Williams' epic scoreless streak ends in crushing fashion

August 4th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- A tough week just got tougher for Devin Williams and the Brewers.

Williams, the All-Star setup man whose honest reaction to the Josh Hader trade stood out as the Brewers reached the Trade Deadline on Tuesday, surrendered a walk-off home run to the first batter he faced in the bottom of the ninth inning on Wednesday night at PNC Park in an 8-7 loss to the Pirates. The homer was the first Williams has allowed this season and snapped his franchise-record scoreless streak after 30 spotless outings.

Bryan Reynolds’ game-winner came after the Pirates fought back from an early 4-0 deficit and took a 7-4 lead by the seventh inning, only to see the Brewers tie the game with a three-run eighth. One of Milwaukee’s new relievers, Taylor Rogers, pitched a scoreless inning in his Brewers debut and Williams tried to match that performance in the ninth, but his third pitch was a fastball at the top of the zone that Reynolds powered to the right-center-field seats.

The Brewers have lost three straight games after winning seven of eight coming out of the All-Star break.

“Devin has been so, so good,” manager Craig Counsell said. “There was a run coming somewhere. In spots that he pitches, it’s always meaningful and impactful and, unfortunately, it happened tonight.”

It happened in shocking fashion. Williams had not allowed a home run in his last 47 outings dating back to last September. He had not allowed a run since May 10 in Cincinnati. Three days later, Williams struck out a pair of hitters in a scoreless inning at Miami that kickstarted his 30-game run -- 31 if you count his scoreless frame in the All-Star Game.

"I walked up to the plate telling myself, ‘This probably isn’t a guy you’re hitting a home run off of, so just try to get him in the zone, or maybe he’ll walk you,'” Reynolds said. “I got to a good count and he threw me a heater."

But Wednesday was different for Williams in a way, since he now shares the highest-leverage innings with Rogers, the lefty who was one of the four players acquired by the Brewers from the Padres in Monday’s trade for Hader. That came as part of a two-day flurry of deals which also added right-handers Matt Bush and Trevor Rosenthal -- once the latter completes a comeback from a hamstring tweak -- to Counsell’s new-look bullpen. Williams chose his words delicately when the team reconvened on Tuesday, saying having Hader behind him “was really big for me” and making clear he was grappling to understand the deal.

On Wednesday, in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game, it came time to pitch.

“I mean, it hasn’t felt exactly normal yet, you know?” Williams said. “But at the end of the day, we’re professionals and we get paid to perform.”

Did he tell himself anything different trotting in?

“No. Not at all,” he said. “It’s not like I haven’t been in that situation before. I’ve done that multiple times this year where it’s either a tie game or we have the lead. I approached it just like any other game. Just got a different result today.”

Counsell was aware of Williams’ reaction to the Brewers’ Deadline moves, but said, “I think Devin is in a good place, for sure. No concerns.”

“He's been huge for us,” said fellow reliever Brent Suter. “So just tip your hat and a heck of a run [for Williams]. Let's go on another streak starting tomorrow the next time he pitches. He’s been electric for us and will continue to be that.”

Freddy Peralta started on Wednesday after more than two months on the injured list and threw 67 pitches for the Brewers, who led 4-0 in the second inning and 4-2 going into the sixth. But it was a 7-4 Pirates lead by the end of the seventh after consecutive rallies against a combination of Jake McGee, Bush and Suter, who gave up a two-run home run to Oneil Cruz on the very first pitch. Of Cruz’s eight home runs this season, five have come at Milwaukee's expense.

“Honestly, he's hit some good pitches out there," Suter said. “He's hitting pitches that weren’t even strikes, so it's not all necessarily meatballs or whatever. But mine today was a meatball.”

The Brewers need to win Thursday's afternoon finale to avoid being swept.

“We believe in this group. I'll say that we believe we can win the World Series with this group,” Suter said. “The last couple days weren't what people were thinking was happening, but it happened, and we're ready to roll with this group and ready to lock arms and do our best to win a ring together.”