MILWAUKEE -- Christian Yelich worked a leadoff walk and the Brewers were off and running toward a rare holiday break.
Brian Anderson delivered a two-run double in a three-run first inning, William Contreras homered in a four-run second and the Brewers held on to beat the Giants, 7-5, when closer Devin Williams logged another multi-inning save in front of 34,581 fans at American Family Field.
The victory avoided a San Francisco sweep and meant that for all of the angst the Brewers endured in a tough month of May, they reached baseball’s Memorial Day benchmark with a 28-25 record and the top spot in the National League Central.
Are they a perfect team? Certainly not, conceded Yelich, who scored in each of the first two innings and has as good a perspective as any player on the team about where the 2023 Brewers stand at this juncture.
But are there reasons to be optimistic as the team got set to enjoy Monday off? Yes, Yelich said.
“We’re at the point right now where we’re trying to do the best with what we’ve got until we get some guys healthy, and fortunately, all of the other teams in our division are in the same boat,” Yelich said. “Obviously, we need to do better than the last few weeks.”
Even with Sunday’s win, the Brewers have lost eight of their last 11 series after winning five of the first six, and they are not the only NL Central team fighting through a slide. Of the division’s five teams, only the Cardinals have had a winning May. The Brewers are 10-15 for the month with two May games remaining.
Part of the problem has been health; the Brewers reached Memorial Day with nine players from their Opening Day roster on the injured list, including All-Star Brandon Woodruff and fellow starter Wade Miley, plus infielder Luis Urías and outfielder Garrett Mitchell -- all for extended absences. Late last week, the Brewers also lost two-time club MVP Willy Adames after he was struck by a foul ball in a scary moment.
“Those affect the team and you have to do your best,” manager Craig Counsell said. “Other guys have to step up and other guys have to move into roles. And we've had some guys do a nice job. Owen Miller has gotten an opportunity and done a nice job. Adrian [Houser] himself was injured and has come back and pitched really well. Colin Rea has done a nice job.”
Rea held the Giants to one run through his first six innings Sunday before running into big trouble as San Francisco cut a 7-1 deficit to 7-5 in the seventh. Three relievers held it there, including Williams with a four-out save -- making him the first MLB pitcher with three straight saves of four or more outs since the Brewers’ Josh Hader in June 2019.
“But you're also missing some really quality players and those guys like Urías and Mitchell, they are really hard to replace,” Counsell said. “Brandon Woodruff, Miley, are hard to replace. So they impact you. But your job is to weather it. Your depth has to weather it. And that's going to be the challenge for really most of the next month.”
Said Williams: “We’ve had a lot of stuff thrown at us so far. Woodruff, or Willy gets hit with a line drive the other day. It’s one thing after another at this point, but we keep grinding through it.”
Adames and Urías should return later this week and Eric Lauer and reliever Matt Bush are expected to resume bullpens this week. But Miley will probably miss most or all of June, Woodruff is not expected back before the All-Star break and Mitchell will probably miss the rest of the season. So, depth will continue to be critical.
Milwaukee reached the Memorial Day milepost with these Major League ranks as of Sunday’s final out against the Giants:
“You don’t know how it’s going to go from here,” Yelich said. “In 2021, we were probably in a worse position than we are right now. Last year, we were better. But those two seasons couldn’t have finished more differently.”
His hunch was right. The Brewers were three games over .500 on the eve of Memorial Day in 2021 but went on to win 95 games and the division crown. In ‘22, they were 12 games over .500 on the eve of Memorial Day and went 56-58 the rest of the way to miss the postseason for the first time in five years.
This season’s story is yet to be written.
“You’ve just got to play the games,” Yelich said. “In these tough stretches, you try to hold it down. Keep yourself in it. You just don’t want to bury yourself, you want to stay in the race and hopefully get some reinforcements going and then make your run. We’ve got a long time to go.”