Confronting Brewers general manager David Stearns on the field at Miller Park recently, I asked if the stories about a misspent youth were true.
Did Stearns once consider joining the dark side and becoming a sportswriter?
“It could’ve happened,” he said.
That’s a scary thought, I told him.
“I still might be one day,” he replied.
It’s doubtful the 33-year-old Stearns will be looking for a job in the newspaper business anytime soon.
He has done quite well in his three years running the Brewers, inheriting a team that lost 94 games in 2015 and putting together the puzzle pieces that led to 96 wins and a National League Central title this year.
After going 7-0 in the final week of the season and beating the Cubs, 3-1 in a tiebreaker at Wrigley Field, the
It’s a rags-to-riches saga, with a bit of drama added Wednesday when Stearns’ wife, Whitney, gave birth to their daughter, Nora, on the eve of the playoff opener.
And to think, Stearns could have been covering this story instead of living it out.
“I’ve always enjoyed writing, even as a kid, and I’ve always loved sports,” he said. “It made sense to explore what the combination of those two things might look like. As my career evolved and I got different opportunities to work for clubs, I really began to enjoy and value that side of things, the competitiveness and the wins and losses. That’s what led me to pursue the team side of things rather than the journalism side.”
Stearns began his baseball career as an intern with the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Class A affiliate of the Mets, and then with the Pirates’ Class A affiliate in Bradenton, Fla. Former Pirates GM Dave Littlefield brought him up to work in the team’s baseball operations department, and Stearns proceeded to jump to various jobs — with the Arizona Fall League, back to the Mets, to Major League Baseball’s central office, to the Indians and eventually to the Astros, where GM Jeff Luhnow hired him as an assistant during the team’s rebuild.
The Brewers made Stearns their GM after the 2015 season, and the fresh-faced 30-year-old went to work trying to change the clubhouse culture and compete with the Cubs and Cardinals in the NL Central.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout my career,” Stearns said. “I’ve had bosses everywhere I’ve been who’ve taken time to teach me and allow me to make mistakes — sometimes big mistakes — and grow from those mistakes. I recognize that’s not normal.”
It’s the proverbial Cinderella story, as Bill Murray would say, and all because Stearns ditched his dream of becoming an ink-stained wretch. He had started out writing sports as an intern at the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Ariz., and worked for his college newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, covering the football and men’s squash teams and writing a column.
Stearns’ journey through the baseball ranks was similar to the one taken by Cubs President Theo Epstein, who worked his way up the ladder to become GM of the Red Sox in 2003 at age 29. Epstein, coincidentally, also was a sportswriter for his college paper, the Yale Daily News, and in 1993 called for legendary Yale football coach Carmen Cozza to step down, stirring it up like a seasoned pro.
Stearns insisted he was not a “ripper” at the Crimson, always looking for the controversial angle.
“I grew up in New York City, so I grew up around plenty of columnists and (writers) that stirred stuff up,” he said. “I just loved writing and being around the athletic events. What I didn’t enjoy, frankly, was the back-office stuff — the layout and all the stuff you have to do to put the paper up. I tried to stay away from that.”
Epstein is 44 now, a grizzled lifer on the back side of a Hall of Fame career, while Stearns is part of the next generation of analytically oriented, college-educated baseball executives. The GM position has drastically evolved over the years from the old-boys network to the Ivy League network. Highly educated business majors have a much better chance at running a team these days than former players or managers.
Stearns credited Epstein, Mets GM Sandy Alderson (Dartmouth) and A’s GM David Forst (Harvard) as game-changers in the industry.
“What all of these talented executives with slightly different backgrounds did was allow people like me to walk up and see that people with my background are welcome in the game,” Stearns said. “Now that’s obvious, but I imagine when Theo went through his apprenticeships and growing through the game, it wasn’t obvious. For him and others like him to be able to take the step up and have that success, I certainly do think it made life easier for me and people like me to get a foothold in the game.”
Stearns never refers to the process of changing the Brewers organization as a “rebuild,” but whatever you call it, they began to compete in his second year in 2017, challenging the Cubs in the Central race until the final week. He then signed Lorenzo Cain and acquired Christian Yelich on the same day in January, moves that led to the Brewers’ unexpected ascension to division champions.
