What can you say about the Milwaukee Brewers’ opening series?
Well, one thing for sure is they have some ninth-inning mojo going on.
In the opener on Thursday, Lorenzo Cain robbed Jose Martinez of a game-tying home run in right-center for the final out of a 5-4 victory.
On Saturday, Josh Hader preserved a 4-2 victory with a rare “Immaculate” inning, striking out the side on nine pitches.
And, finally, in Sunday’s series finale, MVP Christian Yelich lines a rop to the gap in left-center to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 victory.
With those victories coming over the rival St. Louis Cardinals, all the better.
Don’t let anyone kid you: The difference between 3-1 and 2-2 is huge when it comes against one of your fiercest rivals.
So what did we learn on this first weekend? Well, we already knew Yelich was a really good hitter. But is he going to homer in every game? Of course not. But if he homers Monday night in Cincinnati, some folks might begin preparing for the Rapture.
We also learned on Friday Corey Knebel will be out for at least a year as he is undergoing Tommy John surgery this week. That’s a huge blow.
With Jhoulys Chacin only going 5 1/3 innings Thursday and Freddie Peralta just three on Friday night, the bullpen seemed already worn out. Relievers gave up five late runs in the 9-5 loss after the Brewers had rallied to tie from 3-0 and 4-3 deficits. Paul Goldschmidt’s three home runs made Friday night a big deflating.
But Brandon Woodruff looked reasonably good in five innings Saturday night, and Junior Guerra, Alex Claudio and late addition Alex Wilson looked good out of the pen. Wilson looked especially good, striking out Goldschmidt to end the seventh and pitching a 1-2-3 eighth to set up Hader’s ninth.
Knebel is gone, and Jeremy Jeffress is out for now building his shoulder back up. Yet the bullpen delivered eight scoreless innings Saturday and Sunday.
Counting on that every night, however, will lead to problems. The starters simply must begin going deeper than five innings. It simply has to happen.
Corbin Burnes was showed great stuff in striking out nine through three innings Sunday and 12 total in five innings. But the Cardinals took him deep three times on the second and third trips through the order.
High pitch counds got to Burnes (87) and Woodruff (100) in five-inning outings, and Freddy Peralta threw 80 in getting just nine outs Friday. Zach Davies is the next man up Monday at Cincinnati. He would do manager Craig Counsell a huge favor by going at least six innings.
As for the offense? Before Ryan Braun’s RBI single in the seventh inning Sunday, the Brewers did not have a run-scoring hit that wasn’t a home run. Braun, Travis Shaw (pop-up that should have been caught) and Yelich finally took care of that problem.
In the end, a lot of flaws showed up over the opening series. And yet the talent is still good enough to be 3-1.