Batting out of order is embarrassing at any level, but especially in the big leagues. Just ask Ryan Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers, who made the mistake in the first inning of Monday's game against the Washington Nationals and Max Scherzer.
With two outs and nobody on, Braun, the supposed No. 3 hitter, singled. The only problem was, according to the lineup card that Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell submitted to the umpire, Braun was supposed to hit fourth, after catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Nats skipper Dusty Baker spied the mistake and immediately pointed it out to home plate umpire Cory Blaser.
Per MLB rules, Lucroy, who was waiting innocently in the on-deck circle, was charged with the out. Even worse, he never even got a chance to bat the first time through the order, because Braun led off the following inning as the Brewers' cleanup hitter. But the worst part of all? The mistake negated what would've been Braun's first career hit off of Scherzer.
Even though the Brewers ended up winning 1-0, we here at ESPN weren't about to let it die. In the interest of hard-hitting investigative journalism, we went behind the scenes and talked to the parties involved to find out what really happened.
Max Scherzer, Nationals starting pitcher: "When the other teams send over their lineup, I always go through it batter by batter. So I had remembered that after Scooter [Gennett, Milwaukee’s second hitter on Monday], they had Lucroy and then Braun. I even had that sequence in my head. So when I got that second out, in the back of my head, I was thinking, OK, what am I going to do against Lucroy. And then Braun batted."
Dusty Baker, Nationals manager: "[Washington bench coach] Chris Speier brought it to my attention because he's in charge of the lineup on the wall. He pins it up, marks it down, and all that kind of stuff. I've been a victim of that myself, and so you let him hit. If he hits and does something, then you bring it to the attention, and if he doesn't do anything, you leave it alone and then you bring it to the attention next inning."
Ryan Braun, Brewers left fielder: "I've hit third every day this year, almost every day of my career, so it wasn't something I thought about at all before I went up to hit. The only lineup I saw had me hitting third. I looked on the scoreboard, and I was hitting third, so I usually do at least check those things. But as soon as I saw Dusty come out, I assumed that unless Max was hurt, that was the only thing he could've been coming out to talk about."
Scherzer: "Once Dusty came out with the lineup card, I knew I was right. When I did the scouting reports, they had Lucroy in the three-hole and Braun in the four-hole. When I circled back around the mound and saw that there was timeout after the hit, I looked up, and Dusty was walking out with the card. I was like, 'Yep, that's right.' I had [second baseman] Stephen Drew and Espi [shortstop Danny Espinosa] there with me, and I was like, 'Hey, this isn't just a little technical difficulty, they're batting out of order.'"
Craig Counsell, Brewers manager: "We were working multiple lineups, and I basically transposed their names. I just made a clerical error, and we missed it."
Baker: "It’s happened to me before. One time when I was playing, [Dodgers bench coach] Monty Basgall put the one lineup on the board, and I was hitting in front of Penguin [third baseman Ron Cey] on the board. But in reality I was really hitting behind Penguin. So I said, 'Oh, I must be hitting in front of Penguin.' I went up there, and Pete Rose caught it. Runners on first and second, they let me hit. I hit a ground ball to short for a fielder's choice. They said I hit out of order and told me to hit again. They made everybody go back, and it was two outs. My homeboy, Randy Lerch, threw the same pitch, and I hit it out of the ballpark. Ron Cey didn't want to give me five -- he was 0-for-1 and I was 1-for-1.
Scherzer: "In Little League, it happened one time to the other team. But I had never seen it happen in a big league game. I got a freebie, but it was a catch-22, because now I gotta face Braun again in the second inning."
Braun: "It was worse for me than it was for him, clearly, because I've gone 0-for my career against him. I think I was 0-for-10 coming in, so it would've been my first hit off of him. I got a chance to see quite a few extra pitches against him, but it didn't seem to help me too much. Next at bat, I went 3-2, saw a bunch more pitches, and grounded out. The times after that, I hit a one-hopper to short and lined out to first. So I remained 0-for my career against him, despite my hit in the first inning."
Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers catcher: "It wasn't until they told me what happened that I realized something went wrong."
Braun: "I was standing with Ryan Zimmerman at first base. We both had an idea as soon as Dusty came out that it had something to do with the lineup. They just called an out, and then as I was jogging back to the dugout, the home plate umpire got my attention to let me know that I was leading off the next inning. I didn't know what the official rule was, where I was in the lineup, or if I was even in the lineup. I didn't know whether I hit again, if that automatically counted as an out, I had no idea. I found out from Luke [Lucroy] after that inning, and obviously, he wasn't thrilled about that."
Lucroy: "I knew the rule. I knew I was out."
Counsell: "We're all responsible for it. We're all looking at the lineup. We just screwed up. In the end we won, but it's no fun making those kinds of mistakes. You try to learn from it and put it behind you."
Braun: "There’s a lot of people that get to look at the lineup before it's turned in. It's kind of crazy that something like that could get lost in translation, but it happens. You move on."