We may be without baseball on TV right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t play the Brewers’ 50th anniversary season anyway. Thanks to Out of the Park Baseball 21 — the latest installment of the best baseball sim out there — we’ll be bringing you the “results” of the last week of Brewers games every Thursday.
The start of the 2020 season has been one of the worst in franchise history. There’s no other way to say it.
Mired in a 7-game losing streak, the Brewers and their struggling pitching staff faced the prospect of things getting even worse, with the next week of games featuring a road series — where they haven’t won all year — in another traditional house of horrors at Coors Field and a three-game set against the defending champion Washington Nationals, who are off to one of the hottest starts in baseball.
Things did not start off well.
Friday, April 24th - Rockies 14, Brewers 6
When you’re dead last in the league in pitching, Coors Field is not where you want to be. The Rockies actually didn’t tee off on Brent Suter and the Brewers pitching staff when it came to home runs — although Milwaukee did surrender the first home run to Ian Desmond this season — but instead, they steamrolled the Crew with ruthlessly efficient situational hitting. The Rockies racked up 21 hits on the night, with every member of the starting lineup except Peter Bourjos collecting 2 or more hits — and even Bourjos made his one hit count, connecting on a 2-run triple in the 3rd inning that gave the Rockies the lead they would never surrender. The loss was the Brewers’ 8th in a row, and it’s one of those stretches where it seems like every decision Craig Counsell and David Stearns make is the wrong one.
Saturday, April 25th - Brewers 13, Rockies 6
Lucky number 13. In their 13th road game of the season, the Brewers scored 13 runs to finally — FINALLY — get their first win away from Miller Park, “improving” to 1-12 on the road. Keston Hiura led the way, hitting 2 home runs to drive in 5 runs.
Despite the seemingly lopsided score, the Brewers actually needed a late-inning rally to snap their losing streak. After middle relief threw away an early 5-2 Milwaukee lead, Omar Narvaez came through with an RBI double in the 7th inning to give the Crew a 7-6 lead. The Brewers would score another run in the inning and tack on 5 more in the 9th to allow Josh Hader — who had already been warming — to throw a stress-free inning to end it.
After the game, Devin Williams — who had blown the lead again in the middle innings and was carrying an ERA north of 12 — was sent down to Triple-A San Antonio to make room for a familiar face in Jacob Barnes, who was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels despite posting a 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings for them in 2020.
Sunday, April 26th - Rockies 14, Brewers 1
So much for the good feelings lasting long. This game was somewhat competitive — at least compared to the final score — until late, when the Rockies scored 7 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to blow the game open while German Marquez shut the Brewers down, nearly throwing a complete game and holding them to 1 run over 8.1 innings.
Aaron Wilkerson and Alex Claudio were the bullpen culprits this time, giving up those 7 runs in the 8th without recording an out between them. That led to Ben Gamel getting another inning on the mound, recording the Rockies’ final three outs while allowing 1 hit and no runs.
This game was a lost cause even before that 8th inning, though, thanks to a bad start by Josh Lindblom. His breaking stuff didn’t work in the thin Colorado air, and that led to him getting tagged for 5 runs on 8 hits over 3.2 innings.
With another series loss, the Brewers fall to 8-20 with a league-worst run differential of -66.
Tuesday, April 28th - Brewers 3, Nationals 0
The 8-20 Brewers facing the 18-8 defending World Series champions. On paper, this was supposed to be a mismatch of epic proportions. Instead, Brandon Woodruff appeared to snap out of his early-season funk, dominating the Nationals with 10 strikeouts over 7+ shutout innings.
Desperate for a win, Craig Counsell didn’t wait until the 9th inning to deploy Josh Hader. He brought the lefty on after Woodruff started the 8th inning by hitting Kurt Suzuki with a pitch and allowing a single to Howie Kendrick. In a very high-leverage spot with the Brewers clinging onto a 1-0 lead, Hader also overcame his early-season issues to look like his old self, striking out Adam Eaton, Trea Turner and Juan Soto to end the inning.
Hader stayed on the mound to start the 9th inning and struck out old friend Eric Thames before Corbin Burnes picked up the final two outs of the game to secure the win.
Wednesday, April 29th - Brewers 12, Nationals 3
If you need proof the Brewers’ luck may be starting to turn around, just look at Brent Suter’s 3-run home run off Patrick Corbin in the bottom of the 4th inning.
The unlikely bomb was actually payback for Suter, who allowed an RBI double to Corbin in the top half of the inning. It was part of a 5-run 4th that pushed the Milwaukee lead to 7-1. Ryan Braun was the other offensive star of the night, going 3-for-5 with two doubles as he made a case to see more time at first base.
Suter ended up holding the Nationals to just 2 runs over 5.2 innings on the mound. Wilkerson gave up the only other run Washington could muster, walking 2 and allowing a 1 while only recording 1 out, but Freddy Peralta and Burnes threw a combined 3 hitless innings to put the game to bed.
Thursday, April 30th - Brewers 7, Nationals 5
You can’t predict baseball. After coming into the series as one of the worst teams in the league, ranking 29th in the power rankings, the Brewers completed a sweep of the defending champs, forcing a poor start from Max Scherzer in the process. While it was Fernando Abad that ended up taking the loss for Washington in the series finale, Scherzer gave up 4 runs on 8 hits and a walk in 5 innings against the Brewers, striking out only 2.
Much of the damage was done by Braun, who was named the full-time starter at first base by Craig Counsell before the game. He rewarded his manager and former teammate by belting a 2-run home run off Scherzer in the 4th inning to give the Brewers the lead.
Asked after the game why he took so long to move on from Justin Smoak as the starting first baseman, who was hitting just .144/.228/.333 in 101 plate appearances over 25 games, Counsell said the team knew what it had in Braun, but wanted to give Smoak every opportunity to succeed and make the lineup deeper.
Despite the sweep, sports talk radio spends most of the next morning talking about the Brewers’ disappointing month as callers call for Counsell to be fired over the first base situation and his handling of the poor bullpen.
Record over the last week: 4-2
Overall record: 11-20
Standings: 5th place, 9.5 GB in NL Central, 6 GB in NL Wildcard
AL Batter of the Month: Hunter Dozier, KC - .405/.489/.810, 11 HR, 30 RBI
AL Pitcher of the Month: Gerrit Cole, NYY - 42 IP, 1.93 ERA, 59 K, .192 OAVG
NL Batter of the Month: Josh Bell, PIT - .304/.441/.678, 11 HR, 29 RBI
NL Pitcher of the Month: Zach Davies, SD - 32.2 IP, 1.93 ERA, 22 K, .246 OAVG
Pitching storyline of the week: Welcome back, Josh Hader. After going more than a week between appearances while the Brewers were on their long losing streak, Hader re-emerged in the last week looking more focused and re-energized. In 3.1 innings over the last week, Hader struck out 8 batters while allowing just 3 hits, and the only run coming on a solo home run in the series finale against Washington.
Hitting storyline of the week: There’s load management, and then there’s how careful the Brewers were with Ryan Braun over the first month of the season. With the offense struggling, though, Braun stepped up and made the case to be an everyday player, even if his defense at first base leaves plenty to be desired. The same could be said for the rest of the infield, but at least Braun is hitting. After the sweep of the Nationals, Braun finishes April with a line of .340/.415/.596 with 2 home runs and 4 doubles in 53 plate appearances — a number that’s sure to go up in the coming weeks.
Next week: vs. STL (5/1, 5/2, 5/3), @ Miami (5/4, 5/5, 5/6, 5/7)