“What I’m proud of is we’ve been able to move the organization forward,” Stearns said. “When I got here, we didn’t know exactly how long that would take or what that is going to look like.”
Cain has been the spark plug from the leadoff spot and has valuable playoff experience from his years with the Royals. Yelich is the likely NL MVP who carried the club past the Cubs in September. The Brewers weren’t featured on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” once this year and haven’t been exposed much to a national audience. But they could be the darlings of MLB if they make it to the World Series against a big-market team such as the Red Sox or Yankees.
Yelich is a superstar just being discovered, enjoying his first taste of the national spotlight this October. Will the insta-hype eventually get to him?
“Christian is about as grounded a player as I’ve been around at the major-league level,” Stearns said. “I think he’s going to handle it just fine. He comes to the ballpark with the exact same disposition every day, and I don’t think this is going to change it one bit.”
The one holdover from the old days is veteran outfielder Ryan Braun, a villain in some places thanks to his PED suspension but still popular in Wisconsin. The Brewers couldn’t deal him at the start of the rebuild because of his hefty contract but now feel lucky to have Braun around to see the plan come to fruition.
“There is an understanding in this market of what Ryan has meant to this franchise, what he’s meant to this community, and it’s reciprocated,” Stearns said. “Our fan base believes in him, appreciates him and it’s an important relationship.”
Stearns also inherited manager Craig Counsell, a longtime major-league infielder who began his post-playing career as an assistant to former GM Doug Melvin. As someone who was both a starter and a bench player, who played on two World Series winners and a few not-so-good teams, as a former executive with player personnel experience and a Milwaukee-area native who grew up in nearby Whitefish Bay, Counsell seemingly was the perfect fit for the Brewers.
“He really is uniquely qualified for this job,” Stearns said. “He’s been a steadying force and a consistent force through this entire process. As much as anyone, I’m happy for him he gets to experience this, in this city, and live through it … and hopefully enjoy it.”
Hometown hero makes good?
It’s a classic tale.
But instead of writing the story, Stearns is trying to help Counsell make it happen.
DENVER – In a dominant bullpen that made the Milwaukee Brewers one of the best teams in the majors in 2018, rookie Corbin Burnes carved a nice niche for himself.
Once again showing no intimidation in the biggest of games, Burnes pitched two scoreless innings Sunday to bridge the gap to Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader, who covered the ninth in a 6-0 romp over Colorado that completed a three-game sweep in the NLDS.
Burnes retired all six hitters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, recording two strikeouts. In the three-game sweep, he logged four scoreless frames.
“Corbin Burnes, who we don’t talk about as one of the (main) guys, had probably the best relief appearances of the series in throwing four really strong, strong innings,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said in the victorious visiting clubhouse.
“Since Day 1, the thing about Corbin to me is the attacking the strike zone. Guys are going to get hits, but he’s just attacked the strike zone relentlessly every time he goes out there. And that’s a sign of confidence and belief, and also a sign he’s just not going to be intimidated by the big things. And he’s shown that every time he’s been out there.”
Burnes, 23, began the season as one of the Brewers’ top pitching prospects, not yet on the 40-man roster. He was a starting pitcher at Class AAA Colorado Springs but was moved to relief at midseason with the thought of helping the big-league club out of the bullpen in a possible playoff push.
It was almost as if someone had a crystal ball.
Burnes was summoned to deepen the bullpen and immediately took to the role of reliever. He made his big-league debut on July 10 in Miami and pitched the last two innings of an 8-4 victory to record a save.
From that point, it just get better and better for Burnes, who had the four-pitch repertoire of a starter, making him a nightmare for hitters when he came on in relief. Over his last 16 appearances of the season, Burnes compiled a 1.25 ERA, allowing only 13 hits in 21 2/3 innings while logging 17 strikeouts and holding opponents to a .171 batting average.
Burnes made his postseason debut in Game 1 of the NLDS, tossing two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. He duplicated that feat with two more scoreless frames in the clincher, once again proving he has the right stuff.
