This quartet bumps Crew into WC position

September 23rd, 2020

While manager Craig Counsell settled into a postgame Zoom session, the hooting and hollering audible from the clubhouse gave it away.

In Washington, the Nationals had rallied in extra innings to beat the Phillies. The Brewers, still in uniform following a 3-2 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park, were in postseason position for the first time in weeks.

If the regular season ended Tuesday night, the Brewers (27-27) would be in the postseason as the National League's No. 8 seed. But the regular season did not end Tuesday night, as Counsell was quick to remind.

“I don't think it matters that much where we're sitting right now,” said Counsell, whose club faces a tough rubber match against Trevor Bauer and the Reds on Wednesday night, then five games in four days at St. Louis. “When we went on the road trip, it was in front of us. We're playing the teams we're competing against. We know that's a way in. There's enough games left that you're going to lose a game and teams are going to win games. We still have to win games.”

Here’s a trip around the horn from one of the Brewers’ biggest wins to date:

First: Anderson’s bounce-back
The Brewers were in a 2-0 hole before lefty starter recorded an out, after shortstop 's throwing error put the Reds' leadoff man aboard for Nick Castellanos’ home run. Not exactly the way to start a showdown with Reds right-hander Sonny Gray.

But Anderson stiffened, stranding runners at third base in the second and fourth innings, and at second base in the sixth, as part of a quality start -- six innings, four hits, two runs (one earned), no walks and seven strikeouts -- that positioned the Brewers for a comeback.

“I told [Brandon Woodruff], ‘I don’t know how you guys strike out 10, because it felt like I struck out everybody and I only struck out seven,’” Anderson said. “My fastball velocity wasn’t much different, but my slider was the best it’s been in probably years.”

Why it matters: Because this was not Anderson’s final crucial start. The way the rotation is lined up, he’ll start a regular-season finale in St. Louis on Sunday, which has the potential to be a huge game.

Second: Sogard’s go-ahead hit
Brewers utility man hadn’t had multiple hits in a game for precisely seven weeks, and he hadn’t started a game for nine days before an opening arose Tuesday. Sogard made the most of it, hitting a double off Gray in the third inning as the Brewers pushed the Reds starter’s pitch count, then another in the seventh against reliever Tejay Antone to cap Milwaukee’s go-ahead two-run rally.

“I’ve been trying to stay as ready as possible, standing in bullpens here and there to try to see live pitching,” Sogard said. “To be able to contribute today, it’s huge. Every game right now is do or die for us.”

“He got off to a bad start and we had to make a decision with the number of games left,” Counsell said, “but he's had success in this league and he's also had some stretches -- I think we've seen it -- when he gets going, it's pretty darn good. He's had some really good stretches and he's always prepared. You trust him because of that.”

Why it matters: Because the Brewers need hits wherever they can get them with and fighting through subpar seasons. Milwaukee entered the day 12th in the NL with a .227 average and 11th at 4.38 runs per game.

Third: Williams keeps streaking
What more can be said about ' magic changeup? After the Reds fought him hard in a seventh inning that began with a walk, Williams returned to strike out the heart of the order -- Joey Votto, Eugenio Suárez and Mike Moustakas -- in the eighth, all on changeups. Opponents are 1-for-59 with 41 strikeouts against Williams’ changeup this season.

“There were some good at-bats to start the seventh and they made him work,” Counsell said. “Going out there [in the eighth] and facing those guys, I was a little concerned but -- wow. That was a 'wow' inning. He's had a bunch of them, but that was a 'wow' inning. No question.”

Why it matters: Because Williams is making a case for both the NL Rookie of the Year Award and NL Reliever of the Year Award. With five strikeouts overall on Tuesday, he has 52 strikeouts in 25 innings. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 19 consecutive outings.

Home: Hader closes it out
It was 2019 on Tuesday: 13 pitches, 12 fastballs. The fastest was 96.8 mph, matching Hader’s season high. That was notable, since Hader’s velocity has been down a tick this season -- 95.5 mph average fastball in 2019, 94.4 mph entering Tuesday, per Statcast -- and Hader had been throwing more sliders. Now it was raw power again.

Why it matters: Because Hader is part of a quartet of pitchers, with Williams and starters Woodruff and , who could make the Brewers quite dangerous in a short postseason series, despite their so-so offense.

“Those guys are good. We know that. Everyone knows that,” Reds manager David Bell said of the Brewers’ back-end duo. “Of course, we were optimistic we could score off of them. We tried everything we could to get into a situation where we could score a run and extend the game. Anything we could do to get back in it. They’re really good, and we weren’t able to do that.”