PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers are scoring in bunches, and they are about to get better.
Escobar will join a team that’s been hitting since the All-Star break. The Brewers have scored at least six runs in seven of their first 10 games of the second half including on Wednesday, when Avisaíl García delivered a lead in the first inning and Milwaukee never looked back.
“Like we were saying at the beginning of the year, just give them a little time and they’ll start clicking,” said Houser, who lowered his ERA to 3.69 with 97 2/3 innings in the books. “They’ve proved they’ve got that going right now and it’s great to see.
“Coming out and giving us an early lead, scoring some runs in the first inning, especially being the away team, it gets you on top and gets your good confidence going. It makes you want to get out there and keep the score low.”
The early scoring caught manager Craig Counsell’s eye, too.
"It’s one of the things we've been good at in this park -- we've scored early, a bunch of first-inning runs, and we did it again tonight with another first-inning run,” Counsell said. “We got pressure opportunities and made the most of it with guys just really coming up with some big hits."
They’ve been scoring so much lately that Josh Hader hadn’t pitched in 11 days before he finally reminded everyone he’s still the Brewers closer by trotting in from the bullpen with a six-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning. Rodolfo Castro’s two-run homer put a dent in Hader’s ERA while making some history; with two home runs on Wednesday, Castro became the first player in the AL/NL Modern Era (since 1901) whose first five career hits were home runs.
Before that, Houser pitched five scoreless innings on only 70 pitches before a planned early exit in favor of Lauer, who worked into, and out of, a bases-loaded jam in the sixth to make it 22 consecutive scoreless innings for Brewers pitchers dating to the second inning on Sunday against the White Sox.
The Brewers have won each of Houser’s last eight starts and 13 of his 18 starts this season.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “Go out there and try and go as deep as you can and come off the mound with the team in the lead and in the best position to win the ballgame. Those guys have been playing great defense behind me all year and putting up some runs for us. That’s something we want to continue for sure.”
The Brewers matched their season high at 18 games over .500 and can sweep the three-game series on Thursday with another win over the Pirates behind Freddy Peralta.
Then it’s off to Atlanta, where the Trade Deadline arrives at 3 p.m. CT on Friday and where Escobar is to join the team. He’s a switch-hitter who will play all over the field for the Brewers, and he brings 22 home runs and 65 RBIs in 2021 to the table.
On paper, it’s another boost to a Brewers offense that has been performing better since adding shortstop Willy Adames and first baseman Rowdy Tellez in trades.
“Part of the early days of the season were just injuries,” Counsell said. “We had a significant number of injuries in April and early May so that was part of it. What [Escobar’s addition] allows us to do, I think, is we have answers for a lot of pitchers, we have answers for injuries, we have answers for guys who are struggling, we have answers for challenges. We feel like there are a lot of places we can go and put out a tough lineup every single night.
“And that's what you want to do. You want to put a tough lineup out there every single night and I think the acquisition of Escobar allows us to do that.”
Speaking of “tough,” when Escobar joins the Brewers in Atlanta, Counsell will have a tougher time filling out a lineup card, even with Christian Yelich and Jace Peterson sidelined on the COVID-19 injured list.
“I think a playoff team, a tough team, a deep team, a good offensive team, has tough choices in their lineups every day and they have guys on the bench you think should be in there,” Counsell said. “ That's what you want. When we looked at a team with Eduardo Escobar on it, that's what we started to see.”