Not perfect, but Crew's magic number at 3
Brewers don't allow baserunner until 7th; finish homestand 6-1
MILWAUKEE -- There’s something special that happens when the Brewers get to September, and that magic continued in Sunday’s 4-3 victory over the Pirates at Miller Park that capped a three-game sweep.
Milwaukee’s magic number dropped to three games with the Cubs' loss to the Cardinals and the Brewers are now tied with the Nationals for the top National League Wild Card spot.
It’s easy to point to the injury to superstar outfielder Christian Yelich as the point where the season changed for Milwaukee, but the quest to salvage the 2019 season started before Yelich’s departure.
“It’s awesome,” said Brewers first baseman Eric Thames, who hit a pair of homers in Sunday’s win. “I saw a bunch of memes on Twitter and Instagram poking fun at the team saying that once Yeli was out that we were done. It’s been the complete opposite. We lost our big piece, but we still have 25-plus guys ready to rock. We’re out here competing and hopefully playing as long as they’ll let us.”
The Brewers’ season hinged on a pivotal stretch of games from Sept. 5-22 that included 18 straight games without an off-day. But the club says that nothing is shaking its focus right now, even after losing the reigning NL MVP Award winner.
“They’re playing for something. They’re playing for not only a Wild Card spot, but they’re trying to win the division as well,” Pirates starter Trevor Williams said. “You can tell in the way that they’re coming out in their ABs, the pitches that they’re taking. You can tell in their pitchers out of the bullpen, they’re pitching like their life’s on the line -- and it is, to a certain extent, for a spot in October for them.”
Milwaukee’s 15-3 record over its past 18 games has the club on the precipice of its second straight postseason berth.
“If we had the expectation that we would have played this well, it would have been unrealistic. Things have gone as well as they could have possibly gone over that stretch, but at the same time, there's still work to be done,” Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun said. “Our success this month epitomizes what a team is all about. We've got a lot of big moments from a lot of different guys.”
Pitching has carried the Brewers’ hot stretch in September, and the staff continued its strong run on Sunday. Brandon Woodruff, Jay Jackson and Gio Gonzalez combined to carry a perfect game into the seventh inning, then Drew Pomeranz, Freddy Peralta and Josh Hader finished off the final 2 2/3 innings. All on a designated bullpen day.
Milwaukee struck out 14 Pirates batters and did not allow a walk. Its staff has been electric recently, with an MLB-leading 2.81 ERA in September. Crew pitchers were even better during their seven-game homestand, going 6-1 with a 1.00 ERA.
“We had it a little bit last year, so we're just trying to stay the course, keep playing the game the way we know we can play, and hopefully our guys keep doing what they're doing,” Gonzalez said. “Everybody is trying to do a good job of piecing this all together. You know, keep playing music. Freddy is doing a great job with the playlists so we can continue to put the music duties on him.”
The Brewers carried a perfect game into the seventh inning until Adam Frazier hit a soft line drive to shortstop Orlando Arcia that gave Pittsburgh a spark. Frazier’s ball looked like it was going to be caught, but it hit off Arcia’s glove and trickled into center field. The Pirates’ lone hit registered at just 82.2 mph, according to Statcast, and they had just four balls in play over 90 mph or more over the entire game.
“It’s like this time of year, I don’t know. ... It seems like we’ve got some good leaders in the clubhouse and everybody’s pulling for each other,” Woodruff said. “I think that goes a long way. And I think the attention to every pitch and every at-bat is coming up pretty big, and guys making a lot of plays in the field and everybody pitching and doing their jobs, and it’s all just coming together.”