MILWAUKEE -- Craig Counsell and the Brewers threw a curveball at the end of Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the Rays at American Family Field.
With a two-run lead and coming off an off-day, you might have expected Devin Williams to emerge for the final outs. Williams, an All-Star not one week removed from the end of his 30-outing scoreless streak, was the presumptive heir to close for the Brewers after they traded Josh Hader to the Padres. If not Williams, then Taylor Rogers, the left-hander who was second in the Majors in saves (to Hader) when he came to Milwaukee in that trade, and might have been the choice since two of the three Rays scheduled to bat in the inning were lefties.
Instead, Counsell called for another of the Brewers’ Trade Deadline acquisitions, right-hander Matt Bush, who dispatched three hitters on 11 nasty pitches to finish the Brewers’ cleanest victory in what felt like a long time.
“That was his first save here, right?” said center fielder Tyrone Taylor, who robbed a homer earlier in the night for one of the Brewers’ best defensive plays of the year. “That’s good for him, and hopefully we can roll off that.”
How did Bush’s stuff look from center field?
“That man throws hard,” Taylor said. “It’s fun watching him pitch.”
But why was Bush the choice for the ninth? Counsell explained that Williams needed a second recovery day after pitching four of five days through Sunday’s series finale against the Reds. And Rogers was unavailable after getting a cortisone shot in his left knee Sunday to address lingering tendinitis that dates back weeks or months to his time with the Padres.
With those two arms down, the Brewers covered Tuesday’s game with five innings from Freddy Peralta in his second start off the injured list and his first start at home since May 22, then Trevor Gott in the sixth, Hoby Milner in the seventh and Brad Boxberger in the eighth.
They all worked with a lead thanks to two RBIs apiece from Andrew McCutchen and Kolten Wong and two-out RBIs from Taylor, McCutchen and Wong. Taylor’s two-out RBI single in the second inning came moments after he leaped at the center-field wall to pull back a David Peralta home run and help Freddy Peralta through an outing in which he surrendered only two hits including Yandy Díaz’s two-run homer over five solid innings.
“It was good that we were able to one, get on the board early and just get the ‘W’ at the end of the day,” McCutchen said. “We know these games are important.”
The Brewers had lost six of their previous seven games going into Tuesday, including losses in five of six games since a series of Trade Deadline deals shook up the bullpen order. The biggest addition was thought to be Rogers, a key to the Hader trade in that he gave Brewers officials grounds to say they were still trying to win in 2022 while simultaneously maximizing Hader’s trade value to land two top prospects in left-hander Robert Gasser and outfielder Esteury Ruiz.
But Rogers was not only struggling in his final days in San Diego, he was also hurting. The knee issue, which he’d been addressing with treatment, became more and more an issue over a two-month stretch in which Rogers surrendered 19 earned runs on 28 hits and five walks over 21 innings from May 28-July 27.
“I was trying to keep it more on the down low because I didn’t want it to be something you could blame your struggles on,” he said Tuesday night. “But yeah, it was kind of bugging me for a while, and treatment wasn’t taking, so we’re going to try this step [the shot] and see if it helps.
“I didn’t want it to be public. I didn’t want it to be an excuse for struggles. Everyone goes through things. … Now that it’s out, that’s what we’ve got.”
He said he anticipates being available to pitch Wednesday’s series finale against the Rays if needed.
“We have a lot of capable guys in the bullpen,” Rogers said. “They picked it up today, and hopefully later on, I can pick it up for them when they need it. That’s what a bullpen does. There is going to come a time when me and Devin have to do the same.”
Bush was the choice to pick it up Tuesday.
“I mean, it was a great inning,” Counsell said. “That’s as good of an inning as we’ve seen this year. Electric stuff.”