“This is the stuff you dream about, popping bottles open and dumping it on each other,” said Burnes, who is expected to be in the Brewers’ starting rotation next spring. “This is why you play baseball. Was it just the way I imagined it? No, but it’s something I’ve dreamed about for a long time, so it’s a pretty special feeling.”
As for the way the Brewers’ pitching dominated the Rockies in the series, allowing only two runs and finishing with two shutouts, Burnes smiled and said, “I’d say we threw the ball pretty well. The pitching staff as a whole, we did a great job.
“(Jhoulys) Chacín threw the ball great, (Wade) Miley threw the ball great. And, obviously, the guys coming out of the pen pounded the strike zone and got big outs for us all series.”
Including a quiet, first-year pitcher who began the season as a minor-leaguer starter but became one of the key pitchers in the deepest bullpen in the majors.
“It just boils down to he has a good heartbeat,” said pitching coach Derek Johnson, referring to Burnes’ calmness under pressure. “He’s not overwhelmed by the situation, even in the high-leverage spots. He has been a big part of all of this.”
DENVER – Still pushing himself around on a leg scooter after tearing an Achilles tendon a few weeks back, Mark Attanasio was a bit tardy to the celebration, but he was feeling no pain.
“Best pain-killer in the world – champagne in the clubhouse!” the Milwaukee Brewers principal owner proclaimed as his runaway club celebrated yet again.
Three clubhouse celebrations in 12 days for the Brewers, all on the road. If that sounds like a lot, it is. First came merely making the playoffs, clinching in St. Louis. Then came beating the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in a one-game showdown to claim the NL Central crown. Now, a three-game sweep of Colorado to dominate the NLDS, capped by a convincing 6-0 victory Sunday at Coors Field.
Along the way, the Brewers have won 11 games in a row, an unheard-of streak of excellence this time of year. You can’t blame them if they think nothing can stop them now.
In an impassioned speech to teammates in the clubhouse, before the champagne really got flowing, Ryan Braun presented the team’s mission statement.
“Two weeks ago in St. Louis, we came out with a goal,” Braun shouted. “The goal was to win the World Series. We’ve taken steps in that direction. Two weeks ago in St. Louis, we said let’s make this the first celebration and not the last. Two celebrations later, we’ve got two celebrations to go.
“We accomplished this by everybody playing to the best of their abilities. Everybody here is doing their job the best they possibly can. That’s why we’re winning baseball games. Nothing’s going to change. The lights are going to get brighter. It’s going to be more fun than we’ve had to this point. We will keep doing the same (stuff)!”
General George S. Patton couldn’t have delivered a more motivating speech to his troops. Makes you want to go run through a wall, doesn’t it, Brewers fans?
The Brewers dominated the Rockies so thoroughly, it was difficult to digest. Of the 28 innings played in the series (the first game went 10), Colorado scored in just one, for a total of two runs. That two-run output was the lowest in NLDS history.
All the Brewers have heard since the end of last season is that they don’t have enough pitching, but that joke is on the rest of the baseball world, not them. The bullpen once again was dominant, covering the final 4 1/3 innings without damage, but the “initial out-getters” – don’t use the word “starters” around this club – didn’t allow one run in 12 2/3 frames in the series.
Veteran lefty Wade Miley set the tone in the clincher with 4 2/3 innings of three-hit ball. Then came what has been the death knell for opponents this season – the parade from the bullpen. Revunated flame-thrower Corey Knebel. Wily veteran Joakim Soria. Unflappable rookie Corbin Burnes. Emotion-fueled Jeremy Jeffress. Scary good Josh Hader.
You fall behind the Brewers, that relief corps comes in and puts you to bed without dinner. It’s virtually painless, the way they anesthetize hitters.
“They stepped up, they really did,” outfielder Christian Yelich said of the entire pitching staff. “They rose to the occasion. It goes without saying, this ballpark is a really tough place to pitch.
“For Wade to come in and do what he did was unbelievable. The guys in the bullpen did their job like they’ve been doing all year. It was an unbelievable performance.”
Shut out in the last two games, the Rockies finished with a mere 14 hits, batting .146 collectively with a .188 “slugging” percentage, if you can call it that. The Brewers pitching staff emerged with a 0.64 earned run average, with 30 strikeouts over those 28 innings.
