Just when he’s about to be counted out, Marco Estrada comes roaring back. A pitcher who has made a career out of being a survivor, Estrada continued to state his case for a rotation spot next season with a dominating performance Sunday afternoon.
Estrada allowed just one hit and struck out a season-high nine over seven scoreless innings, retiring 18 of the final 19 batters he faced in Milwaukee’s 3-1 victory over the Reds.
A rare getaway day win for the Brewers gave them their first series win in Cincinnati since a three-game sweep of the Reds in September of 2011.
“Everything (was working),” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “He had great command — his change-up was outstanding. I thought his curveball was really good; he threw it for strikes and kept it down in the zone. Then he spots his fastball well. It has good life on it and he put it where he wanted to.”
After starting the season as Milwaukee’s number two starter, Estrada got off to a rough start and had a 5.32 ERA in 12 starts before landing on the disabled list in early June. The hamstring injury lingered longer than anyone expected and a back injury popped up during rehab, keeping the right-hander out for over two months.
Estrada struggled in his rehab starts and was thought to have needed another one when the Brewers activated him in a pinch for an Aug. 7 start in Texas.
In four starts since coming off the disabled list, Estrada has a 1.88 ERA in 24 innings. Four of the five earned runs he’s allowed in this stretch came in his six innings of work against St. Louis on Aug. 19.
Though he’s been sharp before, Estrada was at his best Sunday and was in complete command of the game after the first inning. At one point, Estrada struck out six straight, falling one shy of Steve Woodard’s franchise record for consecutive strikeouts.
A walk to Shin-Shoo Choo broke the run, but was the only baserunner Estrada allowed after the first inning.
“When he has his changeup going and he has his curveball going, they have to think about it,” Roenicke said. “Then when the fastball is spotted well — because it has life on it — it gets by them.”
Roenicke pulled Estrada after seven innings even though he was working on a one-hit shutout. Estrada was at 100 pitches, a number he hasn’t reached since May 27, and the skipper knew it was time to make the move.
“Today (the decision) wasn’t tough,” Roenicke said. “He was gassed after the sixth inning. To try to get him through the next inning, we had guys warmed up in case he was out of gas, which he was. So today wasn’t a tough one, but anytime you throw up all those zeros, it makes a manager kind of think about it.
“He told me that he messed up (after the sixth inning). I don’t know exactly what that means, but he told me he messed up. I take it as he’s missing with his location. At that point, we really were watching him close.”
Overall, the Brewers had a good weekend in Cincinnati against a team right in the thick of a division race. Playing in one of their house of horrors, Milwaukee was able to come away with a series win and play spoiler for a bit.
“I thought it was a great series for us,” Roenicke said. “We were certainly in yesterday’s ballgame, also. We are playing good baseball. We are still making some mistakes — with Choo steals second (in the first inning), we drop the ball. He seals third, we drop the ball and then are fortunate to get him out at home. Besides that, I thought we played pretty solid.”