to score by the time Montas took the mound. Gleyber Torres’ one-out double made the damage possible, as that allowed Aaron Judge to score on Josh Donaldson’s sacrifice fly, and the second out was soon followed by RBI singles from Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Marwin Gonzalez.

By the second inning, the Yankees held a comfortable lead that was increased to 5-0 on an error from Kolten Wong. However, from the way that Montas was pitching from the get-go, it felt like only a matter of time for even the maligned Brewers’ lineup to put their team back in the game.

Montas loaded the bases in the first but got out of it with an Andrew McCutchen groundout, and it looked like he was going to escape another jam in the second inning. He struck out both Garrett Mitchell and Christian Yelich following the first two hitters reaching base, but then the former Ray Willy Adames got ahold of a hanging slider, which he drove it into the left-field seats to make this a 5-3 game.

With the understanding that pretty much every game is a must-win affair for the Brewers, manager Craig Counsell already had his ‘pen moving around in the first inning. By the fourth, he pulled his starter Houser with a whopping 85 pitches over 3 frames.

In the home half of the fourth, the Milwaukee offense was at it again. Montas’ last batter of the night was Mitchell, the No. 9 hitter who he’d struggled to put away in his previous at-bat. This time, Mitchell walked, and Aaron Boone called on Lucas Luetge; the skipper had no interest in having Montas face the top of the Brewers’ order again. But Milwaukee scored twice to tie the game at 5-5 anyway, as Yelich singled, Adames doubled one in, and Rowdy Tellez evened the score on a sacrifice fly.

The theme of tonight’s game for both pitchers was their inability to put hitters away, with Montas and Houser combining for 7 walks, and averaging 31 pitches per inning through the first three. Montas needed 71 to get 9 outs, which was hardly better than Houser’s aforementioned margin.

It’s telling that it seems like a distant memory, the notion that Brian Cashman brought Frankie Montas in from the Oakland A’s to be this team’s Game 2 starter in the postseason. Now, you wonder just where exactly he would fit in that playoff rotation (if at all), especially with Luis Severino coming back next week.

Both pitching staffs had the tall task of getting far more outs than previously expected, but they turned in zeroes for most of the ballgame. Greg Weissert, Domingo Germán, Wandy Peralta, and Lou Trivino kept Milwaukee off the board in the middle innings, and five different Brewers pitchers shut the Yankees out for six innings. The last of the five was airbender extraordinaire Devin Williams, who flummoxed the top of the New York order in the top of the eighth.

Jonathan Loáisiga took over for the home half of the eighth, when a few well-placed Brewers grounders put them ahead. The right-hander’s leadoff walk to Jace Peterson came back to bite him. After a force out at second, Mitchell grounded one that deflected off Torres’ diving attempt and went for a single. Yelich then just barely beat out a potential double play ball, and Adames rolled one to the third-base side of Kiner-Falefa, who bobbled it. The error gave Milwaukee a 6-5 lead.

The Yankees came back in the ninth on a solo shot by Donaldson to tag Taylor Rogers with a blown save.

Alas, New York was unable to do more despite the Oswaldo Cabrera double that immediately followed. IKF bunted him to third, Miguel Andújar went down on a questionable strike three (Boone was later ejected arguing this), and Kyle Higashioka flew out. The latter two batters were only in the game because Gonzalez departed with an illness and Jose Trevino was pulled after suffering a painful knee contusion.

This was also one of those nights when Clay Holmes didn’t have it —something that has become all-too-common in the second half. Hunter Renfroe started the ninth with a booming double, and he moved to third on a groundball. The Yankees shuffled around their defensive setup with five infielders, but Holmes could not get a handle on the strike zone. He walked McCutchen, fell behind Peterson before recovering to fan him, issued a second free pass to catcher Victor Caratini, and finally coughed up the walk-off single to Mitchell

As a reminder, this is still the same Mitchell who entered tonight hitting .138/.242/.276 across the first 13 games of his MLB career. No, this was not a good night for the Yankees, who lost their four-game winning streak and were unable to chip away at their magic number due to the Blue Jays’ 6-3 victory over the Orioles. New York’s AL East lead fell to 5.5 games with 18 to play.

The two sides will go back at it tomorrow night, with Jameson Taillon squaring off with Brandon Woodruff. First pitch will be at 7:10pm ET.

Box Score