Yep, that’s the team without enough pitching.
“We’ve pitched at a really high level for some time,” manager Craig Counsell said. “To give up two runs in three games, and finish it with a shutout here in the most difficult place to pitch in baseball … those guys on the staff deserve a ton of credit.
“Eleven (victories) in a row at this time of year is not something you see. It’s kind of heady stuff, to be honest with you. You don’t want to think about it, almost. But what it goes to is we’re playing at a really high level.”
That will have to continue doing so if the Brewers are to get to their first World Series since 1982. The next series, the NLCS, will be best-of-seven, putting more pressure on the pitching staff to piece things together. The Brewers will play the winner of the series between Los Angeles and Atlanta, which the Dodgers led, 2 games to 0, entering Sunday night.
Thanks to the three-game sweep, the Brewers will have four days of rest and workouts before playing Game 1 of the NLCS at Miller Park on Friday night. They have the home-field advantage in that series as well after winning the most games (96) during the regular season.
The Brewers’ next victory will be No. 100 but they have no intention of stopping at the century mark.
“It’s fun right now,” outfielder Lorenzo Cain said. “You play for this exact reason, to celebrate at the end. We’re still a long way from our main goal. But we’re going to enjoy this, make it last all night and into tomorrow.”
For those wondering, these celebrations never get old. The Brewers had to wait seven years since last popping champagne corks in the clubhouse. The way they see it, they might as well do it twice more.
For only the third time in franchise history, the Milwaukee Brewers are going to the League Championship Series.
The Brewers completed the three-game National League Division Series sweep of the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon. The final score was 6-0 (box score). Colorado was outscored 13-2 in the three games.
With the win, Milwaukee will take on the winner of the Dodgers vs. Braves series in the NLCS. The NLCS begins Friday. Here are some things to know about the Brewers’ Game 3 win.
The Rockies scored in one inning in the series
In the ninth inning of Game 1, specifically. The Rockies pushed across two runs in that inning to tie the game against Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress. The Brewers went on to win that game in 10 innings anyway.
The Rockies batted in 28 innings in the NLDS and were held scoreless in 27 of them. (Including the Wild Card Game, the Rockies scored in three of 41 innings this postseason.) Credit the Brewers, of course. Their pitching was marvelous. But gosh, score in only one inning in an entire three-game series? That is brutal. Several key Rockies players had a poor series:
Arenado, Blackmon, and Story combined to hit 104 home runs and score 311 runs during the regular season. They then had five hits total in the three-game NLDS. Tough to win when your top hitters do that.
Aguilar interrupted an interview
A pre-taped interview, but still an interview. MLB Network was showing a pre-taped interview with Rockies manager Bud Black when Jesus Aguilar rudely launched a German Marquez pitch into the left field sets for a solo home run and a 2-0 lead.
The Brewers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a Travis Shaw fielder’s choice. A walk and a single put runners on the corners with one out, and Shaw’s grounder was too far in the second base hole for the Rockies to turn the inning-ending double play. Aguilar then socked the homer for a 2-0 lead.
Kratz had another big game
In Game 2 on Friday, 38-year-old Erik Kratz became the oldest position player to start in his postseason debut since third baseman Lave Cross of the 1905 Philadelphia A’s. Kratz went 2 for 4 with a two-run single in Game 2. It was quite the postseason debut.
Kratz had another big game in Game 3 on Sunday, going 3 for 4 with a double that contributed to the club’s two-run sixth inning. He also scored on a wild pitch.
The Brewers acquired Kratz from the Yankees in May after Stephen Vogt went down with season-ending shoulder surgery. The veteran journeyman hit .236/.280/.355 in a career-high 219 plate appearances with Milwaukee during the regular season, and now he’s become an unexpected contributor in the postseason.
Rocky Mountain meltdown
Good gravy, what a meltdown in the sixth inning. The Brewers had runners on second and third with two outs when Scott Oberg dropped the ball on the mound. Dropping the ball while engaged with the rubber is an automatic balk, even if it was accidental. That allowed the runner at third to score and the runner on second to advance to third.
