Ryan Braun singled up the middle with two outs in the top of the first inning off Max Scherzer in this morning's Independence Day game at Nationals Park. Except in doing so, he actually charged teammate Jonathan Lucroy with an unassisted putout to the catcher.
As if 11 a.m. baseball isn't weird enough, the Brewers turned today's game even more bizarre when they batted out of order in the top of the first, costing themselves a hit, not to mention some of their dignity.
When Braun, the third batter of the inning, singled off Scherzer, it didn't raise eyebrows among anyone in the park. Except for the Nationals dugout, which realized the lineup card distributed at the plate a few minutes earlier showed Lucroy batting third, with Braun fourth.
Following the correct protocol for just this situation, Nationals manager Dusty Baker emerged from the dugout after the Braun single - but before a pitch was thrown to Lucroy - and informed plate umpire Cory Blaser the opposition had batted out of order. After the full crew conferred, Braun's single was wiped out and Lucroy was called out (officially credited with an unassisted putout to catcher Wilson Ramos).
And, again following the correct protocol for this unusual scenario, when the top of the second inning arrived, Braun came up to bat again for what in reality was his second straight at-bat but officially was his first (he grounded out to third). Lucroy, meanwhile, didn't physically step to the plate until the top of the third, even though officially he already was 0-for-1 on the day.
It's apparently the first case of a major league team batting out of order since the Giants inadvertently flip-flopped Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval on July 6, 2013.
So how did this happen? The lineups distributed in the press box and displayed on the scoreboard showing Braun hitting third and Lucroy batting fourth, just as it played out on the field. The Brewers, though, must have submitted a lineup card with those two players in reverse order.
Braun hasn't hit fourth at any point this season, so unless Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell suddenly decided to do that today for the first time, his lineup card (typically filled out by bench coach Pat Murphy) must have been incorrectly filled out.
The Brewers, for what it's worth, played a rain-delayed game in St. Louis yesterday and didn't arrive to D.C. until midnight, only 11 hours before first pitch.
Update: There hasn't been much offense at all in this game, but the Brewers finally struck in the top of the fifth. Martin Maldonado crushed a 2-1 fastball from Scherzer way over the bullpen in left field. That's the 21st homer allowed by Scherzer this season, and it leaves the Nationals in a 1-0 hole. The Nats have managed one hit (Danny Espinosa's infield single) and one walk (Wilson Ramos) so far against Junior Guerra.
Update II: It's over, and there wasn't much to this one. The Nats lost 1-0. They managed all of two hits against Guerra and relievers Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress. They only threatened once, when they had two on in the sixth. But Ramos struck out on a tough splitter from Guerra to thwart that rally, and they couldn't mount another one against the Milwaukee bullpen. Jonathan Papelbon did make his return from the DL and pitch a 1-2-3 top of the ninth with two strikeouts.