The Billings Mustangs dominated the thinned Brewers in every facet of the game on Sunday, winning 16-7 at Kindrick Legion Field.
The Brewers were riding a bit of momentum entering the two-game series against Billings. Helena had taken three of four from league-leading Great Falls, giving the Brewers an outside shot at making the playoffs. While that shot is still alive, even after dropping two games to Billings (32-37), the Brewers are looking at a steep challenge.
“It’s kinda hard because we face the leading in the second half team, Great Falls, beat them three out four with two really good games,” Brewers manager Nestor Corredor said. “And then we face Billings yesterday, and we don’t allow a run for seven innings and then we give up two, and lose two-nothing. It was another unbelievable game from our pitching staff.”
The Brewers (26-44) were unbelievable on Sunday too, but for all the wrong reasons.
Andy Sugilio got the first hit of the game in the top of the second inning.
Petersen walked two more, and then received a visit at the mound from pitching coach Rolando Velles. Petersen battled back, recording a strikeout, and battled the next batter to an 0-2 count before a soft pop to left-center field brought one run in, but sloppy base running gave the Brewers a force-out at third. Petersen enacted a fly-out to get out of the inning with only giving up one run after loading up the bases.
Jay Feliciano drew a four-pitch walk and Nick Roscetti hit a double down the left field line, but the Brewers couldn’t advance their runners from second and third base.
Petersen looked like he had strong start to the third inning, but after building up an 0-2 count, Jeter Downs fought back and dropped a fly ball into center field, and then an error while fielding gave Downs second base.
Miles Gordon hit a sky-high home run, estimated at 420 feet, and gave the Mustangs a 3-0 lead.
Petersen gave up a blooper single to right field and his afternoon was over.
The Brewers sent Roberto Delgado to supplant Petersen.
Delgado got out of the inning, but struggled in the fourth, as the Brewers' defense didn’t offer him much help. Stuart Fairchild doubled to bring in a run, followed by Suigilio’s two-RBI double. Then, Hendrik Clementina singled to score another run. Billings had a 7-0 lead going into the bottom of the inning, and it felt insurmountable.
“Sure enough today, early day, we go south,” Corredor said. “We did not pitch. We did not play defense. We did not hit. It’s tough.”
KJ Harrison got the Brewers on board with a single shot home run. Nick Roscetti flew out to bring in the Brewers' second run.
Clementina got an RBI off a ground-rule double in the top of the sixth.
In the bottom of the sixth, Roscetti hit an RBI single, making the score 8-3.
Montrell Marshall hit a one-run homer in the top of the seventh.
Helena added two runs in the bottom of the seventh when Payton Henry led off the inning with a walk. Antonio Pinero hit a double to left field and brought in Henry. A wild pitch moved Pinero to third and then KJ Harrison hit a sacrifice fly to bring the Brewers within four runs, 9-5.
Sugilio kept the Mustangs offense going in the top of the eighth, hitting a triple to score another run. Clementina smacked a fly out to bring in a run and then Alejo Lopez flew out to bring in the Mustangs’ 12th run of the game.
Billings poured it in the top of the ninth. Miles Gordon hit an RBI single and Raul Wallace reached on a throwing error for an RBI. Sugilio singled to bring in an RBI. Clementina grounded out to bring in the Mustangs' 16th run.
The Brewers tacked on two in the bottom of the ninth. Jose Gomez hit a RBI double and a wild pitch from Connor Bennett allowed Gomez to come across.
The Mustangs finished with 18 hits, while Helena had eight to go along with five errors.
The game showed the distances between the two teams. Billings was able to shift players in and out of the lineup and even experiment with players at new positions. Helena, after moving Tristen Lutz and Kenny Corey down to the Arizona League, had no such luxury.
Corredor said his team certainly misses two of its best bats.
“Corey and Lutz, when Dallas left and Zach Clark left, they kind of balanced our lineup,” Corredor said. “Those three games we beat Great Falls, they were a big part of two. You lost your leadoff and your second hole guy. Both guys playing positions that are obviously very important for us. At the same time, they go down there to try to win a championship. When you are a winning player, you need to find a way to be on a winning team regardless. They're starting over there, they made the playoffs there, and now they deserve the opportunity to go down there and finish it.”
With Great Falls’ loss to Missoula on Sunday, the Brewers remain five games behind the Voyagers with six games to play.
“We still have a chance. That’s the message,” Corredor said. “Even if we are eliminated, we have to go out there and compete like we want to win every day.”
Helena plays at 4:05 p.m. on Labor Day, starting a two-game series with Missoula, the final two home games of the season.
“We'll try to be on the field a little bit earlier than today,” Corredor said. “I know yesterday was a quick game and it should be OK for today. Obviously the players did not show up with a good energy. The message is come back tomorrow and play another game and another day of life.”