WASHINGTON -- Travel concerns aside, Brewers manager Craig Counsell acknowledged after Saturday's 14-inning marathon that he would have to be crafty in order to find some reinforcements in the bullpen after both his big league and Triple-A teams played at least 13 innings late into the evening.
Early Sunday morning, the method behind the madness was made clear. Milwaukee called up right-handers Jay Jackson and Aaron Wilkerson from Triple-A San Antonio before Sunday's rubber game at Nationals Park. Ray Black and Freddy Peralta, both of whom pitched in Saturday's marathon 15-14 win, were optioned to San Antonio as the corresponding moves.
Both Jackson and Wilkerson appeared in the Brewers' 16-8 loss to the Nationals on Sunday. Wilkerson entered in relief of Chase Anderson in the third inning and allowed five runs on eight hits (four homers) over 4 1/3 innings. Jackson retired the lone batter he faced in the seventh inning.
For Black, who came over in the Drew Pomeranz deal, the move marks a return to the Triple-A level where he's spent most of this season. For Peralta, however, it is the first time the 23-year-old will be off the 25-man roster outside of a stint on the injured list in mid-April. He's been scuffling as of late, however, owning a 22.50 ERA over his last six appearances after being tagged for four runs without recording an out on Saturday.
Counsell said Peralta's woes stem from confidence issues that have been plaguing the right-hander out of the bullpen. It wasn’t long ago that Peralta worked himself into some high-leverage roles in relief, but now he’s back down to try and find himself and be ready to contribute again in September.
“He had two great weeks where I thought his confidence has soared, and then we have had four or five appearances where he’s lost some confidence,” Counsell said. “I still believe that he is an important part of this year. We are going to need him in September, because we need outs in September from guys, multiple guys."
Counsell equated the move, which was also made out of necessity with a taxed bullpen, to what they did with Corey Knebel in almost an identical situation last season. After a brief Triple-A stint, Knebel returned to allow zero runs across 16 1/3 September innings and thrive in the postseason.
“It’s a little step back for him,” Counsell said of Peralta. “Hopefully, we can get him some confidence and get him going a little bit. He’s lost a little confidence at this point, and we needed to get that back in a little less-pressure situations.”
But the wear of Saturday will not be lost on the additions to the bullpen. Jackson was called upon to pitch the last inning of the Missions' 5-4 win, albeit only throwing nine pitches. Wilkerson, a starter with San Antonio, was slated to start today and could provide some length for Milwaukee, if necessary.
And if Wilkerson is indeed called upon, it’ll come after a 5 a.m. CT flight into D.C.
“They slept less than us,” Counsell said.
Hader back to old self?
If there was anything positive to take away from Josh Hader’s appearance on Saturday, it was how he finished it. After allowing the tying run and loading the bases without recording an out, he bounced back to strike out the top of the Nationals' order to send the game to extras.
Hader won an eight-pitch battle with Trea Turner, sat down Adam Eaton on three pitches and threw five of his trademark fastballs to one of the most lethal hitters in the league in Anthony Rendon, who made contact with just one of them. Hader walked back to the dugout disappointed with how his night started but offering a reassuring sign he just might be back to his old ways.
“The pitches to Eaton and Rendon, that’s Josh Hader,” Counsell said. “That’s what we’ve come to know. … Josh has been struggling, but to see that from him, you’re like, he’s there."
It was a welcome sign from Hader, who now has blown four saves in his last five opportunities.
“There’s no quit in him, there’s no hanging your head in him,” Counsell added. “When it looked probably the most dire, he responded as well as we’ve ever seen him. I’m proud of him for that, and it is what being a high-leverage reliever in this league is all about.”
• Trent Grisham, who homered in the win on Saturday, made his second consecutive start in center field on Sunday in place of Lorenzo Cain, who got his second straight day off. Cain has been scuffling of late and recently said the best man should play every day. Grisham has three home runs and 10 RBIs in his first 43 big league at-bats and entered Sunday's game slashing .279/.327/.535.
• Yasmani Grandal was kept out of the starting lineup Sunday, which isn’t unusual for a catcher in a day game following a night game, especially one that went 14 innings. But Grandal is also dealing with dehydration issues after losing “an excessive amount of weight” Saturday night, Counsell said. He’s available if needed off the bench, though.