No rest required: Crew leaders talk way into lineup for sweep of Sox

June 2nd, 2024

MILWAUKEE -- No way the Brewers' everyday warriors would take a day off on the same day Major League Baseball honored Lou Gehrig's legacy.

So, catcher and shortstop convinced Brewers manager Pat Murphy to make a last-minute lineup change for Sunday's 6-3 win over the White Sox at American Family Field, and there they were, helping to secure a three-game sweep of the White Sox and fifth straight win.

"That doesn't happen everywhere, I promise you," said Christian Yelich. "A Sunday day game, a lot of guys would be pretty excited about [being off], honestly.

"Not around here. Not this year."

Contreras and Adames combined to go 1-for-7, though that didn't tell the full story. Sox center fielder Dominic Fletcher robbed a three-run homer from Contreras in the seventh inning, and Adames saw a potential home run hook just foul in the third. When Adames singled in the eighth, it sparked a two-run inning that put the game away.

They contributed in other ways as well.

Contreras coaxed starter Freddy Peralta through a 43-pitch first inning on the way to five innings, helping to spare the bullpen for the next three days in Philadelphia against the NL-best Phillies. And in the eighth, Yelich made an on-target throw from left field and Contreras held his ground in a home plate collision with Tommy Pham for an inning-ending double play that preserved Milwaukee's one-run lead.

That lead had stood since the second inning when 20-year-old Jackson Chourio's three-run home run capped a four-run rally. It was the first home run since May 15 for the rookie Adames has taken under his wing throughout a sometimes trying first two months in the Majors.

"You love that they want to play," Murphy said. "They're savages."

Originally, the posted lineup didn't include either of the Brewers' mainstays. It made perfect sense for Contreras and Adames to rest for a homestand finale against a last-place team, with this series already in hand and a huge series set to begin – a meeting with potential postseason implications if Milwaukee's year continues on this promising path.

An hour prior to the first pitch, however, a new lineup arrived. This time, Contreras and Adames were in it.

They'd entered Murphy's office together, declaring they wanted to play. Murphy explained why he believed an off-day was important and asked them to go back into the clubhouse to consider it. Then, they reiterated a desire to play.

"That's what we're here for," Adames said.

"It's just another day," Contreras said. "We were able to go out there and put a good game together and help the team win, so that's what's important."

They have started each of the Brewers' 59 games this season, and, with one more start in the Philly opener, Contreras and Adames would become only the fifth pair of Brewers teammates to start each of the first 60 games of a season. The last duo to do that was Robin Yount and Rob Deer in 1989.

The longest streak for a Brewers duo is within reach. Sixto Lezcano and George Scott started Milwaukee's first 63 games in 1975.

Streaks like that are rare today since teams emphasize recovery much more -- preferring fewer games at close to peak performance over more games at far less than 100 percent. And it's not just guesswork. Many players wear devices that track their activity and measure sleep and recovery.

"I think there's more heightened awareness of workload, and you want both sides to understand that," said Brewers associate manager Rickie Weeks. "It's a different way of thinking. I think the players respect it."

But when they want to play, they want to play.

Murphy pointed to the end of the top of the eighth inning as the best example of Contreras' grit. Moments after Contreras scrambled a pitch in the dirt to throw out a runner at third base, the White Sox had a chance to tie the game on Corey Julks' one-out fly ball to left field.

Pham took an inside route home from third base to ensure he'd get a good hit on Contreras after the baseball arrived. Contreras held on. When he stood and celebrated, Pham took offense, which continued into a fiery postgame.

"The situation of the game, you know, third base coach sends you, you gotta go," Pham said. "I'm nailed out at home ... by a mile. I'm going to the dugout, and I hear the tough guy with all the hoo-rah [expletive]. So, I'll never start anything, but I'll be prepared to finish it."

"I wasn't really paying attention to what he had to say," Contreas added. "That's the play of the game. That helped us stay positive and stay on attack."