Brewers look to bounce back after being swept for the first time this season

June 6th, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- When the Brewers and Phillies took the field Monday, they were the last remaining teams in the National League that had not been swept this season.

Three days later, only the Phillies can make that claim, having taken three straight from the Brewers in a battle of first-place teams.

“I know this will be a good thing for our team to go through,” manager Pat Murphy said after the 2-0 loss on Wednesday. “Nobody likes losing. Nobody likes losing close ones. No one likes knowing you're right there, you hit balls hard and they get caught. It wasn’t a lack of effort, like I've said all year. I continue to learn that our team wants to compete. It’s a fun thing sitting in my seat when you know you just lost three close ones but you still really like your team.”

The Brewers may have seen their sweep streak come to an end, but what did we find out about Milwaukee over these past three days at Citizens Bank Park? More importantly, what did they discover about themselves?

“I think we can definitely play with anybody; I think we’ve shown that,” Christian Yelich said. “But there’s a difference between playing with somebody and beating them.”

“That's how we get better; that's how we learn,” Murphy said. “Taking these three on the chin when every game could have went either way, taking these on the chin here against the best record in the National League, hopefully that sits in the right place for these guys and they understand, ‘Hey, we're right there.’”

Milwaukee can pitch with anyone

The Phillies entered the series averaging 5.2 runs per game, while the Brewers’ probable starters list read “TBA” for all three games. Not exactly a confidence-inspiring combination.

Jared Koenig performed brilliantly as an opener on Monday and Tuesday, Bryse Wilson and Colin Rea provided solid bulk innings behind him in those two games, then Aaron Ashby returned from Triple-A to throw five strong innings on Wednesday, allowing two runs on two hits -- both runs coming on Nick Castellanos’ fifth-inning homer.

Overall, Brewers pitchers gave up seven runs (six earned) over 26 innings, giving the team a chance in all three games.

Robert Gasser is headed for a second opinion on his sore left elbow, making him the fifth starting pitcher to land on the injured list since Opening Day -- including three of the Brewers’ five season-opening starters.

“Credit to our front office to be able to give us the depth to survive at all,” Murphy said. “Everybody has stepped up, so maybe it's a positive that through all this adversity, we’ve found out a lot about other guys.”

Those “other guys” helped keep the Brewers in the fight against the Phillies this week, and while Milwaukee came up short, there were positive signs to take out of the series, including Ashby’s return.

“Best I've seen him throw, actually,” Murphy said. “That's what we've been waiting for.”

Murphy hinted that Ashby had done enough to earn another start, and while he did issue five walks in his five innings, his velocity sat consistently around 95 mph, topping out at 96.4 mph -- a big jump from the 93.6 he averaged during his first start back in April.

“That's what this team expects me to do,” Ashby said. “That's what I expect of myself.”

The Brewers need to find a way to hit good pitching

As good as the Brewers’ pitching was in the series, the Phillies’ pitchers were even better.

Zack Wheeler, Cristopher Sánchez and Aaron Nola combined for 20 innings of two-run ball, allowing just 11 hits and four walks in the process.

“We didn't get blown out of the water by any means, but we also didn't do a good enough job at the things that we've been good at and we need to continue to be good at,” Yelich said. “That’s going to happen. We just can’t make it a habit or a trend.”

The Brewers had their chances, as the Phillies threw runners out at the plate in each of the three games, crucial plays in a series decided by a total of five runs.

“Especially when you run up against a good team with really good pitching, you’re not going to get a lot of opportunities,” Yelich said. “When you do get opportunities, you need to capitalize on them and make the most. We didn’t really do that.”

Ironically, the Brewers entered the series finale with a higher OPS this season against pitchers on winning teams (.762) than teams below .500 (.736), though 28 of their 36 victories had come against the latter.

“We've got a ways to go,” Murphy said. “We have an uphill battle, which I’ve said all year. You can't coast uphill. We’ve got to keep grinding.”