PITTSBURGH — After years of running roughshod over the Pittsburgh Pirates – especially at Miller Park – the Milwaukee Brewers have had the tables turned on them this season.
With Trevor Williams once again strangling their offense for six shutout innings, the Brewers were shut out, 3-0, at PNC Park on Saturday night to drop their season record against the Pirates to 6-12.
Their inability to beat the fourth-place team in the Central Division is coming back to haunt them with just a week left in the regular season.
The Chicago Cubs are showing no signs of loosening their grasp on the top spot in the standings, and the St. Louis Cardinals are breathing hard down Milwaukee’s neck just two games back of the top spot in the wild-card standings with a massive series for the two teams beginning Monday at Busch Stadium.
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“We haven’t had success here or against them in general,” said Travis Shaw after Saturday’s loss. “It seems like every year there’s a team like that for every team, and it’s Pittsburgh for us this year. It kind of sucks. Bad timing.
“But we’ll come back and try to win the series tomorrow.”
With Williams taking the mound for the Pirates, a loss seemed to be all but a foregone conclusion. The right-hander came in with a microscopic 1.19 earned run average in the second half and 13 shutout innings over two previous starts against the Brewers this season.
He was never in any danger in this one, scattering four singles and a walk while striking out seven. Williams features a fastball that he can spot, an effective slider and a changeup that gives him an effective mix.
What sets him apart is his command and his unique delivery.
“What you feel like is, ‘When are you going to get a pitch to hit?’ You’re not getting pitches to hit,” manager Craig Counsell said. ‘It’s execution. He does a nice job of executing. You feel like you get one pitch a night to hit, and I think our guys probably would tell you they got a pitch tonight.
“But in three at-bats, that’s pretty darn good.”
Williams topped out at a pedestrian 93 mph with his fastball, with only Zach Davies connecting with one on a swing and turning it into a single. Ryan Braun bunted a fastball for a single in the sixth.
“His fastball’s hard to square up. I don’t know what it is,” said Shaw, who was 0 for 3 against Williams with a pair of strikeouts.
“He doesn’t throw super-hard, but it looks a lot harder than what it says and he plays his changeup off of that. He’s found something. I don’t know what it is but he’s pitched well the whole second half, and not just against us.
“He’s rolling right now. You’ve got to give him credit.”
Davies – whose single was his first hit of the season – said it’s difficult to pick the ball up against Williams.
“Just very deceptive,” he said. “Every one of his pitches comes out of the same spot. They all blend together. He’s a guy like me that has to rely on command and deception.
“He’s done a great job, and credit to him that he’s found his groove and is pitching well. I’m sure he’s happy about that heading into next season.”
Making the night even more frustrating for Davies was the fact it was Williams who started the game-turning rally for the Pirates in the third, chopping a single off the plate with two outs that Mike Moustakas failed to bare-hand.
Adam Frazier followed with a single to center, then Starling Marte ripped a double to left to score both and give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead that would never be threatened.
“I wouldn’t really change anything about that inning,” said Davies, who fell to 2-7 in an injury plagued year but has still pitched well in four truncated starts back from the disabled list.
“The game plan for each guy that inning was executed. They found the barrel and put some good swings on it. The pitch to Frazier, I look back on it and it was at the knees on the corner and he singled up the middle. Marte, the ball was probably four inches inside and I wanted to go in and off the plate.
“Maybe it wasn’t enough, but he saw it and got after it and got kind of lucky. That’s baseball.”
Milwaukee’s offense managed only a Christian Yelich double in the ninth after Williams exited. He improved to 14-9 and dropped his earned run average to 3.04 on the season.
The Brewers can only hope this isn’t the start of a trend moving forward as they attempt to unseat the Cubs for the top spot in the Central.
Pittsburgh scratched Musgrove for Sunday and replaced him with Nick Kingham. Time will tell if the Brewers can come up with enough offense to win what’s shaping up to be an incredibly big game.