Comeback Crew seals consecutive series wins

Brewers maintain second Wild Card spot, 2 GB of Cubs in Central

July 22nd, 2019

PHOENIX -- There was cause for concern as the Brewers struggled throughout June and early July. Back-to-back series wins have provided reason for renewed optimism.

Down four runs early, hit a fourth-inning grand slam and delivered the go-ahead RBI in a three-run eighth to help lift the Crew to a 7-4 win over the D-backs at Chase Field on Sunday afternoon. After taking two out of three games from the Braves earlier this week, the Brewers won three of four vs. the D-backs to earn consecutive series victories for the first time since three-game sweeps of the Mets and Nationals from May 3-8.

“It feels like we’re getting contributions from a big part of the roster, and that’s what we talk about, is that’s how we’re going to win series,” manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s not going to be one guy doing it, it’s going to be the bulk of the 25-man roster.”

The Crew gained ground in the National League Central race, as it now trails the first-place Cubs by two games. Milwaukee maintained its half-game lead over the Cardinals and Phillies for the second NL Wild Card spot.

Here are three takeaways from the Brewers’ successful four-game trip to the desert:

1) The lineup’s resilience came through late

It took until the eighth inning in all three victories this series, but the Brewers got the job done offensively. On Thursday, Orlando Arcia’s RBI single sparked a three-run rally. Moustakas, who owns an 11-game hitting streak, hit a go-ahead three-run homer in Saturday night’s win. And then on Sunday, his tiebreaking single followed Keston Hiura’s leadoff triple against Arizona reliever Yoan Lopez.

Milwaukee then added two more runs via Yasmani Grandal’s pinch-hit double and a Ben Gamel single.

“The whole series, we had to grind them out,” Saladino said. “And everybody did a really good job of doing that.”

Saladino has struggled offensively this season, entering the day 5-for-49 with no extra-base hits. But he had one of the biggest swings of the victory, swatting his first career grand slam in the fourth off D-backs starter Alex Young to tie the game at 4.

“He was throwing the ball real well. It’s tough, he’s got a lot of movement on his pitches,” Saladino said. “He was keeping us off-balance and stuff, so to come through right there and the way that it happened was huge. It got us fired up.”

Reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich, Moustakas and Hiura should continue to hit and lead the offense. If role players like Saladino can complement them with the big hit, Milwaukee's lineup can be even more dangerous.

2) Hader isn’t the only strong reliever in the bullpen

When Milwaukee was struggling, Josh Hader, its All-Star closer, was one of the only relievers flashing dominant stuff. But that wasn’t the case this weekend.

After covering five scoreless frames Saturday night, Milwaukee’s bullpen had another superb showing on Sunday, as Junior Guerra, Alex Claudio, Freddy Peralta, Jeremy Jeffress and Hader combined for six scoreless innings.

“The innings, that was a concern, for sure. We got two, basically, three-inning starts,” Counsell said. “We’re going to have some guys that we’re going to have to stay away from [Monday], but we’ll take three wins in a tough-fought series. A lot of guys stepped up.”

That included hurlers in different roles like Peralta and Adrian Houser, both of whom have started games this season, making key late-inning appearances in this series to protect slim leads. Counsell may continue to rely on those guys to bridge the gap from his starter to Hader in games down the stretch.

3) The Brewers will need starting-pitching help to contend -- especially now

The Crew’s rotation was already one of its biggest weaknesses. Now, with All-Star right-hander Brandon Woodruff going on the injured list with a left oblique strain, it’s an even bigger area of concern.

Woodruff and Zach Davies have been Milwaukee’s only consistent starters, and if Woodruff misses a substantial amount of time, the club may not have the rotation depth needed to compete in the push for the postseason.

After allowing four runs before departing due to the injury two pitches into the fourth, Woodruff had mixed emotions after the game -- excitement about the team’s performance and disappointment due to his uncertain status moving forward.

“It was a good series win, but very frustrating,” Woodruff said. “You want to get on a roll, you want to be that guy that takes the ball and takes command.”