Then, right after balk, catcher Tony Wolters allowed a pitch to get through his legs and go to the backstop. That allowed the runner on third to score, giving the Brewers a 4-0 lead. Blocking pitches in the dirt is never easy, but letting one go through the wickets like that is always a bad look.
The Rockies and Oberg had a chance to escape that inning and strand the two runners to keep the deficit at 2-0, but two unforced errors (balk, pitch through the legs) gave the Brewers a pair of insurance runs.
Milwaukee’s bullpen was nails again
We all knew the Brewers bullpen would be a factor in the series and wow was it ever. The Brewers are so confident in their relief crew that they went with a bullpen game in Game 1. Here are the combined numbers for the Brew Crew bullpen in the NLDS:
Keep in mind those numbers include Jeffress’ blown save in Game 1. Aside from that one inning, it was shutdown inning after shutdown inning for the Brewers bullpen. And their starters too, really, but the bullpen was especially good.
Yelich was on base all series
NL MVP front runner Christian Yelich went hitless in Game 3 but still had a whale of an NLDS. He went 2 for 8 with a home run, two stolen bases, and six walks. He reached base eight times in the three-game series and you know what else? Yelich struck out zero times. Not once. The Brewers scored 17 runs in the three-game series and Yelich either scored or drove in five of them.
Mike Moustakas also had a great series (4 for 11 with 2 RBI). There is no such thing as the NLDS MVP, but, if it existed, I think I’d go Yelich over Moustakas. Couldn’t go wrong with pretty much anyone on the pitching staff either.
The Rockies lost without Freeland throwing a pitch
This one stings. The Rockies were swept in the NLDS without staff ace Kyle Freeland throwing a single pitch. He started the NL Wild Card Game against the Cubs on Tuesday, so he was unavailable in NLDS Games 1 and 2, but he could’ve started Game 3 on normal rest. Colorado opted to go with Marquez instead.
The Denver born-and-raised Freeland threw 202 1/3 innings with a 2.85 ERA this season. That’s the second lowest ERA by a qualified pitcher in franchise history (Marvin Freeman had a 2.80 ERA in 1994). The Wild Card Game threw a wrench into things, undoubtedly, but the Rockies had a chance to use Freeland on normal rest in Game 3 and passed. Losing a postseason series with your ace throwing zero pitches is rough.
The Brewers are going to their third LCS
For the first time since 2011 and only the third time in franchise history, the Brewers have advanced to the League Championship Series. Here are their previous two LCS trips:
1982 ALCS: Beat Angels in five games (lost World Series to Cardinals in seven games).
The Brewers were, of course, an American League franchise from 1970-97. They moved into the National League when MLB realigned during the 1998 expansion season. Milwaukee will host the winner of the Dodgers vs. Braves series in the NLCS. That series won’t begin until Friday, Oct. 12.
LDS and LCS games can be streamed on fuboTV (Try for free). For a look at the complete schedule, click here.
You can relive live coverage of Rockies-Brewers series below. If the widget does not load, please click here.
How else to describe the Milwaukee Brewers’ postseason run, which is now guaranteed to continue after what transpired on Sunday afternoon at Coors Field?
The Brewers jumped out to a first-inning lead, slowly built on it and got more terrific pitching from start to finish in totally over-matching and finally sweeping away the Colorado Rockies, 6-0, in Game 3 of the NL Division Series.
Jesús Aguilar, Orlando Arcia and Keon Broxton all homered to power a 12-hit attack and Wade Miley set the tone with 4 2/3 strong innings out of the gate as he and five relievers combined to shut out a potent Rockies lineup for the second consecutive game.
Milwaukee, which recorded its first-ever sweep of a postseason series by dispatching Colorado, advances to the NLCS for the first time since 2011. The series opens Friday at Miller Park at a time to be determined.
The Brewers will face the winner of the Los Angeles Dodgers-Atlanta Braves series, which continues later Sunday in Atlanta.
“Eleven at a row at this time of year is not something you see,” said manager Craig Counsell, whose team has indeed now rattled off 11 straight wins.
“It’s kind of heady stuff, to be honest with you and you don’t want to think about it, almost. But what it goes to is we’re playing at a really high level.
“A lot of people are playing at a really high level and if anything, this series we might have taken it up a notch with the way we pitched.”
