DETROIT -- The Brewers played a terrific, historic series in Cleveland last weekend. They scored 24 runs and allowed seven hits in three games. They celebrated the second no-hitter in franchise history. They were charging toward October.
Then it was on to Detroit, where the Brewers fell flat.
After absorbing back-to-back losses to the Tigers, including Wednesday’s 4-1 defeat, Milwaukee headed into its final regular-season homestand with a chance to celebrate a postseason clincher in its own ballpark for the first time in a decade. There will be three games against the Cubs, four against the Cardinals and three against the Mets, by which time the Brewers hope their playoff ticket is punched. They know it won’t be handed to them.
“This ain't easy,” Brandon Woodruff said after a walk here, a soft single there sent him to a loss during his return from a weekend illness. “Winning a Major League Baseball game is one of the toughest things to do. The Cubs are playing great baseball, and they've been playing good since we left Chicago. St. Louis, right now, they're in the Wild Card [race].
“I mean, look, there's going to be some tough games, and we know that. We're getting prepared for that so hopefully we can play some good baseball at home and clinch and get this thing out of the way so we can get focused on the postseason.”
Their odds are favorable, in spite of what transpired over 24 hours at Comerica Park, where the Brewers mustered one run and seven hits over 20 innings in consecutive losses. Against Detroit starters Wily Peralta and Matt Manning, the Brewers scored one run on four hits over 12 innings.
So, the Brewers' magic number to clinch a postseason spot stayed at four, and their number to clinch the National League Central remained at five pending the Cardinals', Reds’ and Padres’ games late Wednesday.
“We play the Cubs this weekend. That's our focus,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “A homestand gets everybody excited, no matter what. An off-day [Thursday] gets everyone excited. But that's what’s next on our list, the three games against the Cubs.”
The Brewers hope those three games go better than their two games against the Tigers, who weren’t the only American League Central foe to give Milwaukee trouble in 2021. The Brewers were 5-1 against the White Sox and Indians but 3-11 against the Royals, Tigers and Twins.
“They've owned us this year, quite frankly,” Woodruff said.
“It’s frustrating, but at the end of the day, we’re in first place,” said Brewers utility man Jace Peterson. “We’ve got to put it behind us and get back home and finish the last homestand of the year strong. It’s disappointing for sure, but we’re ready to come back after the off-day and be back in front of our fans and get a boost and get it going.”
Woodruff’s outing represented a boost despite the loss. He’d been scratched from his scheduled start Sunday in Cleveland because of intestinal distress and said it was “100 percent” all weekend that he would be unable to pitch.
Woodruff felt some side effects on Wednesday; less physically, he said, and more in the way it altered his between-starts routine. He was charged with three earned runs on four hits in six innings, with all of Detroit’s runs scoring in the fourth and fifth as Woodruff’s legs began to feel weary.
A two-out walk in the fourth bit Woodruff when Miguel Cabrera doubled to the spacious gap in left-center field and Robbie Grossman was able to score all the way from first base. A bloop single started a tiebreaking, two-run Tigers rally in the fifth.
“My legs, they weren't under me a little bit later in the game, and that's fine,” Woodruff said. “Being able to get through six today and get the pitch count up is really good going forward, I think. All in all, it was just one of those games.”
“He's got three big starts left,” Counsell said.
Woodruff aims to finish them strong. He has 169 1/3 innings in the books and is fourth among NL qualifiers with a 2.55 ERA after Wednesday’s outing.
“The main goal this time of the year is being healthy and getting ready for a big, long stretch run,” Woodruff said. “It’s very frustrating to lose that way because we've been playing such great baseball. But there's the bigger picture in mind, I guess you could say. Just trying to stick to that plan.”