Bullpen beauty: Five Brewers relievers combine for shutout

April 17th, 2024

MILWAUKEE – Seventeen games into their season, the Brewers are on pace to churn through 76 starting pitchers in 2024. The record, in case you’re wondering, is 24, a mark shared by the 109-loss Philadelphia A’s of 1915 and the 112-loss Oakland A’s of 2023. This year’s Brewers aim to stabilize things well before they flirt with that kind of company.

But going into Wednesday’s 1-0 win over the Padres at American Family Field, that long-term goal was less important than the immediate ones: Cobble together nine innings on a bullpen day, and beat San Diego to avoid getting swept.

Check, and check.

On a brilliant day for the hard-worked Brewers bullpen, and delivered bulk at the start of the game before , and finished a five-hitter for Milwaukee’s first shutout victory of the year.

“We take a lot of pride knowing that the bullpen has been a staple for this organization, and we want to continue that,” Wilson said. “We have a good group of guys that hasn’t necessarily gotten off to the start we would have liked. Not a terrible start, but not what we’re used to. We take a lot of pride in being the best bullpen in baseball.”

Wilson did the heaviest lifting by recording 11 outs, followed by seven from Hudson. They were all critical, considering the bullpen had covered six innings on Tuesday night when Wade Miley had his outing shortened after being struck by a comebacker on the left knee. A quick turnaround for Wednesday’s 12:10 CT finale didn’t help.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s hitters didn’t have a hit against San Diego starter Michael King until Willy Adames dumped a two-out single into shallow right field in the seventh inning, and they didn’t push a runner past first base until MLB stolen base leader Brice Turang singled and swiped second in the eighth before chugging home on Blake Perkins’ two-out single.

It’s not possible to win that way every day, but on Wednesday, it worked.

The stats won’t reflect this, since Wilson technically was a starter on Wednesday, but effectively the Brewers have squeezed 76 1/3 innings from their true starting pitchers this season and 74 2/3 innings from their relievers. That’s not a sustainable ratio over 162 games, but Brewers starter Joe Ross has seen his velocity increase as he continues re-building a foundation after two years of injury rehab, Miley will continue building his pitch count -- presuming his knee complies -- and Jakob Junis is playing catch as he comes back from a shoulder impingement.

In the Minors, starting pitching prospect Robert Gasser is scheduled to throw three innings in extended spring training on Thursday, GM Matt Arnold said, with a chance to move up to Triple-A Nashville after that.

Wednesday, though, was “TBD” in the starting pitching probables until the final moment.

“We sat in the office and talked about this day coming, and Bryse was spot-on,” manager Pat Murphy said. “To give us that start when that kid [King] was incredible early. You talk about hitting spots, throwing that two-seamer to both sides of the plate, the change-up, the sweeper. That kid was sensational. Nobody was hitting him today. To have us match him like that – [Wilson and Hudson] gave us six. That was special.”

The final three innings were a different kind of special, considering that Peguero, Uribe and Payamps all had pitched the night before. Uribe’s inning was particularly tense after Padres first baseman Matthew Batten led off with a triple, but Uribe managed to escape with the shutout intact, ranging toward third base to field Fernando Tatis Jr.’s bouncer barehanded for a dramatic final out.

“Uribe was telling me that he was a shortstop,” said Payamps. “It made me believe it a little bit now. It’s a fantastic play, especially in that situation.”

Uribe celebrated in high style, as he’s known to do.

“It was something I was pumped up about and really got to enjoy,” Uribe said. “He [Batten] won the battle by getting a triple off me, so the only thing that’s left to do is focus on the battles that are coming up next.”

Up next for the Brewers now is a well-deserved off-day to reset the pitching staff. When he was asked on Tuesday night about not having a scheduled starter to announce for a game about 14 hours away, Murphy smiled and said he was rooting for a rainout.

Never mind that American Family Field has a dome.

“We’re under construction,” Murphy said of his club. “But we’re competing.”