Brewers flex arms again in 'special' sixth frame
PITTSBURGH -- For those scoring this unexpected Brewers season at home, circle the sixth inning of Tuesday's 1-0 win over the Pirates on your scorecards.
Chase Anderson's escape from a man on third, no-out jam in the sixth sent the Brewers to their second consecutive shutout victory and boosted their record to 11 games above .500, matching their season high. Corey Knebel's 37th save sealed the Brewers' second set of back-to-back shutout victories this season. They also did it at Tampa Bay last month.
"The sixth inning was special, man," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "[Anderson] emptied the tank for about 12, 13, 14 pitches, really, and got the heart of their lineup.
"In a time and at a place where we really seem to struggle scoring runs, the pitching has picked up the slack, for sure. They're winning games."
Anderson's performance, which came at the same time Brewers ace Jimmy Nelson was undergoing surgery in Los Angeles for his season-ending shoulder injury: Six innings, five hits, no runs or walks, eight strikeouts. He hasn't surrendered more than three earned runs in any of his last 14 starts.
One earned run would have ruined this outing, and the Pirates were poised to score it when Adam Frazier singled leading off the sixth, took second on Anderson's errant pickoff and moved to third on Starling Marte's bunt single.
Teams that put runners at first and third with no outs score at least one run at least 85 percent of the time, but that's not what was on Anderson's mind as he prepared to tangle with Andrew McCutchen.
"Honestly, [I was upset] after missing my spot to Frazier. I was on pretty good tonight but I missed that spot by a good foot, foot and a half," Anderson said. "First and third, no outs, really I'm just trying to make a pitch, every pitch. I'm trying to slow the game down. I'm trying to focus on making that next pitch, and I was able to do that."
He struck out McCutchen with a high fastball as Marte stole second. Anderson then induced a Josh Bell popout to center fielder Brett Phillips, whose game-ending assist Monday night and run-saving throw home in another game against the Pirates last week at Miller Park figured into the Pirates' decision to hold Frazier at third base.
Phillips' throw home was another cannon. At 104.7 mph, it was the hardest throw recorded by Statcast™ this season. Phillips, in only 27 Major League games, owns the top three throws in 2017.
"Obviously, throwing out a couple of guys, specifically against this team, they respect the arm," Phillips said. "Honestly, I didn't even see where the ball went, but we kept them to a shutout and that was a big play."
Anderson completed the escape by retiring Gregory Polanco on another flyout to center field.
"Those innings kind of tell you what you're made of," Anderson said. "To get out of that inning with no runs was big for us, for sure."