No, it wasnt Robin Williams or Billy Crystal out on the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning on Wednesday. And it certainly wasnt Whoopi Goldberg. It was the Brewers all-everything player, Mark Loretta. But Lorettas impromptu performance served the same purpose for the Brewers as the comedians mentioned above would for their audiences.
The Brewers were being smoked, 11-3, against the Cincinnati Reds. Emergency starter Will Cunnane and reliever Brandon Kolb had been rocked. The Brewers were going to win the series against the Reds, but the memory of a nasty, blowout loss in the minds of the Brewers certainly wouldnt help the team heading into their most important series of the season this weekend at Wrigley Field.
So what does Mark Loretta do? The former pitcher at Northwestern volunteers to toss the eighth inning for Lopes so he can save his bullpen regulars for what will likely be a grueling series against the Cubs that Lopes will manage like the World Series to keep the team close to first place.
Was sending Loretta out to the mound the smartest thing to do? Probably not. But if David Weathers, Chad Fox or Curtis Leskanic gone out to the mound and finished up as they usually would have, the Brewers would have the rest of the night to think about the blowout loss the team endured, along with getting a day off on Thursday, which is the last thing a baseball team wants after a bad loss. Instead, after Loretta completed an inning where his fastball was clocked at one time in the mid-80s, the duguout was all smiles. Lopes, a manager who rarely smiles if the Brewers are winning 11-3, was laughing at Loretta trotted back to the dugout after striking out Ruben Rivera. Brewers players on the bench, who had been sulking for much of the game since the Reds scored 6 runs in the fourth, were now all smiles. And most of the talk in the post-game interviews wasnt about how the Brewers were spanked in the field, but about Lorettas one-inning adventure on the mound. Perhaps the best crack came from the Brewers usual stand-up comedian, Leskanic, who called the dugout from the bullpen to say, "You better get Jenkins up, that kid is throwing a lot of pitches." Even Bob Uecker and Jim Powell spent most of the bottom of the eighth inning laughing and poking fun at Lorettas performance.
It is events like this that can help teams take the next step forward. Much like the way clubhouse arguments and players with poor attitudes can drag a team down and affect on-the-field performance, comedic happenings like the one on Wednesday afternoon could help bring the team closer together. After Loretta suggested that he can toss the inning and said he can throw strikes, Lopes didnt spend a few minutes to think about it. He just said, "Go get 'em." Lopes showed why everyone in the Brewers clubhouse and in the organization has respect for him, which was something previous manager Phil Garner has lost completely. While talent and skill are for the most part the reasons for a teams success and failure, many players on a successful team can point to one instance or one event that helped turn the season around. For example, many Milwaukee Bucks this past season point to their 22-point fourth quarter comeback in Miami early in the season as their turning point. If the Crew gets a run going during the rest of this road trip, perhaps we can thank an inning by Mark Loretta that made the players forget about a bad loss and focus on a positive.