Split with mighty LA gives Crew a boost

August 18th, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- Are these seven games in 10 days against the best-in-the-National League Dodgers a litmus test for a Brewers team trying to get back on track? 

To be determined.

 homered twice for three RBIs,  hit a two-run homer and the Brewers’ four best relievers provided spotless work behind  for a 5-3 win Thursday over the Dodgers and a split of this four-game series at American Family Field. The teams will meet again at Dodger Stadium next week for three more games to settle their regular-season series.

“We played good ball all four games. We were in those games. We competed,” McCutchen said. “We’ll take a split as something good against them because they probably haven’t been doing that against a whole lot of teams.”

Said manager Craig Counsell: “You’d obviously like more runs. [The Dodgers] have got something to do with it. I’m not going to complain one bit about the series we just played.”

All week, Counsell and his players were asked whether they viewed these games against the Dodgers -- who were first in baseball to reach 80 wins -- as a litmus test for the Brewers, who had a four-game lead over the Cardinals going into the final game of July but now trail by three games in the NL Central after both teams won Thursday. In the Wild Card race, the Brewers were 1 1/2 games out of the postseason picture pending the Padres’ game against the Nationals on Thursday night.

The answers varied from a yes from Brandon Woodruff after the Brewers’ thrilling win in the second game of the series on Tuesday to a “not necessarily” from Christian Yelich.

“It’s going to let us know pretty quick where we are as a team,” Woodruff said.

“It’s a big stretch in our season just to be able to win as many as we can,” Yelich said. “They’re obviously a great team, so if you beat them, you earn it.”

The Brewers earned a split by bucking one of their Achilles’ heels and beating a left-hander (Andrew Heaney) with three home runs from hitters (McCutchen and Renfroe) acquired specifically to hit southpaws. Burnes carried a shutout into the sixth inning before the Dodgers grinded out a trio of runs -- two on a home run-robbing play by center fielder Tyrone Taylor that was nearly a catch but came out of his glove when his arm hit the wall and went for a two-run triple by Gavin Lux.

Brad Boxberger, Taylor Rogers, Matt Bush and Devin Williams closed it out, with Rogers breezing through the seventh on only seven pitches in his second consecutive promising outing following weekend struggles in St. Louis, and Williams striking out all three hitters in a 12-pitch ninth for his second save since the Josh Hader trade.

“They’re one of the best teams in the league,” Williams said. “It’s just kind of a test to see where we’re at as a team and how we match up with them. To be able to take two out of four I think is pretty good. …

“We threw the ball really well. Everyone threw the ball really well. Top to bottom, we pitched a really good game. So did they. It was tough to come by hits, but we did enough to win two out of four.”

The Brewers, a team built around its quality rotation, threw their top four starters at the Dodgers. They all had to grind against a tough L.A. lineup, but they came away with positives. Freddy Peralta, Woodruff, Eric Lauer and Burnes combined to allow eight earned runs in 21 2/3 innings.

Lauer, Burnes and young left-hander Aaron Ashby are lined up to start the next matchups at Dodger Stadium from Monday through Wednesday.

“You can ask anyone in the league, they don’t want to face our rotation,” the Brewers’ Keston Hiura said. “The Dodgers obviously have a really good rotation as well, but I can guarantee that if you ask other teams, it’s not a comfortable series when you’re facing our rotation and the back end of our bullpen.”

“You know that playing the Dodgers, it’s always going to feel like a playoff series,” Lauer said. “You always try to bring your best stuff against everybody, but that little heightened sense of awareness of who you’re playing, I think, adds to the intensity of the series.”

The teams will do it again starting Monday. First, the Brewers face three games against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

“We've got 45 games left, so if we want to go to the postseason, we've got to go on a pretty good run here,” Burnes said. “But we've got the team to do it, we've got the guys to do it and we've got plenty of home games. If we play our best baseball, I think we can do it.”