Dallas Keuchel’s Brewers debut with mixed results

Dallas Keuchel’s Brewers debut with mixed results
Dallas Keuchel’s Brewers debut with mixed results

Even for a former American League Cy Young Award winner, 12-year veteran and 103-game winner, Dallas Keuchel was asked to do a lot for the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday afternoon.

The left-hander, who was signed from the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday for cash considerations, had to come to town, get to know an entirely new team, coaching staff and personnel, and then face the Texas Rangers in his new team’s Interleague final at American Family Field.

“I’m definitely not using that as an excuse,” the 36-year-old said after making his first major league appearance for the Minnesota Twins since Sept. 30 of last year. In four innings and 71 pitches, he allowed eight hits (including two home runs), five runs and one walk with four strikeouts in a game the Brewers eventually won 6-5 in 10 innings.

“Travel-wise, it’s a real thing,” Keuchel continued. “The unknown. But at the same time, I felt pretty good out there. I think my feeling didn’t translate to the outcome, so that’s a little frustrating. But at the same time, there were a lot of things I was happy with.”

Teaming with William Contreras behind the plate, Keuchel went 1-2-3 in the first, allowed four consecutive singles as the Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the second, and shut the team down in order in the third.

He also took a three-run lead in the third inning thanks to a grand slam by Jake Bauers that made the score 4-1.

Things quickly got tough for Keuchel in the fourth inning, however, when he walked the first batter and then allowed home runs to Nathaniel Lowe and Jonah Heim after two consecutive pitches. Four batters later, Robbie Grossman’s two-out RBI single put Texas back in the lead.

Keuchel ended the inning, with Jakob Junis throwing the fifth and sixth balls. Keuchel threw 55% sinkers, stayed at 88-89 mph, and had five swings and misses on the day.

“I could have taken him out after the third because we had Junis behind him who could have made another three-hitter,” manager Pat Murphy said. “We had all of our bullpens fresh. I could have done him a better service and taken him out after the third. That wasn’t the plan, and he couldn’t have told me, ‘Hey, I’m tired.’

“But I think you could tell he wasn’t as fresh and alert and the ball wasn’t going down like he normally does. But I think this guy can help us.”

In 13 starts (71 innings) at Class AAA Tacoma this season, Keuchel was 7-4 with a 3.93 ERA and had allowed one or fewer runs in four of his last five games.

But in the big leagues the situation is obviously very different (pun intended) and Keuchel was realistic in his assessment of his performance.

“It felt good. It definitely didn’t lack entertainment,” he said. “I think my performance was a little mixed. We knew they were going to be a little aggressive. But other than the two-run homer, there weren’t many pitches I’d take back. I wobbled a little bit in the second because I uncharacteristically lost control, but I got worn out pretty early.

“I was pretty nervous. I hope to get a lot more stamina back and a bit more poise.”

Murphy noted that Keuchel has done more than well, even though he only learned Tuesday night that he would be the 14th pitcher to start a game for the Brewers this season.

“I thought it was really good,” he said. “I think if you look at how we started the game, how well prepared he was for the new environment, he was spot on. That gave us a big lift, a lot of confidence, which I think led to some runs for us.”

“I think that’s the psychology of, ‘Hey, we’ve got a guy here who’s a veteran and can do some stuff.’ Then the fourth inning comes. He still comes out, but he was tired. I can see the emotions, the journey, the emotions of the new team, the start.”

As for Keuchel, he will put Wednesday behind him and try to recover.

“I’m sure I’ll sleep well tonight,” he said. “I’m pretty exhausted. But I’m very happy to be here.”

Everyone loves Andruw Monasterio

Despite playing such a minor role on the team, Andruw Monasterio is well-liked by everyone associated with the Brewers.

His fan base grew even larger after he came up with a walkoff single in the deciding period that gave the Brewers their second sweep of the Rangers in as many seasons and a line drive to left center by Jacob Latz that scored Willy Adames and sparked wild celebrations in the infield.

“Rickie (Weeks) and I looked at each other at the end of the game and said, ‘We’re so happy for Mona.’ Of course we’re happy for the team, but we’re also so happy for Mona,” Murphy said. “He’s always ready to do anything, play any position. He works every day, always has a smile on his face. He has a great attitude every day.”

“The team is rooting for him. He understands his role. And when that guy hangs in there in a great situation and the other guys are tired and worn out, one day game after another, it’s great to have something like that lift everybody up.”

Monasterio, who had just a .146 batting average in 21 games entering the day, wouldn’t have even been in that position if third baseman Joey Ortiz hadn’t left the field midway through the game due to neck stiffness.

He came to bat with two outs in the 10th inning, shortly after Jake Bauers fouled on a bunt attempt, Rhys Hoskins was intentionally forced to walk, and Sal Frelick threw a pop-up to the pitcher.

The walkoff was the second of his career and the first to come off a hit; his first came on a throwing error in the 10th inning on August 9 of last year against the Colorado Rockies.

“I was ready to finish it,” Monasterio said. “I wasn’t looking for a pitch; I wanted to finish the game for my team, win the game for my team. In that moment, it’s not about you. It’s about the team.”

Monasterio emerged from obscurity last season, batting .259 with three home runs and 27 RBIs in 92 games. But this year, with Ortiz firmly entrenched at third base, the 27-year-old infielder has found playing time difficult to come by, leaving some to question why he’s even on the team.

“I mean, he’s an all-around player,” Murphy said. “It’s so valuable to have an all-around player who can actually play and be good, has a great attitude, is versatile and loves what he does. And that’s the epitome of Mona and why you’re so happy for him.”

Monasterio had a simple explanation for how he was able to maintain such a positive attitude despite his limited playing time.

“My dad gave me some good advice when I was a kid. ‘You’re in the major leagues. What’s wrong with that?’ The best baseball in the world,” he said. “You have to think positively. What’s wrong with being in the major leagues? Everything in the major leagues is better than the minor leagues.”

“I’m ready for any moment. No matter where I have to stand on the field or bat, whatever, I’m ready. It’s the big league.”

The most exciting game in baseball

Since Christian Yelich did it on August 6, 2020, away from the Chicago White Sox (without spectators due to the pandemic), no Brewers player had hit an inside-the-park home run until Jackson Chourio did it in the fourth inning.

With the score tied 1-1, he went down and hit a slider into shallow center, which Derek Hill should have converted into a two-out single with a one-hop ball.

Instead, Hill attempted a dive but missed the ball. The ball hit the turf hard and fast and rolled past him to the wall.

This allowed the speedy Chourio to fly around the bases and eventually slide headfirst onto home base, even though there was no attempt to play him.

“When I saw the ball go past him, all I could think about was getting to him,” he said. “I thought he was going to catch it. But when I saw it go past, it was time to go.”

Combined with a grand slam by the Bauers in the third inning, Wednesday marked only the third time in franchise history that the Brewers hit both a grand slam and an inside-the-park home run in the same game.

But it was the first time that two different players achieved this: Roberto Pena hit an inside-the-park grand slam against Detroit on May 30, 1970, and Ben Oglivie repeated the feat on September 26, 1980 in Oakland.

Chourio, who has already hit eight home runs this season, was asked if it was more fun to hit the ball over the fence and jog around the bases or fly around them like he did Wednesday.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “They’re very different, but I think I’ll stick with out-of-the-park home runs.”

Chourio’s season average is .236 thanks to a great June in which he hit .301 with three home runs and 13 RBIs.

“Thankfully, I’m getting better every day. Hopefully we can keep it that way,” he said. “Honestly, not much has changed. I just think things are going in my favor and some of those hits are falling now.”

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