Milwaukee was holding a slim 2-0 lead when it received two huge breaks in the sixth inning in this one.
With one out and hard-throwing Scott Oberg on in place of starter German Márquez, Mike Moustakas singled and Erik Kratz followed with his third hit in as many at-bats – a double off the wall in right that brought Orlando Arcia to the plate.
He struck out, and Counsell called for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson to hit in Knebel’s spot.
During his at-bat, Oberg accidentally dropped the ball while on the rubber for a balk and Moustakas trotted home with a gift run.
Then, in an 0-2 count, Oberg threw a slider that went through the legs of catcher Tony Wolters. He scrambled to collect the wild pitch and threw home to a covering Oberg, but not before Kratz had slapped the plate on a head-first slide that upped the Brewers’ lead to 4-0.
Kratz sprinted back to the dugout, screaming all the way, while the crowd sat in mostly stunned silence.
Joakim Soria pitched a scoreless sixth, and Corbin Burnes (1-0) tossed a perfect seventh and eighth as the Brewers inched closer to popping champagne bottles yet again.
Milwaukee eliminated any doubt as the temperatures continued to drop and rain began falling when Arcia greeted Rockies closer Wade Davis in the ninth with a homer to left.
Keon Broxton followed suit with a long shot out to right-center, and a good deal of the sellout crowd of 49,658 quickly trickled out of the ballpark in the aftermath.
Jeremy Jeffress allowed a pair of baserunners in the ninth to add a bit of drama, but Josh Hader came on to record the final two outs without incident and spark the celebration.
How dominant was Milwaukee’s pitching in the series? Colorado scored just two runs total, and both of those came in the ninth inning of Game 1. That’s 19 consecutive scoreless innings thrown by the Brewers to close out the series.
“We pitched at a really high level this series,” said Counsell. “To give up two runs in three games and to finish it with a shutout here in the most difficult place to pitch in baseball…those guys on the staff deserve a ton of credit.
“We’ve been pitching at a really high level for a good bit here. If you take it back to the Chicago game that’s three runs in four games, and that’s something pretty special in some big games.”
With the temperature at first pitch a chilly 46 degrees, Milwaukee wasted no time getting on the board.
Christian Yelich drew a one-out walk from Márquez – his fifth free pass of the postseason already – went to third on a single to right by Ryan Braun and scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Travis Shaw.
Miley needed only eight pitches to dispatch the Rockies in the bottom of the first, then worked around a Trevor Story single and Carlos González single in the second to carry Milwaukee’s lead to the third.
After D.J. LeMahieu’s two-out double amounted to nothing for Colorado in the bottom of the third, Aguilar broke out of his 0-for-7 postseason skid by belting a Márquez curveball 418 feet out to left with one out in the fourth.
After Miley retired the Rockies in order in the bottom half, the Brewers threatened to tack onto their lead in the fifth.
Lorenzo Cain got things going with a single to right, snapping his 0-for-10 open to the postseason. He was erased on a fielder’s choice but Yelich stole second and then went to third on an infield single by Braun, with Story unable to make an accurate throw over to first.
That brought up Shaw, who pulled another ground ball to the right side. This one was hit sharply, however, and Braun was unable to avoid it, leaving Shaw with a single but Milwaukee out of the inning with nothing to show for all the action on the basepaths.
Miley’s outing would end shortly thereafter.
He surrendered a one-out single to Wolters, then Garrett Hampson grounded into a fielder’s choice on a play that very well could have gone awry with Aguilar and Arcia both making risky throws while trying to turn a double play.
Miley, who made a diving stab to keep Arcia’s toss from trickling more than a few feet from first, was then lifted for Corey Knebel. Miley allowed three hits and a walk with two strikeouts in a 64-pitch outing.
Counsell’s decision to lift the lefty Miley with the left-handed-hitting Charlie Blackmon coming up was slightly puzzling on the surface, but Knebel struck him out on just three pitches.
WAIT AND SEE: Counsell held off before the game naming his Game 4 starter – if one was needed at all – but did say that rookie Freddy Peralta could be in the mix if the Brewers weren’t able to close out the Rockies in Game 3. The right-hander went 2-0 with a 1.54 earned run average and 21 strikeouts in two starts against Colorado in the regular season.
