MINNEAPOLIS -- There was that game against Ford (TX) High.
"I had a perfect game going and the last guy I faced had a 3-2 count and I had no idea I was going to be able to throw anything close to the zone but it was just a little above the zone and he swung and I ended up getting the last out," Colten Brewer recalled. "That’s the biggest moment beside the ones in the big leagues."
There were those games he saved in Double-A.
"I had some situations in Double-A that were close but it was Double-A and I kind of pitched the same way. It’s a little bit different," he added. "It’s not Nelson Cruz, that’s for sure."
This was Nelson Cruz. This was Brewer's biggest moment.
The reliever who has now pitched in 39 major league games was called upon to come in Monday night and play the role of high-leverage, lock-down reliever. Brewer was the guy whose job it was going to be to hold the 1-0 lead starter Rick Porcello had managed to leave with after seven innings. And he had to do this against the best lineup in the big leagues.
"I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I was a little bit anxious and ready to get back in the dugout," he admitted after the Red Sox' 2-0 win. (For a complete recap, click here.)
What Brewer went through in that eighth inning was the progression of a newbie to the big world of baseball with the Boston Red Sox. Big games and big stakes.
Ryan Brasier, the reliever who would seamlessly shut things down in the ninth, was walking in Brewer's shoes less than a year ago, identifying an innocuous early August outing in front of a handful of fans at Camden Yards as the biggest moment of his pitching existence. A few months later he was living life on the game's biggest stage, three rounds of postseason baseball.
Brewer knew this was coming, with Brandon Workman, Marcus Walden and Matt Barnes all being rested by Red Sox manager Alex Cora. And he also understood that this has been the best he had been throwing as a professional, having not surrendered an earned run in seven June appearances. But this was next-level.
The only comparable scenario for the 26-year-old came on April 6 in Arizona when he was called upon to pitch the ninth inning of what was a tied ballgame. That -- his fourth appearance with the Red Sox -- didn't work out with Brewer allowing the Diamondbacks a walk-off win.
"When I was in Phoenix and something similar like that happened, almost like I wasn’t really ready for it," he said. "This time, I made sure I was ready and tried to be as nasty as possible, got some lucky ground balls in there and got out of the inning."
He did have his moments of uncertainty.
After a leadoff single to Jonathan Schoop, Max Kepler walked. The pair were moved up on a Jorge Polanco bunt, putting runners on second and third with one out. But this time Brewer came through, inducing a weak tapper back to the mound off the bat of Cruz for a tag play at home. And to cap things out Eddie Rosario grounded out to first baseman Michael Chavis to end the threat.
Brewer had taken a huge step forward.