Burnes' scoreless outing puts Crew back in 1st place

May 13th, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- Corbin Burnes had been solid, holding hitters to a .218 average in seven starts and posting a 2.08 ERA in his last five.

But ahead of Friday night’s 5-1 victory against Kansas City at American Family Field, manager Craig Counsell said Burnes, the 2021 NL Cy Young winner, was poised for a breakthrough.

“The great starting pitchers get on runs where they’re just really consistent and that’s absolutely in there for Corbin to do, where you go through that 10-start stretch or eight-start stretch really on point,” Counsell said. “And that’s frankly yet to happen, but certainly very close to happening.”

After Friday, that seems closer.

Burnes pitched six scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out seven. The win put Milwaukee back in first in the NL Central, a half-game ahead of Pittsburgh. 

The 28-year-old right-hander needed 104 pitches and walked a season-high four batters, but he retired 10 of the final 11 hitters he faced.

“It’s getting there,” said Burnes, who is 4-2 and lowered his ERA to 3.35. “I think for the most part, stuff was really good tonight. We’re getting more swings and misses, we’re not getting a ton of hard contact. 

“It’s getting there. It’s getting to where I want to be. I think we’re close.”

Burnes got beat up to start 2023. He gave up 10 runs in 9 1/3 innings in his first two starts, but then turned things around. In his third start of the season against Arizona, he allowed just three hits and struck out eight in eight shutout innings.

However, over his next four starts he allowed seven runs in 22 1/3 innings.

On Friday, Burnes opened the first, second, third and sixth innings by striking out the leadoff hitter. 

But he walked four of the first 13 batters he faced.

After Burnes’ back-to-back walks put two runners on base with two outs in the third inning, pitching coach Chris Hook visited the mound. Burnes responded by striking out Maikel Garcia. The strikeout pitch was a cutter, the pitch Burnes had thrown 52 percent of the time entering Friday. 

“The first thing that stuck out to me was the cutter was pretty explosive,” said Royals manager Matt Quatraro. “He did a pretty good job, at least from my vantage point, of locating. He was either on the corner, just off, just down, just in, whatever it was.

“That’s what good pitchers do, they find a way. I’m sure he would say that wasn’t his best night, best command, but he found a way to execute.”

After the third inning, Burnes reduced his pitch count and threw perfect frames in the fifth and sixth. 

Burnes, who often pulls at his collar-length hair between pitches, clutched both arms in triumph after fanning Nick Pratto on three called strikes to end the sixth. 

The strikeouts had to be encouraging, given that Burnes is well off his pace of last season

Burnes led the NL in 2022 with 243 strikeouts in 202 innings, becoming the first pitcher in franchise history to lead the league. This season, he has recorded 39 strikeouts over 45 2/3 innings.

The Royals countered Burnes with an opener, Josh Taylor, and used a total of five pitchers. The Brewers supported Burnes by chipping away, scoring one run in the first, third and fourth innings. They added two more in the seventh, but left a total of 10 runners on base.

hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot off Max Castillo. 

Miller, a native of Mequon, Wis., added a single and a double, going 3-for-4. Hitting leadoff for the second time this season, the 26-year-old second baseman has reached base safely in a career-high 14 consecutive games.

Two runs came on RBI singles by

Yelich also drilled a 109.6 mph line drive toward Castillo’s midsection with two outs in the third inning. Castillo knocked down the ball with his glove and threw Yelich out.

Kansas City’s run came on Freddy Fermin’s 423-foot homer off in the seventh inning. 

Peter Strzelecki pitched a perfect eight and Elvis Peguero threw a perfect ninth.