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Bullpen issues overshadow Yelich's 32nd homer

@AdamMcCalvy
July 14, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns may be open to adding pitching this month, but how much can be done at one Trade Deadline to fix a bullpen problem that appears bigger than one or two spots? Christian Yelich hit his 32nd home run to tie the

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns may be open to adding pitching this month, but how much can be done at one Trade Deadline to fix a bullpen problem that appears bigger than one or two spots?

Christian Yelich hit his 32nd home run to tie the game in the sixth on Sunday before the ‘pen imploded in the top of the seventh inning of an 8-3 loss to the Giants at Miller Park, more evidence that Milwaukee’s “Electric Dudes” relief corps of 2018 may have been a one-hit wonder -- or at the very least that the Brewers are paying a price for last year’s heavy workload.

Box score

Case in point: Right-hander Corbin Burnes, the 24-year-old who was a second-half stalwart last year, and whose stuff is as good as any of the late-inning relievers who elicited the “electric” label from Brewers manager Craig Counsell at the time. But Burnes was on the wrong end of another big inning on Sunday, when the Giants turned a tie game into a six-run lead with an 11-batter onslaught that included six hits, two walks and a run-scoring fielder’s choice that was initially ruled an inning-ending double play, but was overturned upon review to extend Milwaukee’s misery.

Burnes faced the first four of those 11 batters, didn’t retire any of them and saw all four score to push his ERA to an even 9.00 in 46 innings this season. Matt Albers replaced him and, three batters into his outing, issued the Brewers’ 11th bases-loaded walk this season. Milwaukee now matches Kansas City’s dubious Major League lead in that category.

In three games against the Giants to begin the second half, Brewers relievers combined to yield 16 earned runs on 19 hits in 12 innings. Even their best arm, All-Star closer Josh Hader, was touched up for a pair of home runs in a blown save on Friday.

“We ask a lot of these guys and they've delivered for the most part,” Counsell said. “We've run into a little stretch post-break and I'd say a little bit before the break, but these are our guys. They're going to get outs for us. I'm confident in that. We're just going through a little rough patch right now.”

Counsell conceded that for Burnes, the issue is bigger than a rough patch. He said officials would discuss sending Burnes, who has already been demoted twice this season, back to the Minors again.

“Corbin is a different story. We have to find an answer there,” Counsell said. “We're not having success. It's not working. The stuff is there but at some point, we're losing execution, we're making mistakes, we're getting ahead in the count and making mistakes. We have to address things with Corbin. He's just not doing well enough right now.”

Burnes thought he’d turned things around after settling into a bullpen role. In a run of 10 appearances from June 11 to July 4, he logged a 2.00 ERA and had 13 strikeouts against two walks in nine innings. In his first four appearances of July, he struck out seven in 3 1/3 innings.

But in two games against the Giants this weekend, he was charged with six earned runs on six hits and recorded just three outs.

“It’s right there,” Burnes said. “We’re getting the guys in the counts we want to, we’re just not putting them away. The numbers are good with the slider as far as weak contact, swings and misses. We’re getting guys into 0-2 counts to put them away with sliders and they’re either fouling them off and getting a better pitch to hit or they’re putting the slider in play. It’s something we’ve definitely got to get back to, is getting the finish back on the slider.”

Said Counsell, “There are signals for us that his stuff is even better this year. His velocity is up, his strikeouts are up, so it's puzzling. We haven't been able to find answers and we just haven't had enough success to continue like this.”

Just as troubling, Sunday concluded what was supposed to be a soft spot of the schedule. On June 12, the Brewers beat the Astros in Houston and owned a 39-29 record entering a stretch of 26 straight games against teams that owned a sub-.500 record as of Sunday and sit in fourth or fifth place in their division. The Brewers went 9-17 in those games.

Now the schedule -- on paper -- gets tougher again, with three games against the NL East-leading Braves from Monday to Wednesday to finish a weeklong homestand. That series begins a stretch in which 16 of the next 19 games are against winning teams.

“The confidence is high. I don’t think that’s ever an issue. It’s all about execution,” Albers said. “I know the difference between doing really well and really bad in this game, and it’s not a whole lot … We don’t have to overhaul anything. Overall, we had a really good first half as a bullpen, and so obviously we started off not how we wanted to in the second half, but we’ve got to put it behind us. We have a ton of games left.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.