“Freddy made this roster because of the success he’s had against this team, and he’s got a good thought to go back on in this ballpark,” Counsell said. “And so he’s definitely a name you’ve got circled in these next two games. How we end up using him or where it comes out, I don’t know, and I don’t really have a specific plan for Freddy. But the way these games will unfold, I’m pretty certain that he’s going to be part of one of these games.”
CROSS HIM OFF: Lafayette Napoleon Cross – or Lave, as he went by – was born in Milwaukee on May 12 1866. His name began to crop up on Friday when Kratz became the second-oldest position player to make a start in his postseason debut at 38 years and 112 days, with Cross the only player older to claim that distinction. He was 39 years 150 days old when he started at third base for the Philadelphia A’s in Game 1 of the 1905 World Series.
“We played together in rookie ball,” Kratz said to laughs earlier Sunday when asked about his connection to Cross. “I think it’s a cool. I was in a big-league game, in a playoff game, so that’s cool. It’s not something that I have any control over. It’s something that is part of history, so maybe in 113 years, some dude is going to be like, Erik Kratz — is it Kratz? What is that? Any time you’re part of baseball history on the positive side, it’s really cool.”
SUPPORTING CAST ON HAND: At the end of the season, the Brewers had 36 active players, thanks to expanded September rosters. Teams are allowed only 25 players in the postseason, however, leaving some extra players with no game roles. Assistant GM Matt Arnold said teams are allowed to designate up to eight players who can be in uniform on the bench during games, so you may see some who cannot play.
“We picked eight guys,” Arnold said. “Potentially, you can do different guys in the next round. We have a handful of guys who are traveling but they can’t be in the dugout. They have to be in the stands.”
HOT STREAK: Moustakas entered Sunday sporting an eight-game postseason hitting streak that dated to Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays, then extended it to nine with a sixth-inning single. He hit .343 with four multi-hit games over that span, and also had driven in at least one run in nine of his previous 12 postseason games.
WAIT, WHAT?: Shaw’s single in the fifth when Braun was hit by his batted ball came courtesy of runner’s interference. First baseman Ian Desmond, the fielder closest to the play, got credit for the putout.
FRIDAY: Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves vs. Brewers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. Time/TV to be determined.
The best-of-seven NLCS starts Friday in Milwaukee vs. the winner of the Dodgers-Braves series. Times are TBD. Games will be televised on either Fox or FS1.
Game 1: Friday, Oct 12 at Milwaukee Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 13 at Milwaukee Game 3: Monday, Oct. 15 at Los Angeles/Atlanta Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 16 at Los Angeles/Atlanta Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 17 at Los Angeles/Atlanta Game 6: Friday, Oct. 19 at Milwaukee Game 7: Saturday, Oct. 20 at Milwaukee
Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
DENVER – There are good bullpens, and there are crazy good bullpens.
The Milwaukee Brewers have had the latter in 2018.
Entering Game 3 of the NLDS against Colorado on Sunday, the Brewers’ relief corps was on a five-week roll that numerically jumped off the page. Over a 28-game span, they compiled a 14-0 record and 1.72 earned run average, holding opponents to a .188 batting average.
In 125 1/3 innings over that stretch, Brewers relievers recorded a remarkable 171 strikeouts. It’s that ability to whiff hitters, led by Josh Hader (major-league record 143 during the regular season), Corey Knebel (33 in 16 1/3 innings over the final month) and Jeremy Jeffress (89 in 76 innings during the season), that has made them the focal point of the team’s success.
Overall, Milwaukee’s bullpen ranked second in the NL with 708 strikeouts in 614 innings. San Diego’s bullpen was first with 720 strikeouts but pitched 21 more innings to get to that total.
Most teams have hard throwers in their bullpens these days, especially as relief corps have become a more prominent part of the game. But the depth of talent in the pen is what has separated the Brewers from other clubs.
“Velocity is obviously at its peak (in general),” Ryan Braun said. “Guys have never thrown harder more consistently. The way that our guys do it is unique, and there are so many of them. Josh and J.J. both had phenomenal years and were recognized as all-stars but there’s five or six guys out here that have had incredible years as well.
