MILWAUKEE — Despite the team’s well-noted struggles at the plate this season, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said before Wednesday’s game against the Reds that if the team’s pitching staff had been throwing the past month like it had last season, then the team could’ve easily overcome its woeful hitting in the season’s first month.
There’s reason to think he might be right, considering the Brewers’ team ERA is 1.22 runs higher through one month than it was at the conclusion of last season.
On Wednesday, though, with ace Zack Greinke on the mound, the opposite ended up being true.
Greinke turned in, arguably, the best pitching performance by a Brewers starter this season, registering eight scoreless innings and striking out 11 batters — his 15th double-digit strikeout performance of his career. The right-hander also tallied just 104 pitches in eight innings, 69 of which were strikes, and allowed just two hits in a 2-1 loss that was a scoreless tie until the ninth inning.
“I think that’s how Zack was throwing a lot of games in spring training this year,” Roenicke said. “When he’s got that kind of command and good stuff, too, it’s going to be very tough for teams to put together a lot of consecutive hits. Certainly they didn’t get very many. Obviously, if we get pitching performances like that, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
Unfortunately for the Brewers, Wednesday wasn’t one of those games.
After striking out the side in the eighth inning, Greinke was taken out for the ninth with the game tied, 0-0, in favor of John Axford. And with just one strike left to get, Axford allowed the Reds’ third hit of the game to center fielder Drew Stubbs. A Joey Votto double on the next at-bat drove him in, and a Brandon Phillips bloop scored Votto. Suddenly, Greinke’s effort had been overshadowed by the Brewers struggles’ to put up any offense.
Ryan Braun’s home run in the bottom of the ninth made it interesting, as the Brewers then loaded the bases with the tying run at third and the winning run at second, but after a Travis Ishikawa flyout, the team had suffered its first-ever loss in a Greinke start at Miller Park.
For a rotation that has been struggling mightily, however, Greinke’s performance is most definitely a step in the right direction. His command was dominant, and for the first time in a long time, it seemed, the Brewers pitcher had singlehandedly kept his team in the game.
So can the Brewers bottle up this kind of performance and use it going forward?
“No, it’s a loss,” Braun said. “We’re in a business where it’s very result-oriented. And he pitched great — really for the most part all year he’s thrown well — but we have to find a way to win games and to ultimately win series.”
That kind of success is, however, contingent on the Brewers’ vaunted rotation turning in performances like Greinke did on Wednesday afternoon. But as the team learned again, victories are hard to come by — especially for a team that’s shorthanded — when the bats and the arms on the roster aren’t both finding some degree of success.