The Milwaukee Brewers have merely kept their heads above water over the last week or so.
That’s all anyone can ask for when missing key players to injury and losing more over the eight days. But, a 3-4 stint, including two series on the road against playoff teams, is an impressive feat. The Milwaukee Brewers have kept themselves within striking distance for when the cavalry returns, which isn’t too far off.
1. Counsell, Defying All Odds!
The popular, arcane idea of forcing a “closer” into the ninth inning when there’s a save opportunity is seemingly washing away! At least, for Craig Counsell, it is.
Without star Corey Knebel, the Brewer’s manager needs to get creative with his bullpen use. No longer is throwing in Hader for two innings after a poor starter inevitably stumbles through five, then turning to Boone Logan and Knebel to shut the door, an option. Without two pieces of that puzzle, (unfortunately, the underachieving starter is very much available) Counsell needs to show his skill as a manager.
Well, lucky for Milwaukee fans, he has. The greatest example of this being letting Hader pitch the eighth and ninth in a semi-tight game. The lefty rewarded his manager by making quick work of the Mets’ hitters, striking out five of the six he faced.
This makes sense. And it makes so much sense that MLB managers don’t quite understand it. Let the guy thats producing in this specific game pitch more of that game. Is it just too logical? Why allow the possibility of an arm getting blown up because he wasn’t feeling it that day? Just go with the guy who is producing!
It was a tough sight to see Knebel go down with an injury. But, if it gives Counsell the chance to explore revolutionary ideas like this, there might be a bright spot.
2. Offense, offense, and a little more offense
The Milwaukee Brewers came into this six game road trip after struggling to score at the start of the season. They were coming off a series where they were blanked twice and finished with seven runs in four games. And, as a result, panic ensued. For those who preached patience, however, you were rewarded.
Against all odds, Milwaukee’s offense performed well in these last seven games. Facing off against the likes of Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Martinez is not easy. And that’s not even mentioning quality guys in Steven Matz and Luis Castillo. Brewer hitters did not have a light schedule this week yet still put up enough numbers to grab three wins with a depleted roster. For those who are still worried about this offense: don’t be. Once guys get healthy and in rhythm, this will be an exciting lineup to watch.
3. Second Base
I love me some second base talk. There’s nothing better than avidly following Jonathan Villar, Eric Sogard, and Hernan Perez. The best part is, the starting second baseman come June may not even be one of these names! What a life I’m living.
But, Jonathan Villar had a quality series of games. He finally drew a walk, his first of the season. And, to celebrate, he drew another that same game! Imagine that: a speedy leadoff hitter getting on base so he can use his best tool! Although the second baseman put up fine numbers during the week, he still continues to struggle with strikeouts. He finished with eight punch-outs in seven games, and he didn’t even start in two of those. We’ll come back to this in a week since it’s still too early to judge season statistics.
On the other hand, Sogard and Perez each made a start at second this past week. Both had multi-hit games and provided better plate discipline at the position than Villar has this season. Yet, these two still aren’t being relied upon up the middle because of their versatility. It will be interesting to see if Counsell decides to make a change to one of these guys for good, or keep them as utility men.
As much as the pitching staff will be a problem this season, they provided a few quality innings. The only starter to go more than five innings was Chase Anderson, the “ace” of the staff. The rest, unfortunately, put together outings that barely got into the sixth.
With a bullpen as good and deep as the Brewers’, Milwaukee’s starters only need to give five exceptional innings. However, the Brewers need to be careful with how this plays out. Considering the injuries already affecting the pen, along with 162 games to get through, these relievers need rest. The organization must pick up an innings-eater in the summer to lift some of the heavy weight off the relievers. Until then, the hope is that the bullpen can continue to carry this type of load.