And just like that, a quarter of the Brewers’ 60-game regular season is in the books. Milwaukee sits at 7-8, tied for second in the National League Central.
“First and foremost, we're thankful we're playing baseball,” said Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns, offering his take on the state of the team during the FOX Sports Wisconsin telecast.
As far as the baseball itself, Stearns talked about what he’s liked and what he hasn’t liked so far. In the former category was the Brewers’ young pitchers, particularly Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta. Stearns said he can envision a future with those players in “a stable of really special young arms around which we can build.” In the latter category was an offense for which nights like Tuesday have been the exception. The Brewers entered the night with MLB’s sixth-lowest OPS, hitting the fifth-fewest home runs per game and scoring the fifth-fewest runs per game.
“We need to do better there,” Stearns said. “We have put together a lineup that we believe can, and will, score runs at a much greater pace than we have thus far, but we need to start doing it. We are in a season that is much more compressed, 60 games. We can’t wait around to get the offense going.”
Right on cue, the offense got going.
García led off the Brewers’ most power-packed game to date when he answered the Twins’ two solo home runs off Josh Lindblom in the top of the first inning with a homer on the second pitch of the bottom of the frame. It was the first of García’s three hits, matching his total from his previous 26 plate appearances spanning parts of seven games.
After Minnesota extended the lead to 4-1 against Lindblom with Eddie Rosario’s second home run of the night -- and third in the past two nights -- Milwaukee’s bullpen and Piña went to work getting the Brewers back in the game. He hit a solo homer off Matt Wisler in the fifth inning, then smashed a game-tying two-run homer on a 3-0 pitch from Trevor May in the sixth.
It was a shocker on at least three fronts. One, it was Piña’s first multi-homer game in a Major League career that spans seven seasons and just shy of 1,000 plate appearances. Two, it was only the second time that Piña put a ball in play on a 3-0 count. Three, Piña pumped his fist and screamed at the Brewers’ dugout after rounding first base, an unusual show of emotion from the mild-mannered catcher.
"Yesterday, [Rosario] hit a grand slam and we lost the game. Today, he hit those two homers and it was a little frustrating to me,” Piña said. “Like, ‘Wow, I don’t know where we can pitch this guy.’ But I paid it back. I paid with the same money."
With the game tied, 4-4, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli didn’t wait around for a save situation, going to closer Taylor Rogers in a tie game on the road. Christian Yelich set up the Brewers with the potential go-ahead run on base by beating the shift with a double over third base, and Gyorko followed with the go-ahead homer.
The four home runs doubled the Brewers’ best output from any of their first 14 games of this season.
“We’re a quarter of the way through and we have a lot of games ahead of us,” Gyorko said. “Just put our heads down and grind away.”
Is it strange to think that a quarter of the season is already complete?
“That’s what I was thinking this morning. We’re almost half into the season,” Piña said. “We need to keep the team together, keep the energy, because it’s going so fast. Now, we go to the road for 11 days, and when we come back, it’s almost September. We need to keep fighting like that and try to make the playoffs.”
Back to Stearns, who is less than three weeks away from the next big decision. This year’s Trade Deadline is Aug. 31, and so far, the Brewers’ biggest needs are bats. Besides assessing where to add offense, Stearns must decide who among the team’s 60-man player pool he would be willing to give up for reinforcements under these unusual circumstances.
“It just adds to the craziness of this year around baseball,” Stearns said on the telecast. “I don’t think anyone can really accurately predict what the Deadline is going to look like. We’re certainly going to continue to evaluate our team and hopefully be in a position to try to make the team better and potentially compete down the stretch in September.”