The Brewers are struggling. Since the All-Star break, the young team has been mired in a 4-9 tailspin, including eight losses over the last 10 games. With the surging Chicago Cubs—who’ve posted an 11-2 record since the midsummer classic—coming to town, things may get worse for the Brewers before they get better. It isn’t all bad, though.
During Thursday afternoon’s 15-2 loss to the Nationals, Milwaukee opted to save its bullpen arms for more meaningful (and winnable) games by bringing in utility superstar Hernán Pérez to pitch the eighth inning. It wasn’t pretty, but Pérez, who has now played every position for Milwaukee except catcher, got through an entire frame without surrendering a run. In all, the versatile player gave up a hit, one walk, and no earned runs. Though Pérez‘s accomplishment is uncommon, it isn’t even close to being unheard of in Milwaukee. Here’s a list of other Brewers position players who were called to the mound to pitch in relief.
1. Lyle Overbay — 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 0 K (2014)
The vast majority of Lyle Overbay’s best Brewers moments came during the infielder’s first go-round with the team. However, he saved one of his strangest career feats for his second stint with Milwaukee. Early in the 2014 season, which turned out to be Overbay’s last in the bigs, the fan favorite was brought in to stop the bleeding during the eighth inning of a 9-3 drubbing at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. After working veteran catcher Ryan Doumit to a full count, Overbay induced a pop-out to deep short to retire the one and only hitter he’d ever face.
2. Martin Maldonado — 1 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 0 K (2014)
Miraculously, less than two weeks before Overbay’s appearance, backup Brewers backstop Martin Maldonado was also summoned to the rubber in the eighth inning of a game Milwaukee was losing 9-3. He gave up one hit, but ultimately emerged unscathed in his one and (to this point) only time reversing his role in the pitcher-catcher relationship.
3. Joe Inglett — 1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 0 K (2010)
Light-hitting infielder/outfielder Joe Inglett didn’t do anything all that remarkable during his Major League career that spanned parts of six seasons. Even if his three homers, 39 RBI, and .297 average he posted for the 2008 Blue Jays are all career highs, most Brewers fans remember him better for the scoreless frame he tossed with the Crew against the Reds in 2010. Cooler yet, Inglett managed to do so in only six pitches.
4. Trent Durrington — 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 ER (2004)
Speaking of short and efficient relief appearances, in 2004, Australian-born reserve infielder and outfielder Trent Durrington got the Brewers (trailing Houston 14-5 at the time) out of a jam by retiring the only hitter he’d ever face professionally on a single pitch, resulting in a fly-out.
5. Mark Loretta — 1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 2 K (2001)
All-Star infielder Mark Loretta’s fairly impressive career started in Milwaukee, where he spent more than half his 15-year big league tenure. Though he spent the majority of his time on the basepaths, he took the game ball during the eighth inning of a contest against the Reds. The score was embarrassingly in Cincy’s favor, but Loretta had the last laugh when he struck out two Reds in a scoreless frame. He also pitched a third of an inning as a member of the Dodgers in 2009, which was also a scoreless appearance.
6. Rick Dempsey — 2 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, 0 K (1991)
With a career that spanned 24 seasons (1969-1992), there wasn’t much on a baseball field that Rick Dempsey didn’t do. However, it wasn’t until the journeyman catcher’s penultimate professional season that he took off the gear and stepped on the bump. In 1991, his sole season in Milwaukee, Dempsey pitched during two blowouts. His debut against the Red Sox wasn’t great, as he gave up three hits and an earned run in the ninth inning. Against the Rangers a month later, Dempsey found his groove and had a perfect inning, excluding a walk.
7. Terry Francona — 1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 1 K (1989)
Before Terry Francona was a World Series-winning manager and Popsicle-crushing monster, the current Cleveland skipper was a part-time first baseman and outfielder who suited up for the Expos, Cubs, Reds, and Brewers from 1981 to 1990. His on-field career was unspectacular, but he did manage one inning of greatness. During the eighth inning (are you sensing a pattern here?) of a game the host Oakland Athletics were winning 12-2, Francona accelerated the Brewers’ trip to the locker room with a scoreless inning. Beyond having no walks or hits to his name, he became one of just two Milwaukee position players to tally a strikeout.
8. Sal Bando — 3 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 2 ER, 0K (1979)
Despite having an awesome 95-66 record in 1979, the Brewers had at least one terrible game that season. On August 29, Milwaukee pitchers Jim Slaton, Reggie Cleveland, and Paul Mitchell quickly allowed 15 earned runs in the first three innings against the Kansas City Royals. Knowing the game was out of reach, the team enlisted veteran third baseman Sal Bando to eat some innings…three innings, to be exact. His two earned runs on three hits in his only career relief appearance weren’t amazing, but they were Cy Young-caliber compared to the guys who threw before him. After three innings, he was pulled after the sixth inning in favor of two more position players.
9. Jim Gantner — 1 IP, 2H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 0 K (1979)
Beloved by Brewers fans for his ability to be a below average player who came from Wisconsin and never played anywhere else during his 17-year run, Gumby came in to relieve Bando and proceeded to throw a scoreless seventh. Along the way, he gave up two singles in his one and only outing.
10. Buck Martinez — 1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, 0 K (1979)
Finally, catcher Buck Martinez came in to put a stop to the slaughter og August 29, 1979, but not before letting the Royals add one more run to a game Kansas City would win 18-8.
BONUS PLAYER THAT PROBABLY DOESN’T QUALIFY
11. Brooks Kieschnick — 96 IP, 110 H, 26 BB, 49 ER, 67 K (2003 and 2004)
Collegiate standout Brooks Kieschnick did it all at the University Of Texas. However, once the gifted slugger and skilled pitcher was drafted by a National League team, he stopped pitching and tried to make use of his power at the plate by shifting to the outfield. After failed stints with the Cubs, Reds, Rockies, and minor league squads, the hapless Brewers took a chance on Kieschnick in 2003, with the desire to have him return to pitching. Yes, the fact that he predominately pitched during his two years in Milwaukee makes his inclusion on this list questionable. That said, it technically counts because he played three entire games as a left fielder in 2003, pinch hit with regularity, and was the designated hitter during select interleague contests.
To be clear, this is more an indictment of how bad the early 2000s Brewers were than it is an assertion of Kieschnick’s abilities. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter why a position player gets the chance to pitch. Even if it’s almost always the byproduct of being blown out, it’s a rare treat for fans that at least somewhat sweetens an otherwise brutal loss.