A masterful 14-K outing: 'That's Corbin Burnes'

Reigning NL Cy Young winner logs 8 stellar frames to pace Crew in twin-bill opener

September 9th, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the Brewers’ starting rotation at the moment, but you can scratch Corbin Burnes off the list.

Emerging from a series of uncharacteristically wobbly starts with his most dominant performance of 2022, Burnes struck out 14 batters over eight innings in a 2-1 win over the Giants in Game 1 of Thursday’s doubleheader at American Family Field.

For a Brewers team trying to claw back into the National League postseason picture, Burnes’ effort was the perfect way to start a closing kick in which Milwaukee plays 20 of its 26 remaining games at home. 

“Having all these home games at the end is definitely going to help us with this playoff push, but it takes some good baseball for us to get in there,” Burnes said.

Burnes provided some good baseball from the start. He struck out a pair in a perfect opening inning and never looked back, whiffing multiple batters in five of the first six frames, including three strikeouts in the second and in the sixth, when he was beginning his third pass through San Francisco’s batting order.

His only inning without a strikeout was the eighth, when Burnes erased David Villar’s leadoff infield hit with a double-play grounder and then induced a soft lineout on the infield to send the Brewers’ lead to closer Devin Williams in the ninth.

"That's nothing new. That's Corbin Burnes,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “That was as good as we've seen him. His stuff was carrying through the zone, he was hitting top of the zone [and] his cutter was working well. The ball was moving all over the place. It’s tough to name five better starters in baseball."

The Giants’ only run off Burnes scored in the third inning, when LaMonte Wade blooped a two-out base hit inches beyond the glove of shortstop Willy Adames and was off and running when Mike Yastrzemski hit a full-count cutter for a double and a 1-0 Giants lead. The Brewers answered with two runs in the fourth on back-to-back run-scoring doubles from Christian Yelich and Hunter Renfroe.

That was all Burnes needed in his best performance since he held the Cardinals to one run on four hits over seven innings in St. Louis on Aug. 13. He’d allowed at least three earned runs in each of his four starts since then with a 7.29 ERA over 21 innings before reasserting his status on Thursday as the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner.

His eight innings and 14 strikeouts were season highs for a Brewers starter, as Burnes held the Giants to three hits and one run. His ninth double-digit strikeout game of 2022 tied Ben Sheets’ single-season franchise record from 2004. 

“Nothing crazy different from the last couple that I've had,” Burnes said in comparing his rocky recent starts with Thursday’s gem. “The ball came out of the hand well. It's definitely breaking well. I just did a better job of commanding it early and forcing them to swing -- making some pitches out of the zone and getting them to swing and miss. 

“As far as the last couple outings to this one goes, I just did a better job getting ahead and finding the strike zone. But as far as stuff, it was the same.”

In the ninth, the Brewers faced a decision: Send Burnes back to the mound at 100 pitches, or turn to Williams, their All-Star closer? Manager Craig Counsell chose Williams to finish the win and he delivered a 1-2-3 inning.

“There was no question I was going back out there for the eighth, but after I was done and at 100 pitches, they told me they were giving the ball to Devin,” Burnes said. “He's got great stuff, he came in and he did his job.”