ATLANTA -- Just call it The Great Bullpen Snafu.
Because of a miscommunication between the dugout and bullpen as to which left-handed reliever was warming up -- it turned out to be none of the above -- the Milwaukee Brewers watched a two-run lead disappear in the seventh inning Thursday night as Atlanta rallied for a 5-4 victory at Turner Field.
It was only the second time all season the Brewers lost when scoring at least four runs, and it never should have happened.
The miscommunication was a byproduct of the absence of two Milwaukee coaches. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz and bullpen coach Lee Tunnell were given permission to attend graduations within their families, leaving minor- league pitching coordinator Rick Tomlin to handle Kranitz's duties. The ranking "officer" in the relief corps was bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel.
But Brewers manager Ron Roenicke took full responsibility for the debacle that resulted in reliever Will Smith taking the mound without warming up.
"It's my fault; miscommunication," said Roenicke. "There's a certain way we do things and when Kranitz isn't here, I didn't go back and tell Rick Tomlin who to get up and bring in. So, it's my fault.
"You do things the same way every day and when it changes, it just changes what goes on. I had to make the change. I sent Maldy (backup catcher Martin Maldonado) to run down to the bullpen because we needed two guys up. Maldy went down there and said, 'I think it's (Zach) Duke,' but he never got the call on who it was. So, we didn't call."
Roenicke wanted right-hander Brandon Kintzler and lefty Smith warming up, but only Kintzler got ready.
"We knew what was going to happen with who they were going to probably pinch hit," said Roenicke. "We needed both guys up. That's why I sent down our backup catcher. Maldy told Duke to get loose because that's who Maldy thought it was going to be, but really I wanted Smith."
With the Brewers leading, 4-2, Roenicke removed starter Matt Garza with two on and one out and summoned Kintzler. Gerald Laird hit a bouncer that caromed off the glove of diving third baseman Mark Reynolds and into shallow left for what became an RBI double, leaving runners at second and third.
Roenicke then went to plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth to make a double-switch and pointed to the bullpen for a lefty. There was no lefty warming up so Duke volunteered to come out, but Roenicke told Culbreth he wanted Smith.
The rules state that a new pitcher can throw no more than eight pitches after taking the mound. Because Culbreth was informed Smith had not been up in the bullpen, he asked Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez if he would agree to more pitches and Gonzalez said no.
Culbreth then put on the video replay head set and called an umpiring supervisor to see if there was any way to allow Smith more pitches, and was told no. In the meantime, Smith had to stand on the mound during that lengthy conversation back to New York, which didn't help matters.
"The good thing is I usually only throw eight pitches in the bullpen before I come in anyway," he said. "They told me it was only eight (when he got to the mound). I felt ready. I felt good to go.
"Ron told me, 'Don't do anything stupid here, Will.' The home plate umpire told me the same thing. He said, 'Listen kid, be careful. Take care of yourself.' But the adrenaline took over."
The Brewers moved the infield in to try to cut off the tying run, but pinch hitter Ryan Doumit punched a grounder past shortstop Jean Segura to drive in the runs that decided the outcome. It was an awful way to lose a game in which Garza was in command most of the way, leaving the Brewers with three losses in the four games here and a 2-5 record on the trip.
"I feel bad about everything," said Roenicke. "You can't do that to a player.
"I should be able to adjust to different things. We had Lee in there yesterday and that was a little bit different. Rick (Kranitz) is always involved when we talk, and I know he's taking care of calling somebody.
"When you have somebody else in there that doesn't know what we usually do, it's not his fault. I didn't turn around and tell (Tomlin) to make the call. I just assumed it, which I shouldn't do."
As for shaking off the loss, Roenicke said, "It's going to be hard on me. They'll be fine; they'll move on. But it's going to be hard on me."
(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services