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Brewers hold off Dodgers, 9-6

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Four-Run ninth too little too late for Dodgers

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers put up 17 frames that ranged from uneventful to fun-to-watch to downright gleeful on Tuesday’s contest against the defending World Series champion LA Dodgers.

Those innings featured dominant pitching performances, particularly from starter Corbin Burnes. Devin Willians was also show-stopping in Reliever of the Year form. Josh Hader displayed some of his typical strikeout stuff, albeit only to two batters on the heels of another performance.

The first five innings also prominently featured the heavy-hitting Brewers, who took Walker Beuhler to task. Buehler allowed Billy McKinney and Luis Urías productive doubles and home runs to Keston Hiura (who hit two home runs on the day), Christian Yelich, and Omar Narváez.

The 18th frame was painful to watch. Brewers pitchers allowed four hits, four runs, three walks, and a single strikeout. Justin Topa was responsible for most of the unraveling. He allowed three hits, two walks and was charged with all four runs on the inning. It was all too little, too late for the Dodgers, who were unable to overcome the slugging that took place over the first five innings and the dominant Brewer pitching that occupied the mound for most of the game.

In the first, Burnes showed good velocity and movement on his pitches but struggled with the pitch placement required when facing the Dodgers. They will make pitchers throw strikes with their plate discipline but are likely to crush anything that hangs down the middle. Burnes learned this quickly after Justin Turner belted a two-run home run with Mookie Betts on First. Omar Narváez wanted a pitch on the outside corner, but Burnes delivered a hanger down the middle, which Turner crushed off the batters eye in centerfield. Max Muncy grounded into a Wong-Urías-Hiura double play after a Cody Bellinger walk to end the inning. Urías showed a good amount of defensive prowess on the play, adjusting to recover a slightly off-the-mark throw by Kolten Wong.

Keston Hiura answered right back, blasting a middle-middle fastball to right-center out of the ballpark. Christian Yelich went back-to-back with Hiura, with another solo homer just out of Cody Bellinger’s reach over the fence in left center.

Narváez, then produced another home run just a bit further over the left-center fence than the one Christian Yelich hit moments before to produce back-to-back-to-back (!) home runs.

Burnes was lights out after the first-inning home run.

He came back strong in the top of the second, showing good command, striking out AJ Pollock and Gavin Lux to open the inning and then inducing a groundout from Austin Barnes to end the 1-2-3 inning.

Luis Urías got the second off to a good start with a little ground ball single up the middle. Corbin Burnes advanced Urías to second on a sac bunt, which proved important moments later when Urías scored on a Kotlen Wong single, a flyball that dropped into the gap in shallow left center, bringing the score to 4-2 Brewers with two outs in the third. The inning wasn’t over yet because Hiura slammed a fastball away well out of Mookie Betts’ reach and over the right field fence. Hiura’s blast brought the Crew to 4 home runs on the day and 38 home runs in spring, the most in all of baseball.

Burnes looked sharp in the third despite allowing a down-the-middle drive to the gap for a single. He delivered some a particularly satisfying payback pitch to get Justin Turner out on a foul tip. Burnes stayed strong into the third, fastball, cutter, and changeup all working for him. He got Max Muncy on a deceiving changeup. Homeplate umpire Alfonso Marquez was giving no easy strikes to Burnes. There were a number of balls that could have easily been strikes on the inning and during the game, but Burnes kept coming right back to end the inning on a groundout after surrendering only a two-out walk.

In the third, Omar Narváez squared a mean line drive to first base, which was too much for Max Muncy to handle. Narváez just beat out the throw from Muncy to Buehler, covering first. Bill McKinney advanced Narváez on a sac bunt, but Urías popped out to end the inning, the first scoreless for the Brewers.

The Brewers went 1-2-3 in the 4th. Burnes stayed strong into the fifth, inducing a lineout and striking out Walker Buehler before Craig Counsell decided to start the Dodger lineup with a fresh arm and a four-run lead. Burnes threw 85 pitches (4.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 85 pitches). Phil Bickford finished off the inning.

In the bottom of the fifth, Hiura was just shy of a third home run. Christian Yelich hit a one-out single before exiting the game for the day. Dylan Cozens came on to pinch run for Yelich. Omar Narváez walked to send Cozens to second, which allowed Billy McKinney to score Cozens and send Narváez to third on a double. Jamie Westbrook came on to run for Billy McKinney, and Luis Urías smoked a liner to the right field corner for a double to score Narvy and Westbrook and bring the Brewers to a 9-2 lead.

Devin Williams walked a batter on a questionable strike zone in the sixth but otherwise resembled his 2020 Reliever of the Year self, throwing smoke and Airbenders, striking out two, and inducing a flyout in the sixth.

In the bottom of the sixth, a Daniel Vogelbach walk and singles from Dustin Peterson and Dylan Cousins were too punctuated by strikeouts, which ultimately ended the inning with all three Brewers stranded.

Josh Hader looked sharp in the seventh, striking out AJ Pollock on a failed checked swing and Gavin Lutz on a late and awkward swing on a fastball he had no hope of catching up to. He was replaced by Eric Yardley, who prompted a popup to end the inning. Hader was scheduled to throw to only two batters and intentionally walked a batter to honor the three-batter rule, which is being honored at this stage of spring training.

Garrett Mitchell put up an uncharacteristic 0-4 at the plate on the day and to end a three up, three down Brewer seventh. Eric Yardley had to deal with a little more traffic on the basepaths in the seventh, surrendering three hits on the inning, including one from a nine-pitch battle with Elliot Soto, which prompted Craig Counsell to call in Angel Perdomo, who ended the inning with a strikeout.

To say the Brewers had a hard time closing out the game was an understatement. They allowed the Dodgers a four-run ninth. Justin Topa allowed two narrow-miss walks and a high one-hop, difficult-to-field single to load the bases. He then allowed two singles to drive in 2 runs. Leo Crawford then took the mound to, hopefully, get a double play and close things out. Instead, he walked a batter and then allowed a single, which drove in another run. He struck out Miguel Vargas with a masterful changeup. Crawford got into a bit of a battle with Andy Burns for the last out. The count extended to a full count with the bases loaded before Burns finally, mercifully, popped out to shallow center to end the game 9-6.

We were all glad to see the end of that inning and of an overall, fun game that previewed the strong Brewer lineup that will have their regular season debut next week.

First, the Brewers are back for more Cactus Leage action tomorrow. They’ll face the Colorado Rockies, 2:10 CT, at American Family Fields of Phoenix.