The last thing the Milwaukee Brewers need right now is another injury, especially to their starting pitching staff, which has carried the team throughout much of this season. So when Brandon Woodruff started today’s series finale in Philadelphia with diminished velocity, eight balls out of his first nine pitches — including walks to Andrew McCutchen and Brad Miller — and was checked on by manager Craig Counsell and the athletic trainer, fans of the Cream City Nine took a collective gasp.
Fortunately, Woodruff was just fine, and Milwaukee’s ace quickly collected himself and turned in another tremendous outing. After his early troubles, Woodruff retired 19 of the next 20 batters that he faced, allowing nothing but an Odubel Herrera single from innings two through six. In the top of the seventh, though, Woody blinked. With one out, Woodruff left a 2-2 heater over the heart of the plate to Alec Bohm, and he didn’t miss it — depositing his fourth home run of the year over the fence in right-center field to give Big Woo his only blemish of the day. In all, Woodruff pitched 6.2 innings on 103 pitches — the first time a Milwaukee starter has eclipsed the century mark this season — and allowed just two hits and one run with two walks and a season-high 11 strikeouts.
Unfortunately for Woodruff and the Brewers, Zack Wheeler of the Phillies outdueled him with a near-perfect outing. Wheeler retired the first six hitters he faced, then allowed a leadoff double to Billy McKinney to start the third inning. He was erased when Luke Maile hit a soft liner that was caught by first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who threw to second for the double play.
After the McKinney double, Wheeler continued to carve up the Brewers’ lineup, retiring the next 18 straight hitters into the ninth inning. He got some added support in the eighth, too, when Hoskins hit an RBI double off Angel Perdomo to make it a 2-0 game. Anyways, back to the ninth inning. With one out, Lorenzo Cain hit a pinch-hit single (in place of Maile) to bring the tying run to the plate in the final inning for the fourth straight day. Then, Avisail Garcia — also pinch-hitting, since he was on the bench after his four-hit effort yesterday — singled to put two runners on base.
Sitting at 109 pitches, manager Joe Girardi stuck with Wheeler, and the decision paid off. He locked with Kolten Wong on a eight-pitch battle that ended with a fly out to left, and then on the first pitch his at-bat, Dan Vogelbach popped out to foul territory near first base to end the game. Wheeler finished the complete game shutout with 118 pitches, three hits allowed, no walks, and eight strikeouts. He faced 29 hitters.
The Brewers just could not get the big, late hit that they needed in any one of the games in this series, and wound up getting swept out of Philadelphia to drop their record to 17-15. The club’s run differential also now sits at -6 on the year, with their Pythagorean W-L saying they should be two games below .500. They’ll move on to begin a three-game series on the road in Miami tomorrow, with their Friday starter still to be determined. Whoever it ends up being, he will face Trevor Rogers, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 PM central.