A year later, Burnes looks back at no-no ... and ahead

September 12th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy's Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

First thing Sunday morning, Corbin Burnes texted Josh Hader about the moment they’ll share forever. 

Sunday marked one year since Burnes and Hader combined for the second no-hitter in Brewers history, a gem in Cleveland in which Burnes worked the first eight innings and Hader finished it off. After Hader got Myles Straw to swing at a slider in the dirt and catcher Omar Narváez threw to first base to finish Milwaukee’s first no-no since Juan Nieves blanked Baltimore in April of 1987, Burnes was the first man to hug Hader on the mound. 

“Obviously there are a lot bigger things that go on on Sept. 11, but this is something that can add a little bit of a sweet memory to that day,” Burnes said Sunday morning. “I’ll be linked with Josh forever in that.” 

A lot has changed since then, both for Burnes and for the Brewers. 

Personally, he made his first career postseason start, won the Brewers’ first Cy Young Award in a generation and became a dad for the first time. 

“The last two years have been the best years of my life,” Burnes said. 

For the Brewers collectively, it’s more complicated. The day after the no-hitter, Milwaukee won an 11-1 rout to push a franchise-record 34 games over .500 and an incredible 14 games clear of the rest of the National League Central. They could coast to the NL Central title. 

But two days later in Detroit, they lost a 1-0 game in 11 innings, and in the big picture, it’s been mostly downhill from there. The Brewers rested their regulars over the final weeks and lost 12 of their final 18 regular-season games before getting shut out twice in an NLDS loss to the Braves. This season, the Brewers got off to the best 50-game start in franchise history at 32-18, then went 42-48 over the next 90 games going into Sunday’s series finale against the Reds. 

“We were so far ahead in the division at that point [of the no-hitter] and we almost went into ‘coast mode’ of getting guys rest, and I think that ultimately hurt us in the postseason,” Burnes said. “The team doesn’t look all that different now. We just had some guys who were playing a little bit better last year than we are playing this year. Pitching, I think we were throwing the ball better at that point last year. We were just playing better baseball than we have to this point this year. That’s obviously reflected in the standings.” 

What does that mean for the remaining weeks of this season?

“For the most part, it’s the same team, so you know it’s in us to go out and play our best baseball and make this last 21-game push to get into the postseason,” Burnes said. “It’s in there.”

Then there’s the business side of things. 

The Josh Hader trade on Aug. 1 reflected that the Brewers’ window to win a World Series with this pitching staff, probably the best collection of arms in franchise history, is closing. Hader had a year and a half of club control remaining when he was dealt to the Padres. It’s a jarring thought, but Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Eric Lauer and Adrian Houser (not to mention shortstop Willy Adames) will all be at the same point by next year’s Trade Deadline. 

Like most players in Burnes’ position, he indicated he is open to listening to offers on a contract extension to keep him in Milwaukee beyond 2024. But he said his representatives at CAA Sports have yet to hear from the Brewers about something long-term; when Burnes was arbitration-eligible for the first time last winter, talks were limited to a one-year deal. 

Would this offseason seem like a good time to talk?

“You would think,” said Burnes, who turns 28 next month. “You would think maybe there would have been some initial talks last offseason, but nothing.”

With Hader (another CAA-repped player), it became clear that the sides wouldn’t be able to get to an extension. So, the Brewers explored a trade. Similarly difficult decisions lie ahead for Burnes and other members of the team’s current core. 

“For anyone who isn’t on a long-term deal, once you get into your later years of arbitration, anything can happen,” Burnes said. “We saw it with Hader. We might see it this offseason. I don’t know what route the front office is going to take. It’s one of those things you start looking at. You hope you’re here for the long-term -- two more years, seven more years, eight more years, 10 more years, whatever it may be -- you hope to be in one jersey your entire career. But there’s other things that go into that.

“Who knows what’s going to happen this offseason. Who knows what’s going to happen at the next Trade Deadline. At this point, there’s a couple of guys remaining from our 2018 and ‘19 postseason teams, and it’s like, this could be maybe the last year. Maybe next year is the last year. Maybe we get two more years. We don’t really know. It’s hard to look at it like that but you don’t know what’s going to happen.”