Crew's arms set tone in unconventional roles
Miley works 4 2/3 innings to start Brewers' 2nd straight shutout
DENVER -- The question came when the Brewers added Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain on Jan. 25, again when they picked up Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop before the July 31 Trade Deadline and once more before the postseason began. Sure, they have a deep lineup and a dominant bullpen, but what about that starting pitching?
The Brewers answered that question at every turn. In October, they've done so by ditching conventional roles -- these aren't starters, they're "initial out-getters" -- and trusting the arms that got them here. Right-hander Brandon Woodruff recorded the first nine outs of Game 1 without allowing a hit. Veteran Jhoulys Chacin fired five scoreless innings in Game 2. Lefty Wade Miley completed the National League Division Series sweep on Sunday, pitching 4 2/3 innings in the Brewers' 6-0 win over the Rockies.
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"From Woody to Jhoulys to Wade today, they set the tone," general manager David Stearns said. "The guys behind them were able to pick it up, from there we were able to scratch some runs."
Those performances kick-started three exceptionally well-pitched games that have Milwaukee bound for the NL Championship Series. The Brewers entered the NLDS with one shutout in the club's postseason history then threw two against a dangerous Rockies lineup.
"It's incredible," catcher Erik Kratz said. "We can't really even realize how good it is."
The way the Brewers' bullpen pitched was no surprise. Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader were All-Stars this year. Corey Knebel has been untouchable since he returned last month. Joakim Soria is an established late-innings reliever. But to see their starters throw 12 2/3 scoreless innings while giving up only six hits and five walks?
"We left it out there, for sure. We did our jobs. The bullpen did its job," Miley said. "[Woodruff] started it off [in Game 1] with three hitless innings, and that kind of set the tempo for everybody. We kind of went from there."
Miley was handed the toughest assignment: a start at Coors Field against a Rockies lineup that has feasted on left-handers and thrived at home all season. The 46-degree chill at first pitch didn't make it any easier. But Miley, who has reinvented himself after signing as a Minor League free agent in February, continued his remarkable turnaround season into October.
"These past three weeks, we've played every game like it's Game 7 of the World Series. I guess it kind of prepared me for this day," Miley said. "It's something you dream about as a little kid, and I was able to go out there and live it."
The 31-year-old lefty, who put up a 2.57 ERA in 16 regular-season starts, allowed only three hits and a walk as he kept Colorado off-balance with cutters and curveballs. Rockies manager Bud Black admitted his lineup was pressing, trying too hard to make something happen, but Miley didn't give them much to work with.
"Wade Miley has zero fear. Wade Miley fears nothing on this planet," Ryan Braun said. "It's a tough place to pitch, this is a [Rockies] team that kills left-handed pitchers. He really believed in himself and we believed in him. He went out there and set the tone. A lot of soft contact. That cutter, I think, has rejuvenated his career. It's really cool to see him have the success he had."
Miley threw only 64 pitches but was pulled with two outs and a runner on first in the fifth as Rockies leadoff man Charlie Blackmon stepped to the plate for the third time. Knebel came in and struck out Blackmon on three pitches.
"You've got a group of guys who all want the same thing: We want to win the World Series," Miley said. "We're not trying to be more than who you are. Do your job and pass it on to the next guy."
Now, with four days off before the NLCS, manager Craig Counsell and pitching coach Derek Johnson can let their relievers rest and reconfigure the rotation. Miley would be able to start Game 1 at Miller Park on regular rest. Chacin will be ready to go. They can draw up a seven-game pitching plan that includes a mix of traditional starters and less traditional "out-getters" like Woodruff.
The way things went in the NLDS, it seems like just about anyone could get the job done. The Brewers inspired a new question, one born of admiration rather than doubt: How about that starting pitching?
"I think our pitching staff right now is pitching as well as it possibly could," Johnson said. "I'm really proud of our starters, too. They're getting a lot of outs."