Brewers 2-hit Arizona behind hitless 'J Lyles'

Right-hander walks two; Williams allows first hit on bloop single in 7th

August 24th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- The way Craig Counsell managed the Brewers’ 6-1 win over the D-backs on Friday, it was obvious that victories matter to him more than history at the moment. And thought that was the right call.

Counsell lifted Lyles at the 99-pitch mark even though the right-hander had a no-hitter in the works and a six-run lead after six innings at a sold-out Miller Park. The no-hit bid got away from rookie reliever Devin Williams with two outs in the seventh, but Milwaukee cruised to a win that lifted them a half-game closer to the top of the National League Central.

The Cardinals reclaimed the top spot over the Cubs, who are a half-game back. The Brewers are 3 1/2 games behind the Cardinals and three behind Chicago for the second NL Wild Card spot.

Meanwhile, Juan Nieves’ place in Brewers franchise lore is safe. His 7-0 win in Baltimore on April 15, 1987, remains the only no-hitter in club history.

“It would have been different if it was through seven [innings],” said Lyles, who walked Arizona first baseman Christian Walker twice. “My velo was not there. I think I was 90-92 [mph] the whole game. I saw a couple of 89s the last inning. It was working, but 100 pitches after six innings. If we’re being optimistic and say 10 pitches per inning, that’s 130. I haven’t seen that, ever.

“If it was the seventh, it would have been different. I would have pushed through that after the seventh.”

Lyles has been in that situation before. Last May, he was perfect for 7 1/3 innings for the Padres against the Rockies before Colorado’s Trevor Story singled with one out in the eighth. But that game, Lyles said, he had a completely different feeling. Friday’s was much more of a grind, with Lyles and catcher Yasmani Grandal relying on his curveball when it became clear the right-hander didn’t have his best fastball.

“We had a comfortable lead. He wasn't going to finish the game,” Counsell said. “When he came out after the sixth, there was a thought to let him go out there for one more inning, but my read on him was he was tired. He did a great job. He pitched a heck of a game. He was awesome and set us up for a really nice day all around.”

Mike Moustakas and Ryan Braun logged RBIs in a three-run first inning, while Eric Thames and Keston Hiura homered for a lead that grew to 6-0 when Lyles singled home a run in the fifth inning. The right-hander was coming off a 21-pitch top of the fifth that pushed his pitch count to 82 and probably dashed his hopes of completing a no-hitter himself. After Lyles navigating a 1-2-3 sixth on 17 pitches, Counsell opted to finish the game with his bullpen.

Williams, 16 days removed from his Major League debut, was suddenly thrust into a bid for history. He got the first two outs of the seventh Walker dumped a single into shallow center field that left the bat at 63.9 mph.

“Oh man, that was tough,” Williams said. “You just have to tip your cap. He hit it just right. I thought I hit my spot, but hey, a hit’s a hit. I was aware, but I wasn’t really thinking about [the no-hitter]. After he hit that, I was like, ‘Ahh, dangit.’”

Williams, Jay Jackson and Jeremy Jeffress finished a win that didn’t require most of Milwaukee’s “A” relievers, including the well-rested Josh Hader, who has not pitched since Saturday.

“Had we got to the ninth [with a no-hitter],” Counsell said, “Josh was going to be involved.”

No-hitter or not, it was another promising outing for Lyles, who has turned his season around since a July 29 trade to Milwaukee. He was 1-6 with a 9.57 ERA in his final nine starts for the Pirates before the deal, but he’s 3-1 with a 3.22 ERA in five starts in a Brewers uniform at a time his new team, with All-Star starter Brandon Woodruff and Opening Day starter Jhoulys Chacin on the injured list, has needed him most.

Friday’s gem came against a traditionally tough foe. Lyles entered the night 2-7 with a 7.23 ERA in 10 career starts against the D-backs, including an April 24 loss at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park that represented Lyles’ only loss in his first nine starts this season for the Pirates.

"It was top of the zone and then the curveball was falling off of that,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “He was knifing fastballs on both sides of the plate. I thought they had a good game plan. But we beat good game plans. We’re able to do that. That’s how much I believe in our guys."

The Brewers believe in Lyles, who should be well-rested for his next scheduled start against the Cardinals to close the current homestand.

“This is kind of like a second season for me, being over here in Milwaukee,” Lyles said. “Quality outing after quality outing -- that’s what I’m looking for.”