A special Memorial Day edition of Brewers Week In Review has more news and notes than I can remember this column having. We look back at a week that started with an action-packed series win in San Diego (the word “action” meaning several different things in this context) and crept to finish with a four-game split in St. Louis.
What’s impressive, though, is the context associated with those results. The team is now playing without its two best offensive threats (Willy Adames, Hunter Renfroe), played without star closer Josh Hader for a series, lost Freddy Peralta for a lengthy period and now will be without Brandon Woodruff. The team’s depth is being tested big-time, and not just the position depth. We’re seeing different relievers get high-leverage opportunities, different starters take the mound and, obviously, some new combinations across the field.
In all, the 4-3 record should feel better than it looks, especially winning the first series in San Diego.
One piece of news before last week is fully recapped: the Brewers have called up prospect Ethan Small to pitch Monday’s game in Chicago. He is the team’s No. 7-ranked prospect in its system & top-ranked pitching prospect.
Last week Corbin Burnes headlined “the bad” column after his worst start of the season (4 earned runs, 7 hits, 2 home runs in 6 innings). If any out there had doubt he would bounce back in a big way, that doubt should be put to eternal rest. The Brewers star started two games last week (Tuesday @ SD, Sunday @ STL) and absolutely dazzled in both opportunities.
His season line now sits at a near-perfect 10 starts, 3-2 record, 64.2 innings, 1.95 ERA, 0.82. WHIP, 78 Ks, 11 BBs. Cy Young-caliber production from the top of the rotation.
An honorable mention for this category: RP Devin Williams.
While Hader was away from the team during the three-game set in San Diego, Williams was tasked with the closer role. He went on to appear in every game (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) and finish the week with 2 saves, 3 innings, 2 hits allowed, 0 runs and 4 strikeouts. The bullpen needed a jolt without Hader’s lockdown stuff available. Williams gave them that and more.
The Bad: Injuries.
This column could get a big long, as the Brewers have suddenly been hit hard by injuries all over the field.
First, Freddy Peralta left his start last Sunday with right shoulder tightness. We learned Monday he would be placed on the injured list and miss “significant” time. Manager Craig Counsell told reporters they expect him to return this season, but it’s still a near worst-case scenario for the All-Star pitcher.
Next, with the team already without Willy Adames due to a sprained ankle, outfielder Hunter Renfroe sprained his hamstring during Tuesday’s win in San Diego. If you’re a regular consumer of this weekly article, you’d know he was the team’s “good” last week after slashing .526/.542/1.174 with 2 doubles and 4 RBI. For a lineup that has struggled to stay healthy all season, and hit consistently for that matter, he had become one of the more reliable producers. The outfielder has now been out since Tuesday though is expected to return late this week.
Finally, starter Brandon Woodruff was removed from Friday’s start in St. Louis with right ankle discomfort. The two-time All-Star said he began feeling pain in the first couple innings and it got progressively worse. He attempted to go back out for the 5th inning but was pulled after his warmup pitches. There was initial hope that Woodruff wouldn’t miss his next start, but that changed Monday when the team placed him on the 15-day IL with a high ankle sprain.
Counsell, moments ago: "The diagnosis, it’s very similar injury to Willy’s, actually. It’s a high ankle sprain. So we’ve got to back off him. He’s experiencing the pain still when he throws and so we just need to back off that and calm that down." https://t.co/jMDjpqXWNH
While it sounds crazy, the Brewers sit 12 games over .500 on Memorial Day while having never been fully healthy at a single point during the season. Whether it’s bats in the middle of the lineup, Josh Hader stepping away for a few days or long-term injuries to a starter, this is a team that’s scraping by in an extremely impressive way. One way to look at this: better health is to come as the summer progresses, which should probably lead to better play on the field.