Well that’s more like it. Just like Opening Day, it took some extra work to get it done, but the Brewers got their first series win of the 2021 season when they took out the rival Cubs 4-2 in 10 innings, winning the rubber match of the three-game series.
Though the end of the game was full of plenty of suspense, that was not the case for Cubs hitters through the first seven innings. That was because Milwaukee starter Brandon Woodruff had them completely baffled throughout his entire outing.
Woodruff would end up carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning, nearly fulfilling one of our bold predictions, before giving up Chicago’s first hit of the game, a single to outfielder Ian Happ. Woody would wrap up the rest of the inning unscathed, which would leave him at just a hit given up on no runs and no walks over seven innings, and most importantly, just 74 pitches.
In the top of the eighth, Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain would finally break the scoreless tie, hitting a solo bomb to left and finally giving Milwaukee the lead. But with reigning NL Rookie and Reliever of the Year Devin Williams warming in the bullpen, would Woodruff get the chance to complete the shutout?
The answer would be no. Williams would enter the game, unfortunately give up a solo homer of his own to Cubs outfielder Joc Pederson, and the game would eventually move on before the Brewers eventually pulled out the victory.
It’s hard to argue bringing in a reliever of Williams’ caliber in such a high-leverage situation, but Woodruff had only thrown 74 pitches. Was that really the right move for Brewers manager Craig Counsell?
It would’ve been nice to see the shutout, but yes, pulling Brandon Woodruff was the right move for the Brewers.
Baseball traditionalists probably hate it, but fans of the Brewers know that even seeing a Milwaukee starter throw a complete game, let alone a shutout, is rare. In fact, the last one thrown was by ex-Brewer Jimmy Nelson back on June 18th, 2017.
There have been close calls since, but no one has quite been able to go the distance. Thus, Brewers fans were excited at the possibility of finally seeing one once again, and against a rival, no less. Woodruff’s pitch count at the time certainly made it seem possible.
But we’re talking Woody’s second start of the season, when he hasn’t built up his full stamina up for the season yet. We’re also talking about a 2021 season where we knew starter pitch counts would be low, at least to start, following a shortened 2020 season where starting pitchers didn’t get very many starts under their belts.
For his part, Woodruff mentioned after the game that he agreed with the timing of Counsell’s move to remove him from the game.
It’s pretty telling that Woodruff felt gassed after those 74 pitches, considering he didn’t throw less than 85 in any of his 13 starts last season. It also means that the team’s strategy toward starting pitchers, one that many other teams will utilize in 2021, makes a lot of sense.
Based on his talent, efficiency, and past durability, there’s a chance that Brewers fans get another chance at seeing Woodruff throw a no-hitter further down the road. It just wasn’t to be today.