The Brewers coughed up leads in both games of the Milwaukee portion of the home-and-home series against the White Sox. They didn’t let it happen again in Chicago.
With the offense still struggling to score runs, the pitching staff took care of business in the opener behind Adrian Houser’s gem. The following night, the Brewers’ bats finally busted out, tying a season-high eight runs to back a solid outing by Josh Lindblom.
The pair of victories raised the Brewers’ season record back to .500 at 5-5 as they sit alone in second place in the NL Central. They are 3.5 games behind the Cubs, who have burst out of the gates with a 10-3 record.
Houser Outduels Keuchel in Game On
The opener in Chicago definitely belonged to Adrian Houser.
In a classic pitchers’ duel between Houser and former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, the Brewers came away with a 1-0 victory.
Houser pitched seven strong innings, allowing only five hits while striking out five to pick up his first win of the season. He lowered his ERA to 0.75 through two impressive starts.
Keuchel, equally effective in his start, struck out eight over seven innings. He was burned by one brief Brewers’ rally in the third that plated Mark Mathias for the game’s only run.
Houser’s entire repertoire was sharp. He mixed speeds well and showed great command throughout. The White Sox struggled to make solid contact all night long. Craig Counsell spoke especially high of Houser’s curveball following the game.
“Tonight he had command of it,” Counsell said. “At times it can come and go, but when he can do what he wants with that pitch…that’s a real difference maker as far as what a hitter has to defend.”
Mathias, making his first career start, picked up his first major league hit in his first major league at bat. He led off the third with a single, moved to second on a single by Orlando Arcia, then scored on Eric Sogard’s single to center.
Josh Hader finished off the shutout for his second save of the year.
Yelich Round Tripper Highlights Brewers Romp in Game Two
Christian Yelich scored a wild inside-the-park home run as the Brewers’ offense finally woke up to take finale, 8-3, on Thursday.
Down 2-1 in the fifth, Yelich smacked a high fly ball down the left field line. Sox outfielder Eloy Jiménez took a terrible angle at the ball and couldn’t make the catch as the ball landed just inside the foul line. Jiménez subsequently crashed into the wall and appeared to get stuck in the safety netting, allowing Yelich enough time to hustle around the bases for his first career inside-the-park homer.
“It was probably the luckiest home run in baseball history,” Yelich said after the game. “Definitely top three.”
Jedd Gyorko followed a few batters later the more conventional way, crushing a 2-run dinger into the Sox bullpen for his first big fly of the year.
The four-run outburst gave the Brewers a lead they never relinquished, though it didn’t go with a scare.
With two on in the seventh against Freddy Peralta, who relieved Lindblom an inning earlier, Chicago’s designated hitter Zack Collins lifted a 3-0 fastball to deep right center. Peralta dropped into a crouch when the ball was hit, clearly thinking he had just given up the lead. Alas, the ball fell harmlessly in Mathias’ mitt, and the lead was preserved.
The victory gave Lindblom his first win of the season and first in the majors in five years. He spent the last several seasons pitching in Korea.
Lindblom, known for his vast array of pitches, was sharp from the beginning. He struck out the first five batters en route to a career-high seven Ks.
Peralta, despite the jam in the seventh, was masterful out of the ‘pen. Fastball Freddy struck out six in three innings of relief and gave up only one hit.
Yelich Close to Breaking Out?
Counsell decided to give Yelich a day off in Wednesday’s opener after Yelich continued to struggle at the plate. Though he went 2-for-4 with a double on Monday, Yelich followed with a three-strikeout performance Tuesday.
The day off seemed to work. Yelich walked four times Thursday night and collected his second homer of the season, albeit in unorthodox fashion.
The performance gives hope that he’s ready to break out of the slump that’s plagued him in the early going. He entered the two-game set in Chicago batting just .088, striking out a team high 16 times.
“It’s been an absolute zoo,” Yelich said about his early season struggles. “I’ve been awful all year, so to have some positivity and be able to smile about something was nice.”
Starting Rotation Stepping Up
While the offense has struggled to score consistently, the starting pitching has been key to keeping the Brewers afloat to start the season.
The Brewers’ rotation currently holds the sixth best team ERA in the majors at 3.04 (just behind the Cubs, who rank fifth at 2.84).
The biggest factors behind their success have been limiting the home run ball and limiting free passes. Brewers’ starters have only allowed four homers all season and have only walked 17 batters in 47.1 total innings.
As for the Offense
Overall, the hitting statistics still look pretty ugly on the season. That they were able to put up a few crooked numbers on the scoreboard Thursday sure was a welcomed sight.
The Brewers currently rank 25th in team OPS and are tied with the Nationals for 27th in home runs with just eight. Only two teams rank behind them in homers: the light-hitting Diamondbacks and the Cardinals, who have only played five games.
However, Thursday’s performance was encouraging to say the least.
“There’s no switch that we’re flipping,” Counsell said after the game. “We put pressure on in a whole bunch of innings, and we cashed in tonight.”
The offense needs to continue to excel this weekend as the Reds make their first visit of 2020 to Miller Park. Cincinnati ranks second in team ERA and will send out their ace, Trevor Bauer (1-0, 0.68 ERA, 20 Ks), for Friday’s opener. The Brewers plan to counter with Eric Lauer (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 Ks). Lauer’s only appearance this season came in relief back on July 26, when he struck out six out of the eight batters he faced.