González solid in 1st start for injury-riddled Crew

Adames' two-run shot all Brewers' offense can manage

June 22nd, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- Journeyman right-hander Chi Chi González, starting a game as a Minnesota Twin 10 days earlier, became the ninth pitcher to start a game for the 2022 Brewers in Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Cardinals at American Family Field. With 70 games in the books and half of its six-man Opening Day rotation on the injured list, Milwaukee is already one shy of the number of starting pitchers it employed all of last season. 

And yet when he was asked about the state of the team’s pitching Tuesday afternoon, Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns was able to crack a smile. 

“The state of the union is strong,” Stearns joked. 

Even he had to admit it could be stronger. 

“Look, we’ve lost a number of pitchers to injury off of our Major League staff,” Stearns said. “Fortunately, none of them seems to be season-ending. We expect all of these guys back at some point, some sooner than others.”

On the sooner side is Brandon Woodruff, who went down with a right ankle injury and then stayed down with Raynaud’s syndrome, a condition that causes numbness in some of the fingers of his pitching hand. He’s scheduled to top 70 pitches in a rehab assignment for High-A Wisconsin on Thursday and could be an option to rejoin Milwaukee after that. 

Left-hander Aaron Ashby may be next. He landed on the injured list Monday with inflammation in his left forearm but had a reassuring MRI scan and has continued playing catch. His timetable is to be determined. 

The longest absence is Freddy Peralta, whose right shoulder injury got a more specific definition from Stearns on Tuesday -- a teres major strain -- and who has recently resumed playing catch at the team’s rehab facility in Phoenix. The Brewers hope to have a firmer handle of the timetable for his return by the All-Star break.

“This is the hand we're dealt right now,” manager Craig Counsell said as his team opened this series deadlocked with the Cards atop the National League Central. “Jason Alexander has filled in and done an incredible job, a wonderful job. This is where we're at in the season. Other guys have had to step up and we've had some guys absolutely step up.”

“Every time you lose another arm,” Stearns said, “you go another layer deeper on the depth chart. So, that’s what we’ve done.” 

The latest layer brought them to González, 30, a former first-round Draft pick of the Rangers who has started big league games for Texas, Colorado and, earlier this season, Minnesota. Milwaukee claimed him off the waiver wire last week and he carried a career ERA of 5.69 into a start in Ashby’s spot Tuesday night, then pitched essentially as advertised, throwing strikes for four innings and keeping the game within reach. 

González surrendered two first-inning runs, but the Brewers got them right back on Willy Adames’ two-run home run.

Unfortunately, that was it for Milwaukee's offense against St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty in his second start off the IL, and the Brewers were totally shut down by the relievers who followed. González surrendered a tie-breaking home run to Cardinals second baseman Nolan Gorman in the fourth inning, and Gorman hit another in the seventh on a four-RBI night as St. Louis pulled away. The Brewers had one hit after the second inning.

“We got 12 outs [from González], and going into it, we were hoping we would get 12 outs, so him getting us to that point in the game was a job well done,” Counsell said. “We were definitely still in the game at that point. We felt like we had Flaherty on the ropes a little bit in every inning, but the next hit just never happened.”

“If I clean up that first inning, I probably get to go into the fifth,” González said. “But yeah, for the delay of not throwing and everything, I felt good.”

Brent Suter, Miguel Sánchez and Peter Strzelecki all pitched beyond one inning in relief of González, so Milwaukee's bullpen will be in good shape behind Eric Lauer when the series continues Wednesday. Lauer has not been as sharp lately as he was earlier in the season -- he had a 1.82 ERA after five starts and has a 4.93 ERA in the seven starts since -- but Stearns lauded both Lauer and Adrian Houser for recognizing the importance of delivering innings on days they don’t have their best stuff, given the injury issues around them.

That’s how a staff works together to get through 162 games.

“You have to keep going,” Stearns said.