2019 was a year that started with plenty of questions about the Brewers’ pitching, as the organization decided to trust its young starters instead of jumping into the free agent market. That gamble produced some mixed results, with Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta struggling for much of the year, but Adrian Houser and Brandon Woodruff taking steps (and leaps) forward.
In the end, pitching is what kept the Brewers hanging around in the playoff race all season and powered them to a second straight playoff appearance. Here are the top pitching performances of 2019.
Josh Hader - 3/30/19 vs. St. Louis
1 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 3 K, 9 Pitches
Better than perfect: immaculate. Hader started the year with 4 strikeouts over 2 perfect innings against the Cardinals on Opening Day, then followed that up with the rare Immaculate Inning two days later, striking out Tyler O’Neill, Dexter Fowler, and Yairo Munoz on the minimum 9 pitches. Of those 9 strikes, 7 were swinging.
Freddy Peralta - 6/6/19 vs. Miami
6 IP 4 H 1 ER 0 BB 9 K
Fastball Freddy had run into plenty of trouble on the mound by early June, losing his rotation spot a few weeks before, but was given another chance against the Marlins. He made the most of it, pitching efficiently -- 62 of his 91 pitches were strikes -- and striking out 9 without a walk while pitching around 3 of his 4 hits allowed being doubles. It would end up being his second-to-last start of the season, as he was roughed up by the Houston Astros (no need to steal signs when the opposing pitcher only throws fastballs) in his next outing.
Brandon Woodruff - 5/8/19 vs. Washington
6 IP 4 H 1 ER 0 BB 9 K
With the disclaimer that the Nationals were not yet the insanely hot team that would end up on a World Series run -- they hadn’t even hit rock bottom yet at this point -- this was one of the first signs that the Brewers may have had something in Woodruff. After a rough first 5 starts, Woodruff was acoming off back-to-back 5-inning, 1-earned run outings against the Mets before turning in this 9-strikeout outing against Washington, with the Nationals not scoring until Woodruff’s final inning on a Victor Robles sacrifice fly.
Josh Hader - 9/7/19 vs. Chicago
2 IP 0 H 0 ER 1 BB 4 K
At this point in the year, the Brewers were still trailing the Cubs in the standings and were just starting another crazy Craigtember run to the postseason, and they needed Josh Hader to be Josh Hader as they tried to make a late-inning comeback in a low-scoring game. He came into an impossible situation -- bases loaded and nobody out in the 8th inning of a 1-1 game after Junior Guerra and Drew Pomeranz gave him no room for error -- and started by striking out Nicholas Castellanos on three pitches.
A run did come in on a walk to Anthony Rizzo, but Hader was able to prevent further damage by getting Kris Bryant to pop out and striking out David Bote looking. After Yasmani Grandal tied the game in the bottom half of the 8th, Hader kept the Cubs scoreless in the top of the 9th by sandwiching swinging strikeouts of Kyle Schwarber and Jonathan Lucroy around an Addison Russell popout to second base before Christian Yelich walked it off in the bottom of the 9th.
Brandon Woodruff - 6/23/19 vs. Cincinnati
7 IP 7 H 3 ER 1 BB 12 K
Perhaps it’s no surprise, but Woodruff set the high mark for strikeouts in a game by a Brewers pitcher this year, punching out a dozen Reds in this start. The lone blemish came in the 6th inning, when Woodruff surrendered a 3-run home run to Joey Votto, but he responded by getting the last 2 outs of the inning on strikeouts before striking out 2 more in the 7th to finish his day.
Adrian Houser - 8/10/19 vs. Texas
6 IP 3 H 1 ER 1 BB 10 K
Houser was the other “we might have something here” find of the 2019 season, as he stepped up in August to help stabilize the rotation. His outings weren’t frequently long, but they did occasionally include dominating outings like this one -- although this was the best of the bunch. The only run he allowed came on a solo home run by Danny Santana in his last inning, one of 28 home runs Santana hit in his own breakout season. If he wasn’t striking out batters in this outing, he was keeping the ball on the ground -- of the 13 batters he didn’t strike out, 9 ended up hitting the ball on the ground.
Jordan Lyles - 8/11/19 vs. Texas
7 IP 3 H 1 ER 4 BB 9 K
The very next day, Lyles turned in what might’ve been his best outing in two second half go-arounds with the Brewers. He also held the Rangers to just one run on three hits, but managed to go an inning longer, although he did have to work around more walks. This game ended up being a pitching duel with Mike Minor, which the Brewers lost 1-0. The only run scored in the game came when a walk to lead off Lyles’ final inning ended up coming around to score on a sacrifice fly. It should be noted the line is slightly misleading, as one of Lyles’ 4 walks was intentional following that sac fly. The other two came against on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo, who walked to lead off the game and again in the 3rd inning.
Brandon Woodruff - 5/19/19 vs. Atlanta
8 IP 5 H 2 ER 0 BB 6 K
The month of May represented Woodruff’s breakout, and this outing played a big role in him becoming the ace of the 2019 staff. After the Brewers lost the first two games in Atlanta, including an ugly loss in the series opener that included a 9-run inning, Woodruff stepped up to throw 8 innings to help prevent a sweep. The only runs he allowed were on a pair of solo home runs, and he kept the Braves down long enough to allow the Brewers to win in extra innings and avoid a sweep.
Brandon Woodruff - 5/26/19 vs. Philadelphia
8 IP 1 H 1 ER 0 BB 10 K
Just a week later, Woodruff had his most impressive outing of the year, holding the Phillies to just a single hit -- a solo home run to backup catcher Andrew Knapp in the 6th inning -- over 8 innings while not allowing any walks and striking out 10. If that wasn’t enough, Woodruff also went 2-for-3 with a double and 2 RBI at the plate that afternoon.
Freddy Peralta - 4/3/19 vs. Cincinnati
8 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 11 K
The decision to have Peralta and Burnes in the rotation looked solid early, with Burnes striking out 12 batters in his first start and Peralta following with this gem, outdueling Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo in the Brewers’ best start of the year by Game Score and the best start of Peralta’s young career. Outings like this are why the 23-year-old will likely get a few more chances to stick as a starting pitcher.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference