As has been the case the past several seasons, the month of September means magic for the Brewers. Just days removed from an improbable pinch hit, walk-off grand slam against the Cardinals last Sunday, Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader combined for the Milwaukee Brewers first no-hitter in 34 years.
Often the correct decision is the difficult one. There will always be controversy when a manager pulls a pitcher who has a no-hitter in progress.
However in the case of today’s game, Craig Counsell made the right decision to pull the plug and let Hader finish off the game. There are several reasons for this, some more obvious than others.
Firstly, Burnes’ pitch count was clearly reaching a dangerous zone. He had 115 after the eight inning concluded, and his prior career high was 108. It is not worth the injury risk to send a pitcher like Burnes who, at age 26, still has a very long career ahead of him, out for the ninth inning in that situation.
According to Burnes himself after the game, he had to “fight” just to go back out for the 8th. It’s important to remember when attempting to analyze the risk in high pitch counts is that in many ways, this pitching staff and pitching staffs across baseball are still adjusting to the rigors of a full 162-game season after the shortened 2020 campaign.
Secondly, the game was still in a save situation, which means Counsell also had that to factor into his decision. If Burnes lost his command in the ninth, the game could have swung in the other direction quickly, and winning the game is ultimately the priority. That said, the pitch count was the main factor in the decision, and the same decision likely would have been made regardless of the scoreboard.
Finally, there is a bigger picture at play here that takes priority over all else, and that is the fact that the Brewers have a legitimate chance at a World Series run this season.
The bottom line is that Corbin Burnes will have a career’s worth of chances to eventually complete a no-hitter, but not every Brewers team is going to be as special as this one is. There’s simply no reason to risk overworking Corbin Burnes or any other key arm for that matter, for the sake of a no-hitter.
Even though he didn’t finish the job, Corbin Burnes probably became the Cy Young frontrunner in the minds of many tonight. As anyone who has been paying attention recognizes, he has been phenomenal all season, but tonight’s 14 strikeout performance was his finest masterpiece yet.
Even though individual accolades are not necessarily the goal for this Brewers ballclub, Burnes deserves to add some hardware to his shelf after this season. He is now up to 210 strikeouts, which ties him with Max Scherzer and puts him only behind Zack Wheeler in the National League. Burnes’ 2.25 ERA and 12.3 K/9 is higher than both of them.
Even if you still find yourself disagreeing with Craig Counsell’s decision to pull Corbin Burnes, the team still made history and it was another special moment on a long list of special moments for this Milwaukee Brewers team. There was certainly no disappointment on the faces of the players after the game, so there shouldn’t be any on yours, either.