After all the ups and downs of the 2020 season, naturally it comes down to one game standing between the Brewers and a third-straight playoff berth.
It all comes down to this. After winning last night’s game against the Cardinals, 3-0, behind a stellar effort from staff ace Brandon Woodruff, the Brewers come into Sunday’s final game with a simple task: win, and you’re in.
It would be an oddly satisfying end to an emotional rollercoaster of a season. After the hot streaks and cold streaks, the cancelled games and doubleheaders, the Brewers have a chance to reach their third-straight postseason for the first time in franchise history.
Unfortunately, in the team’s most important game of the year, they will be unable to deploy either of their top two starting options since Woodruff just pitched last night and NL Cy Young candidate right-hander Corbin Burnes is out due to injury. Nope, to get there, it’ll have to be on the back of veteran starter Brett Anderson.
Anderson was brought to the Brewers over the offseason on a one-year, $5 million “prove it” deal, combining with fellow offseason signee Josh Lindblom to bring a veteran presence to the rotation that was missing last year. Little did anyone know that he would be starting the team’s biggest game of the season.
It was a bit of a rocky start to the season as Anderson began it with an injured list stint and then didn’t get past four innings in each of his first two starts. But he has been relatively steady overall this season, coming into the game with a 4.00 ERA that is third best among the team’s regular starters.
Anderson hasn’t given up more than two earned runs in any of his nine starts this season and his most recent start may have been his finest of the season so far. In it, he gave up just one earned run on four hits over six innings with seven strikeouts in a win against the Reds last Tuesday.
If Anderson should struggle early or start to run up a high pitch count, the Brewers should be well-suited to cover innings of relief. Their top two relievers by fWAR, Devin Williams (1.4) and Freddy Peralta (0.9), should be rested and ready to go for Sunday.
The status of other top options is less clear. Manager Craig Counsell wouldn’t commit to Josh Hader‘s availability per Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, but after pitching just an inning in each of the last two days he could be used in a pinch. Brent Suter, who pitched a season-high four innings on Friday, likely is unavailable.
The best-case scenario for the Brewers would be if Anderson can put out five effective innings minimum in his start. If he can do that, Peralta and Williams would be entirely capable of covering the final four innings or less.
Sunday’s big game begins at 2:15pm CST. Win it, and the Brewers are playoff-bound. Lose, and it’s time to go scoreboard watching.