MILWAUKEE -- Hours after the Brewers' rotation depth took a hit, their most reliable starting pitcher hit back.Jhoulys Chacin, Milwaukee's steadiest starter this season and one of the National League's most unheralded arms, struck out nine without issuing a walk in 5 2/3 innings of a badly-needed, 6-1 win over
MILWAUKEE -- Hours after the Brewers' rotation depth took a hit, their most reliable starting pitcher hit back.
Jhoulys Chacin, Milwaukee's steadiest starter this season and one of the National League's most unheralded arms, struck out nine without issuing a walk in 5 2/3 innings of a badly-needed, 6-1 win over the Nationals on Monday at Miller Park.
Chacin led the Brewers to their second win in 10 games, hours after the team lost another underrated contributor, left-hander Brent Suter, to a season-ending elbow injury that sparked renewed interest in whether general manager David Stearns will trade for a starter before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The Crew's win coincided with a Cubs loss to the D-backs at Wrigley Field, meaning they pulled back within 2 1/2 games of first-place Chicago in the NL Central.
"Steady and consistent is exactly how I would describe his year so far," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Chacin.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
"He just doesn't flash the radar gun, so you guys kind of get bored and say, 'Oh, well, he only had nine strikeouts, gave up two hits -- boring,'" said Brewers catcher Erik Kratz, who drove in a pair of runs and scored another. "We weren't facing a slouch of a team. It's a team that has the same aspirations that we have -- looking to make the playoffs, looking to make the World Series. It was a professional win."
Kratz quietly led the offense with a sacrifice fly in the second inning, a go-ahead RBI groundout in the fourth and a two-out walk in the sixth against struggling Nationals starter Giovany Gonzalez. The walk sparked a rally that led to Christian Yelich's three-run triple.
Chacin's nine strikeouts were his most since fanning 10 for the Angels on May 30, 2016, and three shy of his career high of 12. He lowered his ERA to 3.58, his FIP to 3.89 and his WHIP to 1.22, putting the 30-year-old among the NL's top 15 qualified pitchers in each of those categories.
"I know it's been tough the last 10-14 games, so I just wanted to go out and let my team put some runs on the board and give it to the bullpen," said Chacin, who contributed one of those runs himself by hitting an RBI single. "It's good that we scored runs early, and it gave me some space to pitch more free. I feel like I did that today."
In his past two starts, Chacin has allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits over 11 innings with no walks. He became the first pitcher in Brewers history to allow two or fewer hits without walking a batter in consecutive starts, and the first big leaguer to do so since then-White Sox lefty Chris Sale in April 2016.
The key was Chacin's slider, which he threw 50 times in 100 pitches to induce eight swinging strikes, nine called strikes and 15 foul balls.
"My biggest thing was, 'Don't walk guys,' which is something that hurt me in the past," Chacin said. "I'm just glad that I'm throwing the ball better."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Yelich's big hit: Yelich's recent hot streak includes a home run in last week's All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, although Monday's big hit required a few well-placed bounces. After Kratz got the Brewers going in the sixth with a two-out walk, pinch-hitter Nate Orf singled and another pinch-hitter, Brett Phillips, walked against reliever Justin Miller to load the bases. That brought on lefty reliever Sammy Solis to face Yelich, who cleared the bases with a bouncing triple past Washington first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
Yelich is 8-for-16 with seven RBIs in the first four games of the second half. He has hit safely in seven games for the Brewers dating back to before the All-Star break, and in 12 of his last 13 games.
"He's swinging the bat beautifully since the All-Star break," Counsell said. "We're going to go through stretches like this with him. He's such a pure hitter. I think the break did him good."
HE SAID IT
"Honestly, I caught [Indians ace] Corey Kluber's slider in Spring Training. Now, it's Spring Training, so it's a little bit different and the stakes are a little bit lower. But [Chacin's] still has that same spin. It's not as hard, but it has that same spin, and he has the ability to throw the same pitch, but have it do different things. It's an incredible pitch, it really is. It's almost a pitch that, if you're going into the batting cage and putting sliders on the pitching machines and you're like, 'Nobody has one like that,' but that's what he's got." -- Kratz, on Chacin's slider
Right-hander Junior Guerra will come off the 10-day disabled list to make Tuesday's start against the Nationals at 7:10 p.m. CT. Guerra last pitched on July 13 in Pittsburgh, just before the All-Star break, and allowed six runs on nine hits in four innings, before landing on the DL the next day with forearm tightness. Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson starts for Washington. The Brewers had faced left-handed starters in each of the first four games of the second half.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.