The Milwaukee Brewers don’t have a great starting rotation. However, that might not matter come playoff time.
When it comes to starting pitching, the Milwaukee Brewers are solid, but unspectacular. Chase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin, Gio Gonzalez, Zach Davies, and Wade Miley are capable of eating up innings, but none will compete for a Cy Young Award. The good news is that the Brewers don’t need them to. They’ve found another way to dominate.
What do the Brewers require from a starter?
If the Milwaukee Brewers get a starting pitcher through the fifth with only a few runs allowed, they’ve done their job. Anything extra is a bonus at this point.
The perfect example was Monday night’s game against the Chicago Cubs. Miley exited the game after five innings with only two runs allowed, but he only threw 81 pitches. He could’ve come back out for the sixth, but the Brewers turned it over to their bullpen.
The Brewers used their starter to rack up 15 outs, and then handed it off to a trio of lights-out relievers for the final 12 outs.
Corbin Burnes worked the sixth because the Cubs had a glut of right-handed hitters for him to get out. They followed Burnes with Josh Hader and he struck everyone out…literally…for two innings. Finally, it was up to Jeremy Jeffress to work the ninth as their ‘sort-of’ closer. Jeffress has earned saves in each of his last three games played, and has 11 on the season.
The Cubs only had two baserunners after the fifth inning, and never threatened.
Why does this strategy work?
It works because the Milwaukee Brewers have assembled an awesome bullpen. Hader and Jeffress are just about as automatic as it gets in Major League Baseball. Burnes has stepped up, and Corey Knebel is back in the Majors, healthy, and looks like himself again. They have four high-leverage arms to run out against the opposition, and a few unique pieces for situational roles.
If they need to get a right-hander our, the Brewers can turn to Xavier Cedeno or Dan Jennings. If there’s a tough lefty, Jacob Barnes and Brandon Woodruff are both available. Manager Craig Counsell has a ton of options right now, and he’s been pressing all the right buttons since the calendar flipped to September.
The Milwaukee Brewers are only one game behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, and they owe a lot of credit to their bullpen. If the starting pitchers can get through the fifth, the bullpen is waiting to take over, and lock down the victory. Should they make the playoffs, their bullpen will play a huge role in how far they go.