“There are seven or eight guys out there that we bring in and they all throw really hard. That’s something that’s really advantageous, especially when you come to a ballpark like (Coors Field). Obviously, balls that are hit well oftentimes end up over the fence.”
It sounds elemental but not allowing a hitter to put the ball in play removes many ways he can get on base, including things beyond a pitcher’s control.
“You have an opportunity for something good to happen when the ball goes in play,” manager Craig Counsell said. “You have an opportunity to be lucky when the ball goes in play. The strikeout eliminates luck.
“It is a strength of our guys, and I would say especially of Corey and Josh. They have been exceptional at it. It lets us kind of consider at times some defensive alignments that we were able to do when those guys are going to be in the game. It gives us a lot of flexibility with things and options.”
Yelich learning in limelight
For the first five years of his major-league career, Christian Yelich toiled in relative anonymity.
He was a talented, ascending player and in a big media market in Miami. But he also played for the Marlins, who, when they generated any coverage at all, were usually being ripped for either under-performance or cutting costs.
When Derek Jeter took the team over he shipped Yelich to Milwaukee and the rest of his all-star-caliber outfield away as well to begin an organization-wide rebuild.
With the Brewers, Yelich has taken his game to the next level – to the point where he’s expected to be named the NL MVP next month.
The attention on Yelich increased as his game continued to get better and better in the final months of the regular season, and now he’s become the face of the Brewers as they continue to advance in the postseason.
All of that has led to ever-increasing demands on his time.
Not long after arriving in the visitors’ clubhouse at Coors Field on Saturday in advance of the team’s workout, Yelich spent nearly 30 minutes entertaining questions from media members both local and national before finally being able to go on with his day.
While some players might be put off or uncooperative when thrust into the glare of such a demanding spotlight, the laid-back Californian is taking all his additional attention in stride, even enjoying it at times.
“You just try to separate everything,” he said. “You’re focused on (media) and then you push everything you talked about to the side and move onto whatever you’ve got to do next in the day. Don’t let everything carry over and overwhelm you.
“I think over time you learn to deal with it. It’s not like it just happened overnight. You get used to it, I guess you could say, and you learn how to fit it into your day and not let it get you out of your routine or affect anything that you do throughout the day.
“As players, we talk to the media every day. Now it’s just more people and bigger crowds and more questions, but at the end of the day it’s still the same thing. More attention, brighter lights because of the postseason and everything we had going on down the stretch.”
Yelich said that Braun, himself an NL MVP in 2011 and the face of the Brewers franchise for the last decade, has offered some guidance on how to handle the new crush.
He’s listened to what Braun has told him, and is trying to enjoy a ride – both individually and as a team – that not many people had predicted coming out of spring training.
“I look at it as a good thing,” Yelich said. “If there was nobody around that means we’re probably not doing well as a team. You can’t get too upset with it when it’s caused by the team that you play on doing well. This is what we all wanted, so if you’re upset by it, it’s one of those Catch-22 things.”
Arcia’s ups and downs
It obviously was not the smoothest of seasons for shortstop Orlando Arcia, who was sent down twice for being unproductive as a hitter. He kept his head up, continued to play stellar defense and eventually made some contributions at the plate down the stretch, including a four-hit game in the showdown with the Cubs at Wrigley for the division crown.
So, what did Arcia learn about himself during those ups and downs?
“Most important, I think, has been keeping my head strong,” he said. “Having a strong (mind), staying positive at all times and just working on everything day-to-day.
“Even if things didn’t go right, you’ve still got to keep working at it and get better every day, and then take whatever all the other guys are telling you, take all their advice that you gain and be thankful that all the guys have had my back and supporting me from the beginning. It’s been awesome.”
Though Counsell has given Jonathan Schoop and Hernan Perez action at shortstop at times, he prefers the superior range of Arcia when groundball pitchers are on the mound, such as Game 3 starter Wade Miley.
“With a guy like Wade, there’s a lot of contact on the ground,” Counsell said. “I think it makes sense that Orlando is generally in there when he has been pitching (with) a lot of right-handed hitters.”