Rea's 2nd straight gem helps Crew ride grueling stretch

July 2nd, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers haven’t just survived the toughest stretch of their season to date. So far, they’ve thrived.

pitched into the seventh inning for his second straight start and hit a go-ahead three-run home run in a 6-3 win over the Pirates on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park, giving the Brewers a third straight series victory to begin a run of 17 games in 17 days leading to the All-Star break.

With 10 games down, Milwaukee has won two of three in Cleveland, three of four against the Mets in New York and two of three in Pittsburgh, where the Brewers were one out in the ninth inning of Friday’s series opener from having a chance at a sweep. Next up is a seven-game homestand against the Cubs and Reds beginning Monday afternoon at American Family Field.

“We pitched well and we had a lot of guys contribute,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It takes a lot of guys on your roster when you go through a trip like this, and we got a big effort from Colin today. We got 20 outs. That was a huge effort, very efficient, and a huge hit by William to get us going.”

Said Contreras: “We went through a little rough spot there [going into the trip], so you’re looking to play consistently good games. Like we said earlier, if you stay connected and we play hard every day, the wins are going to come.”

Twice on the trip, Rea delivered. When he pitched 6 1/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball last week at Citi Field in a win over the Mets and Justin Verlander, it marked the first time since 2016 that Rea worked into the seventh inning of a Major League start. Six days later, he did it again, delivering 6 2/3 innings in which a two-run homer for Nick Gonzales in the second inning represented the only blemish.

Rea signed last winter as a Minor League free agent but has turned into a critical starter for a Brewers rotation missing Brandon Woodruff, who may have stalled this weekend in his comeback from a shoulder injury; Aaron Ashby, who won’t be back from shoulder surgery until late August at the very earliest (and potentially as a reliever); and Eric Lauer, who was recently shut down again at Triple-A Nashville. Last year, that trio combined to make 75 Brewers starts.

With them sidelined, Rea has helped the Brewers hold their pitching together. He has a respectable 4.40 ERA in 75 2/3 innings.

"On the Minor League side, we’ve spent a lot of time working on how we recruit. It’s like recruiting in a lot of ways," Brewers senior vice president of player personnel Karl Mueller told Nashville Sounds broadcaster Jeff Hem last week on that team’s pregame show. "Especially on the pitching side, I think we’ve had enough examples of people who have ‘surprised,’ quote-unquote, and gotten to the big leagues and performed really well. We can point to those cases and it’s helped us in a number of instances.

“Colin Rea in particular is one that comes to mind. He had opportunities -- a lot of opportunities -- elsewhere. He turned down a Major League deal, actually, to place a bet on us. He’s one of the first guys I’ve ever heard do that. It almost made me feel bad, the fact he was gambling that much on it, to be honest with you. But it worked out great for him. He's made [14] starts for us and he’s helped keep us afloat with all of these injuries we’ve had."

As another club official put it this weekend, “it’s why we spend so much time in the winter trying to win the depth signings.”

Sunday brought multiple examples. Andruw Monasterio, batting leadoff as the designated hitter on a day the Brewers rested some regulars at the end of this long trip, reached safely three times, scored a run and drove in another. Elvis Peguero, one of three young pitchers acquired from the Angels in the Hunter Renfroe trade, allowed a run in the eighth inning but preserved the lead to continue a recent run of success (16 appearances, 2.03 ERA in June).

“We were talking about that the other day, you’ve got Colin Rea beating Verlander,” Brewers general manager Matt Arnold said. “Then Bryse Wilson going through the middle of that [Mets] lineup. You’ve got Owen Miller getting a big RBI hit, and Victor Caratini taking Max Scherzer deep.

“These are not household names in some ways, and just to see these guys -- Julio Teheran -- stepping up for us, these guys have been great. Credit to all of those guys. This is a tough group. I’m proud of these guys.”