'Freddy being Freddy': Peralta K's 11 to beat Orioles

April 13th, 2024

BALTIMORE -- There was an unusual electricity in the air on Friday at Oriole Park for an early April game between two teams without much recent on-field history, but for a few good reasons, the buzz wasn’t unwarranted. One: the Jackson phenoms, as in Jackson Chourio and Jackson Holliday, the top two prospects in baseball meeting on the day of Holliday’s home debut. Two: the reunions, for the three players involved in the blockbuster trade between the teams that sent Corbin Burnes to Baltimore in February.

So much intrigue. Yet in the end, it was another classic storyline that drowned out all the noise and stole the show: The Mainstay.

The Brewers’ ascendant ace continued his masterful start to the season on Friday, his six brilliant innings providing the backbone of an 11-1 win over the Orioles on a night Milwaukee also lost Christian Yelich to injury. Backed by an early offensive barrage, Peralta struck out 11 without a walk, slicing his early-season ERA to 2.55.

“He’s coming into his own,” manager Pat Murphy said. “He’s been made the ace, and he’s stepped into those shoes.”

An All-Star in 2021, Peralta has long shown tremendous upside as a talented piece of some really, really good Brewers rotations. But he’s reaching another level right now, and it’s been happening since before Milwaukee traded Burnes this offseason in a move that made Peralta the de-facto ace. The Brewers have won 11 of Peralta’s last 14 starts dating back to last July.

He is 8-2 with a 2.46 ERA with 118 strikeouts and just 13 walks in that span.

“Freddy being Freddy, man,” shortstop Willy Adames said. “His last three starts have been amazing. He’s doing what we expected him to do, step up his game and teach some of the young guys who are on the team now. He’s doing an amazing job doing that. We knew he was nasty -- he’s put up numbers the past years. He’s just continuing to get better every year.”

Tensions flared later in the game as the Brewers bashed three homers, including Gary Sánchez’s first with the club and a backbreaking Willy Adames blast in the fifth. An inning later, a brief exchange with Orioles catcher James McCann before Adames’ next at-bat led to the benches and bullpens clearing, but no ejections.

Those fireworks only momentarily distracted from Peralta, who retired nine of his final 12 batters after Colton Cowser’s solo homer in the fourth. His last sequence of the night was vintage Peralta -- a three-pitch strikeout of Cedric Mullins that saw his fastball fluctuate from 93.4 mph to 98 mph. His final pitch was his hardest of the night.

“People that know me since I was in the Minors, they all know that’s kind of how I am," he said. "That’s natural me. Most of the time, I don’t try to do it. Sometimes, yes, I try to throw a little harder. But it just happens natural … It just comes out like that. I get questions about it sometimes. But that’s just something I have.”

Said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde: “For me, he’s arguably one of the better pitchers in the game, because he’s got multiple pitches and the fastball’s got unbelievable life to it.”

The rest of the league might soon agree. For the Brewers, it’s just more validation of the potential they always saw in Peralta, and in the faith they had in him to lead their rotation.

It’s still very early, but the early returns are good. The Brewers’ rotation remains inexperienced and incomplete due to injury. But with Peralta heading it, it ranks second in the NL in ERA.

‘He’s responded really well to that,” Adames said. “He knew he had to step up his game, and he’s doing a tremendous job.”