The Milwaukee Brewers have opted to go with Eric Lauer as their starting pitcher for Game 4 of the NLDS over staff ace Corbin Burnes on short rest. Here’s why that is a smart decision by Craig Counsell.
So far, the NLDS hasn’t gone completely to plan for the Brewers. Game 1 was good, with Burnes going six shutout innings and the offense doing just enough, with a two run homer by Rowdy Tellez, to get the victory. A 1-0 series lead and things are looking good.
But, the offense has struggled in the two games since. The Brewers haven’t scored in their last 19 innings and were completely shut out in Games 2 and 3. Now, they’re in a 2-1 series hole, and the Braves can win the series in Game 4. The Brewers want and need to bring this series back to Milwaukee.
So, in a must win game, why wouldn’t the Brewers go with their best starting pitcher, Corbin Burnes? Why go with Eric Lauer instead?
Eric Lauer has earned this opportunity. He turned himself into a valuable starter down the stretch, posting a 2.60 ERA in the second half of the season. That’s right, a 2.60 ERA. He limited opponents to just a .193/.255/.314 slash line post-All Star Break. In terms of results, he’s right there on par with what Corbin Burnes did.
Lauer was Top 10 in MLB in second half ERA and top 5 in second half WHIP. He was one of the better pitchers in the league in the second half, and there’s no reason not to trust him based on his recent performance.
The Brewers, once again opting for rest as they’ve done all season, are giving Burnes two more days of rest before he would start Game 5 if they can force it. Lauer, meanwhile, is fresh as can be.
The method of rest has been tried and true for Milwaukee this season, and they’ve been careful with their arms. Now, that’s been in an effort to let them go as much as they can in October, but this isn’t the time to push Burnes on three days rest.
If they’re going to get where they want to go, they still have two more postseason series after this, series in which you could see Burnes/Woodruff/Peralta pitching in three games apiece. There’s still more to come, and if they don’t get there, it won’t be because they did or did not pitch Burnes in Game 4 of the NLDS.
Keep in mind as well, that Burnes has not gone on 3 days rest as a starter before. He threw 91 high stress pitches on Friday. Counsell and his pitching staff are in constant communication about how they feel and if Burnes said he didn’t feel physically like he would be good to start Game 4, then they shouldn’t tab him to start.
Burnes is 26, and has a very bright future ahead. The last thing the Brewers want is a serious arm injury to occur because they were careless about his usage in the postseason. They don’t need Burnes to win Game 4. They need the offense to show up to win Game 4.
It’s the offense that’s the issue. The pitching has been pretty solid so far from the Brewers, and they’ve limited the Braves to not very many runs. The Braves pitchers have just been limiting Milwaukee’s offense to less. That’s why Counsell pulled Freddy Peralta after four innings in Game 3, because the opportunity to score runs was there and they’re desperate for them.
Milwaukee will face Charlie Morton for the second time this series. Hopefully they’ll have a stronger game plan against him this time and can get to him early. Whether it’s Burnes or Lauer going out there throwing six shutout innings, it won’t matter a bit if the offense can’t get them some run support.
Brewers starters have a 1.69 ERA in this series and yet they’re down 2 games to 1. If they don’t get to Game 5, if they don’t advance to the NLCS, it won’t be the fault of the pitching decisions, but the fault of the offense.
Lauer has been as good as anyone in the second half of the season, and he’s an excellent choice. To win this series, they have to win the next two games. Their best chance to win two in a row is to have a rested Lauer in Game 4 and a rested Burnes start Game 5. This is the smart play by Craig Counsell.
Brewers players have stated down the stretch that when Lauer is on the mound, they feel they have a very good chance to win, the same feeling they have when Burnes and Woodruff and Peralta are on the bump. He’s earned this opportunity.