Lorenzo Cain Provides Sparkling Defense for Milwaukee Brewers
Before Thursday’s game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks, Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said about reigning MVP Christian Yelich, “If I have a chance, I’m gonna make somebody else beat us.” That’s exactly what happened. Yelich’s bat was held mainly in check, as his only hit was a bases-empty single. Although a rough eighth inning doomed the Diamondbacks, what kept the Brewers in the position to do damage was the glove of center fielder Lorenzo Cain.
Lorenzo Cain Robs Eduardo Escobar
The first five batters of the game – three Brewers and two Diamondbacks – were put out on routine plays. Then Diamondbacks third baseman Eduardo Escobar smoked a line drive deep to right-center. It was heading to the pool area just to the right of the 413 sign – one of the two deepest parts of the park. A 1-0 lead for the hosts was certain, as the drive was high enough to clear the 7’6” fence. However, Cain was tracking the ball the entire time, and as the ball was about to leave the field of play, he leaped.
Diamondbacks fans had the privilege of seeing their own center field defensive specialist at the beginning of this century – Steve Finley. He broke several hearts over the years at Chase Field, robbing multiple home runs. When Cain leaped, those who were old enough to remember Finley had flashbacks. Finley often stuck his glove over a fence and came back with the ball, and Cain did exactly that. What would have been Escobar’s 22nd home run of the season – and third in two days – ended up being a loud third out. The crowd made the collective “awwwwwwwwwwwwww” of disappointment and then gave a wowed ovation for the tremendous play.
More Brilliance from Cain
Those types of plays sometimes fire a team up and translate into hot production at the plate. This time was one of those situations, as Brewers third baseman Mike Moustakas led off the top of the second with his first triple of the season. He came home on a sacrifice fly by the following batter, left fielder Ryan Braun. However, that was the only run the Brewers could muster that inning, and they went down in order in the third as well.
The bottom of the third began with rookie Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly – hitless for the season in 31 at-bats up to that point. On a 1-1 count, he ripped a deep fly to center that was heading for the wall. It was well over Cain’s head, but that didn’t matter, as he ran the ball down and made a fantastic one-handed over-the-shoulder catch to prevent Kelly from getting his first major league hit. As Brewers television play-by-play announcer Matt Lepay put it, “that’s the wrong direction to go when you’re looking for your first hit.”
Cain Preserves Tie, Puts Team in Position to Pull Ahead
A leadoff single by Christian Yelich in the top of the fourth amounted to nothing, as Kelly responded by striking out the side. Those three batters were the first of nine straight Brewers retired by Kelly. The seventh began with a single by Grandal, but that was wiped out when Moustakas followed with a ground ball double play. Left fielder Ryan Braun then whiffed, bringing the Diamondbacks up in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, speedy shortstop Nick Ahmed singled up the middle. Catcher Carson Kelly then crushed a fly to deep center field. Cain got a tremendous jump on the ball. It took him to the warning track. In a full sprint, he lunged and gloved the ball halfway across the warning track. It prevented a double that certainly would have plated Ahmed with the go-ahead run.
In the top of the eighth, the Brewers abused dependable rookie reliever Yoan Lopez, who entered the game with a 1.50 ERA. They managed four hits off the young Cuban en route to three runs before he was yanked after only 1/3 of an inning. That lead held for the rest of the game.
Yet Cain Does Not Have a Gold Glove
Amazingly, Cain – playing in his 10th season – has yet to win a Gold Glove. He has been named to two All-Star teams and won the MVP of the 2015 American League Championship Series for the Kansas City Royals, but he has yet to win a Gold Glove. This is a surprise to many, including Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, who said, “He’s probably won some Gold Gloves, I’m sure. He’s been recognized by the league –” Lovullo then saw this reporter shaking his head. He smiled in surprise and said, “He has NOT won a Gold Glove? Well, he should have won one tonight, that’s for sure.”
Cain’s entire season in center field has made him deserve his first Gold Glove. On Opening Day, for example, he robbed St. Louis Cardinals pinch hitter Jose Martinez of a game-tying home run on the final play of the game. Those types of plays not only wow the fans but get teammates excited. They can also demoralize an opponent. Most importantly, they give teams a chance to win. “Those are difference-makers,” Lovullo said. “When you’re in a tight game, 1-0, 1-1, those are difference-makers.” As the Brewers continue their fight for a second straight NL Central crown, look to see Lorenzo Cain continue to make a difference with those types of dazzling plays.
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