As Hall lands on IL, Rea & Co. step up to finish St. Louis sweep

April 21st, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- An injury-thinned Brewers starting rotation got even thinner Sunday when 25-year-old starter landed on the 15-day injured list with a sprained left knee. But the season doesn’t stop just because a team is short of pitching.

So the Brewers kept on playing -- and winning.

In a 2-0 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, starter pitched into the sixth inning for critical length opposite Cardinals ace Sonny Gray. Center fielder Blake Perkins changed the course of the afternoon by robbing a three-run homer in the first. St. Louis-area native Bryan Hudson earned his first Major League win after delivering perfect relief on the mound he once stood on as a high schooler. And the Milwaukee area’s own Owen Miller delivered the day’s only runs with a single in the seventh inning of his first 2024 start.

All four are examples of stepping in, and stepping up, when opportunity arises. Rea was a Minor League invitee last year who didn’t join the rotation until injuries forced it. Perkins was mostly on the bench until Christian Yelich landed on the IL with a tight back. Hudson was one of the last relievers to make the team out of Spring Training. Miller was in the Minors until last week.

“That’s kind of what we’re here for,” Perkins said. “We’re all playing for each other now. We all understand the situation and we’re fighting like hell to win ballgames.”

The result was the Brewers’ 14th win in their first 20 games, and their first series sweep in St. Louis since Sept. 24-26, 2018, when a then-anonymous Cardinals bench player named Adolis García slipped coming around third base in the finale to seal a Milwaukee victory that clinched a postseason berth.

To reach the postseason this year, the Brewers will have to stabilize their starting pitching. In the short term, they will scramble to fill Hall’s spot, since the schedule doesn’t offer an off day until May 2. In the long term, they will evaluate the soundness of Hall’s knee, which was tweaked as he fielded a bunt in the second inning of the Brewers’ win over the Cardinals on Saturday, when Hall failed to make it past the fourth inning for the third time in his four starts and his average fastball velocity dipped below 92 mph for the first time.

“They don’t know how serious,” Brewers manager Pat Murphy said, “but obviously [it’s] serious enough to not go forward.”

Murphy said the initial diagnosis from head athletic trainer Scott Barringer was a “mild” sprain, with concern on either side of the knee. Hall told a club spokesperson he would like to get a better idea of what he’s facing before he spoke publicly about the injury.

The Brewers are atop the National League Central at 14-6, and an MLB-best 10-2 on the road. But they’ve built that record while putting a heavy workload on the bullpen and piecing together the rotation, since left-handers Wade Miley and pitching prospect Robert Gasser opened the season on the injured list with shoulder injuries, and right-hander Jakob Junis landed on the IL after one start due to a shoulder impingement.

Miley is back from the IL, but on a limited pitch count. Junis is playing catch but doesn’t have a mound session on the schedule during the team’s current road trip. Gasser could be ready to pitch for Triple-A Nashville as soon as this week.

The Brewers are likely to move right-hander Bryse Wilson from the bullpen to the rotation for now to fill Hall’s spot; Wilson made a spot start on the last homestand when the team had a hole in the rotation.

Triple-A Nashville’s other healthy starters on the 40-man roster are Aaron Ashby, Tobias Myers and Janson Junk. Right-hander Corbin Martin, claimed off waivers from Arizona on April 14, has Major League starting experience but hasn’t pitched yet since joining the Milwaukee organization.

Two top prospects are also on the radar. Triple-A right-hander Carlos Rodriguez is MLB Pipeline’s No. 7 Brewers prospect, but he’s 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA through three starts and one relief appearance. And top Brewers pitching prospect Jacob Misiorowski has a 5.23 ERA and 11 walks in 10 1/3 innings through his first three Double-A starts of the season.

“I think what our front office has done the best … is find guys somehow,” Murphy said. “And these kids end up being pretty good. They end up finding guys. I think they’re going to be pushed to their limit, because we’re banged up.”

All of that context made Perkins’ catch, and Rea’s bounceback after 44 pitches through two innings of a scoreless outing that stretched into the sixth, all the more critical on Sunday as the Brewers try to hold their staff together.

“Sometimes when you have a bunch of big names on a team, everyone feels like there’s a little more pressure on themselves,” Rea said. “But we come in and we have such a good team camaraderie here. Everyone is coming in to do their job.”