LOS ANGELES -- It was a silver lining at the end of an uninspiring final week for the Brewers: Corbin Burnes is the first pitcher in franchise history to win his league’s ERA title.
Burnes led all of MLB with a 2.43 ERA, ahead of Dodgers teammates Max Scherzer (2.46) and Walker Buehler (2.47), the latter of whom had a chance to surpass Burnes on Sunday before Rowdy Tellez and Avisaíl García hit back-to-back doubles in the fourth inning for an earned run that denied Buehler’s bid. Burnes’ teammate, Brandon Woodruff, finished fourth with a 2.56 ERA.
“However you want to say it, it’s been remarkable is what it’s been,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Burnes’ effort. “He’s had a historical season. He’s done things that no pitcher has ever done and it’s been a joy to watch.
“I just give Corbin so much credit on how he has built himself. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of [pitching coach] Chris Hook for his assistance in it. He had a really good year last year, he had struggles before that, but how he’s kept getting better is something that every player should take note of.”
Burnes finished as the Major League leader in ERA, strikeout rate (35.6 percent), strikeouts to walks (6.88), FIP (1.63) and percentage of barrels (2.9 percent). Only Scherzer had a lower WHIP than Burnes’ 0.94.
The 2.43 ERA is second best for a qualifying pitcher in Brewers history, behind Mike Caldwell’s 2.36 in 1978. Woodruff’s ERA ranked fourth in club history.
Winning the ERA title completed a feat with which Burnes flirted last season, only to suffer an oblique injury in his final start. Before that, the last Brewers pitcher to come close was big right-hander Jeff D’Amico in 2000, when he suffered a similarly cruel fate.
It was Sept. 28, 2000, the final game ever at Milwaukee County Stadium. D’Amico took a tightly wrapped left ankle and a 2.42 ERA to the mound to finish his own breakthrough season, entering that start neck-and-neck for the National League's best ERA with the D-backs’ Randy Johnson, who was at 2.38 with one start to go. D’Amico would have to overcome a partially torn tendon in his ankle that was suffered, it was said, while running in the outfield prior to the previous day’s game.
It did not go well. D’Amico allowed 10 hits and six earned runs in six innings of an 8-1 loss to the Reds. His ERA rose to 2.66, and he finished third behind Johnson, who also faltered in his final start, and the Dodgers’ Kevin Brown, who took the title.
A year ago, as Burnes flirted with the NL ERA title during the shortened 2020 season, former Brewers Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins figured it was safe to tell the real story. They remember D’Amico getting hurt when Sexson, Jenkins, D’Amico and Jeromy Burnitz snuck to the top of Bernie Brewer’s Chalet at the old stadium for one last trip down Bernie’s slide into a big beer mug. D’Amico, Sexson said, was the last to go.
“I remember thinking about how hard it would be to explain to the organization that we ruined the ERA title because our pitcher sprained his ankle on the slide,” Sexson said. “It didn’t sideline him, but he had quite a bit of tape on that sucker. I think we kept that one under wraps, but now we can get it out there, I think.”
“That happened,” Jenkins said. “I remember him hurting his ankle and we were all thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ Because we were already thin on pitching as it was.”
Burnes experienced no such letdown. But after a two-inning outing against the Dodgers on Saturday in his regular-season finale, he was not ready to talk about his personal accomplishments.
“Not yet. We still have a lot of baseball left,” Burnes said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s still part of the season. You don’t want to start looking at numbers now and this and that, and congrats on this and congrats on that. Then, all of a sudden, you fall into a slump and you lose focus and energy.
“For me, [Saturday] was a little tuneup for the next month of our season. That’s how I’m looking at it and how I think most of the guys are looking at it. You can’t sit back now and start looking at it, and lose that intensity.”