SAN DIEGO -- Before Corey Knebel was saddled with a blown save, and Jeremy Jeffress bent but didn't break, and Orlando Arcia got enough wood on a changeup in the 12th inning to push a go-ahead single through the infield, Chase Anderson was the story for the Brewers on Opening
SAN DIEGO -- Before Corey Knebel was saddled with a blown save, and Jeremy Jeffress bent but didn't break, and Orlando Arcia got enough wood on a changeup in the 12th inning to push a go-ahead single through the infield, Chase Anderson was the story for the Brewers on Opening Day.
After all those other things transpired in Thursday's 2-1 extra-innings win over the Padres, Anderson's six scoreless innings were still a big story for a team betting its pitching is better than everyone outside the organization thinks it is.
"We pitched really well today," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We've pitched really well for a while now. We haven't gotten a ton of credit for how well we've been pitching, going back to last year."
That is some explanation for the angst over GM David Stearns' decision to stand with the starting staff he'd already assembled in the wake of the splashy acquisitions of outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. The Brewers got all the way to the regular season without making another notable addition to a rotation that will be without its top arm, Jimmy Nelson, until June at the earliest.
Anderson calmed the chorus for a day by delivering the sixth scoreless Opening Day start in franchise history. He allowed a lone single over six innings while dancing around three walks with six strikeouts, a performance more impressive considering it was unclear as of Thursday morning whether Anderson would pitch at all. He developed a bad stomach bug earlier in the week and was miserable while the rest of the team played a pair of exhibitions in Houston.
"I was wondering, honestly," Anderson said. "It was pretty bad. Even waking up this morning, my energy level wasn't good. I was still weak, still trying to get my strength back. I was able to get through it today."
He did better than get through it. Anderson did not surrender a hit in the first three innings while enduring a scare in the top of the third, when he slid awkwardly while scoring his team's first run of 2018.
In the fourth, Anderson allowed a Jose Pirela single, the Padres' only hit against him. In the sixth, he retired the heart of San Diego's lineup -- William Myers, Eric Hosmer and Pirela -- in order.
"I was a little concerned about the sixth inning because I thought he was getting a little tired," Counsell said, "but he went out there and made some quality pitches. He was fighting it pretty bad in Houston, but he delivered today."
Said Anderson: "When you get the spot to pitch the first game of the season, you want to set the tone and make the guys behind you trust in you and respect you. Go out there and put up zeros."
Six times in 50 seasons as a franchise, a Pilots/Brewers starting pitcher has not permitted a run. Anderson joined a list that includes Yovani Gallardo, Ben Sheets, Teddy Higuera (twice) and Jim Slaton.
"It's about setting a good game plan every day and going out and executing that plan," Brewers pitching coach Derek Johnson said. "The names on the back of the jerseys are who we have, and I'm plenty happy with who we have."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Knebel can't hold it:Josh Hader and Matt Albers worked a scoreless inning apiece to pass a 1-0 lead to 2017 All-Star Knebel, who saw it slip away. After San Diego's Carlos Asuaje led off with a single, pinch-runner Matthew Szczur put himself in scoring position with a gutsy, two-out steal of second base. He scored two pitches later, when Freddy Galvis grounded an RBI single past diving Brewers first baseman Ryan Braun.
"I thought Corey threw the ball well," Counsell said. "He threw a 2-0 curveball; you give [Galvis] credit. He just fell behind a little bit and you give the guy credit."
Escape act: Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress followed Knebel and found himself in deep trouble when he loaded the bases with one out in the 11th. The Padres had a chance to end the game earlier in the frame when Pirela's bloop single trickled away from Brewers right fielder Domingo Santana. But Hosmer was held at third base, leaving the game in Chase Headley's hands. Jeffress executed a split-fingered fastball and Headley smacked a hard ground ball to third base, where Travis Shaw started a 5-2-3 double play.
"I was pumped up. Did you happen to see me right there?" Jeffress said. "I was just excited. That's the drive and the confidence we need out of everybody. Coming out of the 'pen, you have to be ready to beat everybody."
Welcome Crew: Brewers newcomers Cain and Yelich combined for four singles -- three from Cain -- and helped manufacture the only run in the game until the ninth inning. With two outs in the third, Anderson swatted a single to center off Padres starter Clayton Richard, extending the inning for Cain and Yelich to add their own base hits. Yelich's hit landed mere feet in front of Pirela, whose throw to the plate was up the line. Anderson scored -- though his slide wasn't pretty.
"I think he wanted to touch home plate with his nose," said Arcia.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Extra innings have been good to the Brewers on Opening Day. They improved to 3-0 in those circumstances, with Thursday's win joining a list with victories over the Cubs in 2008 and the Rockies in '13. Both of the earlier games went 10 innings.
Jhoulys Chacin, the Padres' Opening Day starter a year ago, will make his Brewers debut against his former team when the series continues Friday night at 9:10 p.m. CT. Chacin pitched well enough in a career-high 32 starts last season to get a two-year, $15.5 million contract from Milwaukee, and logged a 1.84 ERA in his five Spring Training starts. He's 11-4 with a 2.03 ERA in 20 career games (18 starts) at Petco Park.
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Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.