Clutch pitching paves way for walk-off win

Tellez delivers key hit in second straight game for Counsell's 500th victory

August 7th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- Craig Counsell wore his typical stoic visage during Friday’s 2-1 Brewers win in 10 innings over the best-in-baseball Giants, Counsell’s 500th regular-season victory as manager of his boyhood team. But this is an atypical time for his club.

More than a third of the roster has been sidelined by the coronavirus over the last 11 days. Six of those days brought news of at least one new positive test, including Friday, when Adrian Houser reported symptoms in the afternoon, tested positive, and left the Brewers minus a second member of their six-man starting rotation in addition to the four relievers, including All-Star closer Josh Hader, already in quarantine.

“I would say every day I’m hopeful there’s not [a positive test],” Counsell said. “I’m trying to be an optimist about it.”

So, it was up to Corbin Burnes to stabilize things when the Giants brought MLB’s best record to American Family Field, and he did just that by delivering seven tough innings in a game decided in the bottom of the 10th on Rowdy Tellez’s walk-off single.

Considering the roster chaos around them, and the caliber of the opponent, it was among the best of the Brewers’ 66 victories. Avisaíl García golfed a low offering from Giants starter Logan Webb for a solo homer that represented the Brewers’ only run until extra innings. The only run off Burnes scored on Brandon Belt’s sixth-inning home run to the short porch in right field. Brad Boxberger and Devin Williams pitched scoreless innings to push the game to extras, and Brent Suter retired three consecutive pinch-hitters in the 10th without allowing the Giants’ free runner to budge from second base.

That positioned Tellez to deliver the go-ahead RBI for the second straight game, on a base hit just inside third base leading off the bottom of the 10th.

Depleted roster and all, the Brewers are 13-5 since the All-Star break, 8-2 since this crop of coronavirus cases started plucking healthy players from the roster, and 22 games over .500 for the first time this season.

“Obviously there's been a lot of extra stuff going on around us off the field,” said Burnes, who had his own stint on the COVID-19 IL back in late April and early May. “When we cross the white line, it's not there, and we're doing business. It was a good win tonight off a really good team.”

“It just shows you how many players we have that contribute,” Tellez said. “We have bullpen arms [on the IL]. We have Christian Yelich. We have the best closer in baseball, Josh Hader. Some of our rotation. … It just shows you how deep this team is and the will to win’s there.”

With the win in the books, it was time for Brewers officials to think about what’s next. Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said during the Bally Sports Wisconsin telecast that Houser’s positive test was confirmed too late in the afternoon to set plans for filling the rotation vacancies left by Eric Lauer and Houser, who were lined up to start Monday and Tuesday at Wrigley Field before they were sidelined by COVID-19.

One option: Use Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta on regular rest for a bit. For most of this season, the Brewers have used a sixth starter to give the others an extra day off.

“We have been fortunate we have been able to get these guys a lot of rest, especially coming out of the All-Star break,” Stearns said. “They have been able to take their foot off the accelerator a little bit. At some point this season, we know we’re going to have to press the accelerator back down, and we have to determine whether now is the right time to do it.”

Counsell was asked what he’s learned about his club during this trying stretch, during which every day seems to bring bad news on the health front, but the team keeps on winning.

“I think there’s a focus here on the task at hand,” Counsell said. “It’s something that’s on everybody’s mind. It has to be. It’s more than a distraction. That’s not the right word for it. But I think when the game starts, we’ve been able to put it behind us and enjoy being together, enjoy playing together, enjoy winning together. In that sense, the game is a little bit of a distraction from what’s going on. The guys have stayed focused on winning and it’s because they enjoy doing it together. It’s been great to see.”