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Brandon Woodruff shines in debut as Milwaukee Brewers 2-0 win over Rays

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Pitching, defense pick up still sluggish offense.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

WP: Brandon Woodruff (1-0); LP: Jacob Faria (5-2); Save: Corey Knebel (21); Home runs: Mil-Orlando Arcia (10); Tam-none

Brandon Woodruff made his delayed major league debut a memorable one, going 6.1 innings of adventuresome shutout ball and gaining a win in his first start. Woodruff pitched through lots of early base runners (the Rays stranded seven in the first three innings) and looked stronger as the game wore on, ultimately ending with a 97 pitch night, allowing seven hits, walking two, and striking out six. Woodruff’s outing wasn’t dominant or pure; it was messy and gutsy. He showed poise and determination, made pitches when he had to, and pitched to a little bit of luck. He’ll take it, I’m sure.

The Brewers won 2-0 over Ray’s rookie starter Jacob Faria, who was the better starting pitcher on the night. Birthday celebrant Orlando Arcia was the only Brewer to solve Faria on a consistent basis, and ended the night with three of Milwaukee’s five hits. He tripled leading off the third into the gap in left center, and came in on a groundball base hit from Eric Thames to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead. Lando had a one out single in the fifth, and in the top of the eighth he drilled Sergio Romo’s first pitch of the inning into the seats in straight away left to double the Brewers’ lead to 2-0.

Woodruff settled in nicely as the game progressed, and finished the sixth with said 1-0 lead. Playing in an AL park, with the DH, Craig Counsell was able to use his pitchers when he wanted, and he sent Brandon out for the seventh to face righty Daniel Robertson. A strikeout brought up the Rays’ lefties at the top of the order, and Counsell went to lefty Josh Hader to work through the inning. Hader walked Corey Dickerson and struck out ex-Met Lucas Duda, and the Brewers stuck with Hader against Rays’ star Evan Longoria, a righty. Longoria lined a 2-0 fastball into the left field corner for a double, and Milwaukee then turned in the play of the night to cut down Dickerson at the plate. Ryan Braun played the carom beautifully - it kicked along the wall towards center, which Braun anticipated. His throw to cut-off man Arcia was strong and accurate, and Arica’s throw to the plate was equally strong and equally accurate to allow Manny Pina to make the tag just ahead of Dickerson scoring. The call withstood a challenge from Tampa, and the lead stayed at one until Arcia hit the next pitch of the game out to get to the final score.

Again, Counsell kept his pitcher (Hader) out to start the bottom of the eighth for match-up purposes. He retired Logan Morrison on a fly to center and stayed in to face righty Steven Souza, for a strikeout. The Rays pinch-hit for lefty Brad Davis, and Counsell went to righty Anthony Swarzak to finish the inning. Swarzak got to 3-2 on Trevor Plouffe, and hit him to put him on. However, he got Wilson Ramos to foul out to first baseman Jesus Aguilar to end the inning.

Corey Knebel came in for the save opportunity, and allowed a one out bloop hit to Robertson, but Knebel looked sharp even after his 29 pitch save Thursday, locating his curve and fastball well and striking out the other three batters that he faced.

The Brewers aren’t hitting, but their post-All Star game swoon has leveled out to an 8-12 record due to some very fine pitching. The Cubs’ 4-2 loss to Arizona leaves Milwaukee just a half game out in the NL Central. Saturday’s game will have Zach Davies (12-5, 4.45) going for the Brewers, winners of two straight, against Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb (9-7, 3.89). Let’s wake up, bats!