It was 2014 all over again. After improbably leading the division all season, the Brewers dropped 19 out of 26 games, falling to .500 and turning a 5.5 game division lead into a three game deficit. It was more heartbreak for a fan base that has endured more than its fair share over the past several decades.
Then something happened that didn’t happen in 2014. They bounced back. This isn’t an aging team scraping the last gooey, rotten bits of contention out of the bottom of the barrel before a rebuild; it’s a rising pheonix with a fresh batch of home brewed playoff magic. Now, with 11 games to play, the team that had fallen back to Earth where they belonged is still here. The Cubs are still scared. The Rockies are still scared. And well they should be.
AN ICE COLD BEER: Chase Anderson, +.372 WPA (6.0 IP, 5 H, 8 K)
AN ICE COLD LA CROIX: Travis Shaw, -.133 WPA (0-for-4, K)
Domingo Santana opened and, as it happened, closed the scoring in the top of the fourth, hooking a long fly inside the left field foul pole to stake Chase Anderson to a 1-0 lead. It was just about all the offense the Brewers could muster against Trevor Williams, who stymied the Brewers with three hits and six strikeouts over five innings. He took the tough-luck loss to fall to 6-9 on the season.
Anderson’s incredible breakout season continued, as he was just a bit better than Williams, scattering five hits over six innings, striking out eight and walking none. The scoreless effort dropped his season ERA to 2.74, which would tie him for sixth in the league had he enough innings to qualify for the title (sitting at 128 IP on the season, he won’t reach the 162 inning threshold in 2017).
The Pirates best chance to score came in the bottom of the sixth, when they put runners on second and third with nobody out on a single, a bunt base hit, and a stolen base. Anderson struck out McCutchen to give himself a way out, but Josh Bell followed with a
sacrifice fly to center, plenty deep enough to score the tying run, except...
Brett Phillips, who was known to Brewers fans but made national headlines this spring with his infectious laugh, is making a name for himself across the league for something a bit more serious than a bit of joviality: his 80-grade arm. Having learned their lesson last week when Phillips nabbed David Freese at the place, the Pirates elected not to try Maverick this time. He tossed a 104.7 MPH strike to home just in case, the fastest throw from the outfield recorded by Statcast this season, breaking his own record that he set last week, which broke his own record that he’d set earlier.
Brett Phillips' throw home in the scoreless 6th was 104.7 mph, the hardest throw recorded by @Statcast this season. He owns the top 3 now.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) September 20, 2017
With the Brewers offense unable to generate much of anything, the team needed another big day from it’s bullpen that has been stretched in the wake of Jimmy Nelson’s injury. Anthony Swarzak put them on his back, delivering six big out in just his second multi-inning appearance as a member of the Brewers.
Milwaukee tried to play a little small ball in the ninth, chasing a Badger Mutual following a lead off single from Santana. The Brewers used pinch running-specialist Quinten Berry, who did his job by swiping second with ease. A walk and a bunt put runners on second and third with one out, but Phillips and pinch hitter Eric Sogard both struck out to strand another pair, giving Milwaukee eight runners left on base on the day.
It would matter not, as Corey Knebel pitched a clean ninth for his 37th save, pushing the Brewers pitching staff’s scoreless inning streak to 25 and securing the Brewers second straight shutout of the Bucs.
NL CENTRAL: The Cubs squeezed past Tampa Bay, 2-1, to win their seventh straight and maintain a 3.5 game lead over the Brewers for the division crown. The optimist points out that 3.5 games is less than the amount of head-to-head games remaining against Chicago, and that the Brewers fully control their own destiny as concerns the final disposition of the division crown. The optimist also notes that the Cardinals, despite an extra-inning win over Cincinnati, remain six games back and will almost certainly not be the 2017 NL Central division champion.
WILD CARD: The Rockies played the Giants Tuesday, the first of a two game set as they begin their season-ending tour of the worst god damn baseball teams in all the land. That game started at 9:15 pm, and I have a day job. Entering the game and following Milwaukee’s win, the Brewers trailed Colorado by a game and a half. The aforementioned Cardinals are four games back, while the Marlins would be eliminated from postseason contention with a Rockies win.
Having taken four straight off of the reeling Pirates, Milwaukee will look to complete the sweep and clinch the season series tomorrow in the final meeting between the two division rivals this season. Aaron Wilkerson, a product of the Zack Grienke trade tree by way of Jean Segura and Aaron Hill, will make the first start and second appearance of his major league career for Milwaukee. Wilkerson tallied a 3.18 ERA for Double-A Biloxi this season, and struck out two in a clean inning during his major league debut on Friday against the Marlins. Opposing Wilkerson will be Stephen Brault, who gave the Brewers fits in their previous meeting last week when he struck out six over six scoreless innings. First pitch from PNC Park is at 6:05 CST.