It was hard to argue Thursday after a 6-2 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park capped the Brewers' perfect, six-game trip through Boston and Philadelphia. They spoiled home opening series in both spots, swept a series in Philly for the first time ever and alerted the baseball world that Milwaukee's spring optimism may have been more than bluster.
Small sample alert, but the 7-2 Brewers are tied with the Nationals for baseball's best record after three series. Thursday's victory gave Milwaukee its first perfect road trip of at least six games since July 2008, and its best start to a season since the 1998 club also went 7-2.
The trip was a team effort. Brewers starting pitchers still have not surrendered more than three earned runs in an individual start, including Marco Estrada's six-inning, two-run performance Thursday. Brewers relievers allowed only one earned run in 21 2/3 innings against the Red Sox and Phillies, lowering Milwaukee's relief ERA to a Major League-best 0.98.
And after batting .184 and managing only four runs while losing two of three games to the Braves in the season-opening series at Miller Park, Brewers hitters tallied 78 hits and scored 42 runs on the trip. Khris Davis and Jonathan Lucroy had a hit in every game, with Davis transforming from an 0-for-8 hitter against Atlanta to a .429 hitter (12-for-28) against the Red Sox and Phillies. Ramirez drove in a run in all but one of the six games on the trip. Ryan Braun came to Philadelphia with zero RBIs and left with 10.
Too bad, some Brewers said, they couldn't bottle-up some of those runs.
"I've thought about that, I've always wished we could roll them over to the next day," Lucroy said. "It would be cool, but we have a lot of confidence that our team is going to hit."
They also look like they can pitch. Estrada, who started the first and last games of the road trip, won for the first time this season after working six quality innings, allowing two runs on five hits, with two walks and six strikeouts in an outing that might have gone a few innings longer had he not needed 31 pitches to grind through the sixth.
He spent the early innings locked in a duel with Phillies starter Cliff Lee, who allowed only a Braun single in his first pass through Milwaukee's lineup including a trio of strikeouts in the second inning, snapping the Brewers' streak of 22 innings with at least one hit. It was a franchise record, and the longest such streak in the Majors since the 2009 Yankees also went 22 innings with a hit.
But the Brewers came alive in the fourth inning, when Ramirez tied the game at 1-1 with an RBI double and scored on Davis' go-ahead single. Davis added a two-out RBI double in the sixth inning.
"They were definitely aggressive," said Lee, using a word -- aggressive -- that followed the Brewers throughout the trip. "For me, I felt like I should have used my changeup more and I did that. They've got a pretty good lineup. There's no way around it. …
"They're a good hitting team. They proved that throughout this whole series. They flat out beat us."
Lee was knocked out of the game after allowing three earned runs on eight hits in six innings. After Marlon Byrd's run-scoring infield single in the bottom of that inning cut Philadelphia's deficit to 3-2, Milwaukee added three runs in the seventh inning against relievers Jeff Manship and Jake Diekman. Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura delivered consecutive RBI singles before Braun made it 6-2 with a sacrifice fly.
When it was suggested they beat a good pitcher tonight, Ramirez said, "We beat everybody on this road trip. We beat [Jon] Lester in Boston, and he's a pretty good pitcher, too. We're playing pretty good right now. [It is important] especially for the young guys. Veterans, they know how to rebound and handle themselves. But for the young guys, it's huge to get off to a good start."
"Any time you go up against Lee, it's always going to be a battle because he's such a great pitcher," Estrada said. "He showed it early on, and luckily we got to him and scored a couple of runs. I guess that's all we needed."
Estrada's only hiccup came in a long sixth inning that began with strikeouts of pinch-hitter Cesar Harnandez and Ben Revere on nine pitches. Estrada then sandwiched walks of Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard around a Chase Utley single, loading the bases for Byrd's run-scoring single to deep third base. Byrd also accounted for Philadelphia's other run with a second-inning homer.
With the bases still loaded, Estrada escaped with a 3-2 lead intact when he retired Domonic Brown on a fly ball to center field.
"I tried maybe to do a little too much in that inning, and it cost me," Estrada said. "I could have maybe been back out for the seventh. It kind of got away from me."
But not completely away. Relievers Will Smith, Tyler Thornburg and Francisco Rodriguez worked a scoreless inning apiece to complete the victory.
The Brewers will try to stay hot when they return home to host the Pirates and Cardinals for six games beginning Friday night.
"It's the way you want to do it; we're pitching and we're hitting," Estrada said. "It's a little tough on the road to do it, but we did it. That just shows what kind of team we have. We're a pretty good team."