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Poor Defense a Team Effort in DC

We knew the defense would be an issue this year. We knew it would cost the Brewers (at least) a handful of games. It’s one thing to talk about it, but it’s completely different when you watch it unfold in real time.

The Brewers’ defense in Washington on Friday night wasn’t just bad — it was terrible. For the first time this year, they looked genuinely awful, and it wasn’t just one or two plays that stood out…it was the entire game.

Some of the night’s most notable miscues and headaches:

– Grounders sneaking through the infield in the early innings. A lot of this was caused by Ron Roenicke’s desire to use a different shift on every batter, but I hesitate to criticize the tactic because it’s helped cover up some of the deficiencies to start the year. When the shifts don’t work, though, they end up making you look silly. Still, some plays looked like they could have been made — specifically, Adam LaRoche’s “single” that Rickie Weeks should have been able to knock down in the 3rd inning.

Ryan Braun‘s poor throw on the Danny Espinosa sac fly, allowing a third run to score in the 2nd inning. It wasn’t a ball that was hit particularily deep, Braun had a chance to get his momentum behind a throw, and not only did he not get the throw home in time, but he threw it halfway up the first base line. A good throw at least gives the Brewers a chance with a play at the plate, especially with Mike Morse running.

– The ground rule “double” by Morse in the 6th inning. Morse hit a high fly ball that looked like it was pushed back into fair ground by the the strong winds before finally dropping just inside the line and hopping over the short wall in foul ground. Erick Almonte, neither fleet-footed nor a natural outfielder, was unable to get to the ball in time despite the fact that it hung in the air. It’s not crazy to think it’s a play that could have been made by Nyjer Morgan.

Yuniesky Betancourt‘s poor throw in the 10th that went down as the team’s only error — just another reason why errors don’t tell the whole story. Defensively, the team played much more poorly than only one error would indicate, and if you want to get picky, Betancourt can’t shoulder most of the blame for that play. That goes to Prince Fielder, who valued trying to keep his foot on the bag over making sure the ball didn’t get past him. It was a poor decision, but also one that wouldn’t have had to be made if he was an inch or two taller or had the athleticism to stretch.

– Fielder’s errant throw home to end the game. Considering nobody was really trying to hold Jayson Werth at third base, it’s unlikely any throw by Fielder gets Werth at the plate on the game’s final play, but the big man still needs to get off a better throw. Jonathan Lucroy never had a chance at the ball.

It’s very easy to blame Fielder and Betancourt for the team’s loss, but poor defense was a team effort throughout the entire game. Some of the blame also has to go to Chris Narveson, though, who walked in two runs. One of those was a four-pitch walk to pitcher Tom Gorzelanny. Tight strikezone or not, you can’t be handing out free passes to a pitcher.

Of course, the good news is that while it’s the first ugly loss of the season, it’s still only one loss. The Brewers still have favorable matchups for the series’ final two games, although those games will now both be played on Sunday.