Maybe in other years, playing an opponent with the worst record in the league would be welcomed by a struggling team. In the case of this year’s Brewers, facing the Pirates hasn’t been a blessing.
It took a 6-5 victory in Monday’s series finale for the Brewers just to even the season series.
The Pirates have been a thorn in the Crew’s side all season, even sweeping the Brewers in Pittsburgh just last week. Of the Bucs’ 10 wins, five of them have come against Milwaukee.
But the Brewers’ bats woke up just enough to get the last laugh. The 23 runs scored in the series were the most scored by the Brewers in any series this year.
Four Brewer homers propelled them to a game one blowout win, Eric Sogard delivered an improbable walk-off homer in game two, and Orlando Arcia cracked a go-ahead, RBI single in the bottom of the 8th of the finale to take three of four in the series.
Offense Backs Burnes in Opener
After his abysmal 2019 season, Corbin Burnes continued to look dialed in on the mound, striking out 10 over six innings pitched to get his first win of the season in the Brewers’ 9-1 triumph.
Burnes lowered his ERA to 2.78, a stark turnaround from last year, when he gave up 48 earned runs in 49 innings of work.
Jedd Gyorko homered twice to lead the offense, and Ryan Braun ripped a line-drive, three-run homer for his 800th career extra base hit. Jacob Nottingham added a two-run bomb in what was the Brewers largest margin of victory of the year.
Sogard’s Walk-Off Lifts Brewers in Game Two
Baseball can often be a strange sport, and the weirdness was on full display on Saturday night.
On to preserve the win in the 9th, Josh Hader completely lost the strike zone, allowing two runs on five walks for his first blown save of the year.
But Hader was bailed out by the unlikeliest of heroes in Eric Sogard, who launched a two-run homer for the first walk-off shot of his career.
The game was a back-and-forth battle through, and both teams blew saves down the stretch. In the 8th, Avisaíl Garcia plated the go-ahead runs with a 2-RBI double that set up Hader’s save opportunity.
The normally reliable closer, who has yet to give up a hit in 2020, struggled mightily with his command. Hader threw 32 pitches in the inning, and only nine crossed the plate for strikes.
Devin Williams relieved Hader to get the final two outs of the 9th and pick up the win.
Brewers Bats Go Quiet in Game Three
Brandon Woodruff gave up season-highs in walks and runs, and the Brewers offense stranded a small army on the base paths, dropping Sunday’s game, 6-1.
Despite striking out seven in five innings, Woodruff served up homers to Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell. That turned out to be all the Pirates needed against a woeful Brewer offense.
Milwaukee stranded 13 runners on base for the game, and left the bases loaded in the 7th when they were down 5-1.
Arcia Delivers in Finale
After failing to get that clutch hit in game three, the Brewers got a boost from Orlando Arcia to close out the series with a 6-5 win.
The Pirates rallied off Freddy Peralta to tie the game at 5 apiece in the 6th. But the Brewers staged their own rally in the 8th after Ben Gamel led off with a double. After Garcia was walked to put runners on 1st and 2nd with two outs, Arcia bounced a groundball through the left side to score Gamel and give the Brewers the lead.
Hader returned to form and struck out the side in the 9th to notch his 8th save of the year.
Williams picked up his 2nd win of the series, striking out four across 1.2 innings.
Brent Suter got the spot start in the finale and pitched three solid innings but was burned on the only hit he allowed for a two-run homer by Erik Gonzalez.
The Brewers built a 4-3 after that when Keston Hiura led off the bottom of the 5th with a solo shot to center. But Jose Osuna lined a two-out Peralta pitch to center to tie the game an inning later.
Williams Continues to Shine
The Brewers were largely quiet during the trade deadline, which passed on Monday afternoon. GM David Stearns only made one move, and its arguably due to the emergence of Williams as a legitimate set up man.
David Phelps, who had been holding down set up duties recently, was shipped to the Phillies for three players to be named later.
Williams, taken by the Brewers in the 2nd round in 2013 Amateur draft, has been lights out this season. Still considered a rookie despite a few appearances in 2019, Williams currently boasts a 3-1 record and a 0.64 ERA.
He has given up only one earned run in 14 innings pitched while striking out 29 batters, thanks in large part to a devastating changeup that might rank among the best in baseball.
If the Brewers can get more leads into the late innings, the 1-2 combo of Williams and Hader should provide plenty of wins in September.
(Read up on Williams’ breakout season here.)
Woodruff Getting No Run Support
I tweeted out earlier this season that Woodruff could potentially be this season’s Jacob deGrom with the way the Brewers fail to score runs when he pitches.
In his 2018 Cy Young campaign, deGrom famously went just 10-9 despite a microscopic 1.70 ERA because the Mets simply couldn’t score runs when he pitched. So far, Woodruff’s season is shaping up similarly.
Through eight starts, Woodruff has a 3.67 ERA. He gave up a season-high four runs in Sunday’s loss to the Pirates.
Yet his record stands at just 2-3 because the Brewers are averaging just 2.88 runs when he takes the mound.
Woodruff may not be in deGrom-ian territory performance-wise, but he has certainly pitched effective enough to have a better record than 2-3. He has been the recipient of a few tough luck losses already this season, and it’s a trend Brewers fan hope does not continue.
Winning when Woodruff starts should be low-hanging fruit for the Crew, and it’ll need to happen as they make a playoff push.
The Brewers wrap up their homestand with a quick, two-game series against Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Tigers come to town with a 16-16 record. Michael Fulmer (0-0, 8.79 ERA) will take the mound in the opener to face the Brewers, who counter with Josh Lindblom (1-2, 6.31 ERA).
The Brewers have owned September the last two seasons and will need another good month to make a push to the playoffs.