Crew searching for answers, Counsell's elusive milestone

June 12th, 2022

WASHINGTON -- Somewhere, at some point, this was supposed to be a celebratory weekend for Craig Counsell. Logic guarantees it will be, eventually. And after this stretch, the Brewers will certainly appreciate Counsell’s accomplishment, whenever it comes. Because, on the cusp of becoming the winningest manager in franchise history, they are enduring a stretch as tough as any other in Counsell’s tenure.

The skipper remained one game shy of tying Phil Garner atop the franchise all-time wins list again Saturday when Milwaukee suffered its eighth straight loss, an 8-6 defeat at the hands of the Nationals. It’s the first time the club has lost eight straight since September 2015, Counsell’s first season at the helm.

The third-longest-tenured active manager has won 562 games in the seven-plus seasons since, with 110 fewer losses than “Scrap Iron,” to run up on Garner’s record. But it’s proven elusive enough that Milwaukee hasn’t won since June 2, and the Brewers are searching for answers.

“Everybody wants to be the stopper of the slide,” said losing pitcher , who was tagged for eight runs and back-to-back-to-back homers by Juan Soto, Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell in the fifth. “I think that's what we're searching for right now. I think we need to just kind of accept it for what it is right now and find a way to get past it. We’re kind of sitting in a chaos cycle, where we’re doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, and it’s not something we can keep doing.”

Eight earned runs matched a career high for Lauer, who watched his ERA balloon nearly a full run -- from 2.38 to 3.36 -- amid command issues and a noticeable drop in velocity. The left-hander entered play ranked fifth among NL starters (minimum 50 innings) in ERA. He finished it ranked 17th.

“It’s that part of the year where we're kind of banged up a little bit, fighting some stuff,” Lauer said. “But I think, more than anything, I should be able to pitch with whatever velocity I have that day and be able to mix my pitches and locate better than I’ve done. The walks are the big thing for me. I can't keep giving free bases. That hurts.”

The poorly timed blowup start came shortly after the Brewers lost starting second baseman Kolten Wong to the injured list, a day after they learned they’d be without All-Star starter Brandon Woodruff for longer than expected, and as the club endured both a rash of bullpen injuries and a lineup-wide chill.

“We've had some guys that have just been ice cold,” Counsell said. “And it's tough to sustain rallies when you have that. Hopefully, we got some guys that are starting to feel a little bit.”

On that last front, perhaps the offense’s too-little-too-late eruption provided signs of life, from ’s solo homer to ’s RBI double to ’ first Major League homer and Luis Urías’ two-run tater in the ninth. They’ve scored 11 runs in two games this weekend at Nationals Park, and Yelich’s 8-for-18 (.444) stretch in four games out of the leadoff spot is encouraging after two down years for the 2018 NL MVP.

But overall, the Brewers aren’t scoring consistently enough to weather this uncharacteristic blip on the pitching side. Yelich’s sixth homer of the year was only his first since May 11. Cain is 1-for-his-last-26. is in an 11-for-61 (.180) homerless funk. is 1-for-16 since coming off the IL.

All told, the Brewers have been outscored 57-20 during their eight-game streak. They’ve lost 10 of 11 overall, and turned a two-game division lead into a 1 1/2-game hole behind St. Louis.

Whenever it comes, their next win will be historic for Counsell. It will also be cathartic.

“There's never a good mood [in the clubhouse] when you're in a stretch like this,” Counsell said. “The great thing is there is a game tomorrow and we get a chance to stop it and turn the tide. And that's what we're going to come in and try to do. It's a new day tomorrow, and then that's how you gotta approach it.”