Brewers seek bullpen improvement against Giants (Jun 06, 2017)
MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Brewers will still be in first place Tuesday night when they take the field against the San Francisco Giants for Game 2 of a four-game set at Miller Park.
However, if they want to stay atop the National League Central at the end of the day, or any more this season, they will need their bullpen to get back on track.
The Brewers' relief corps faltered Monday for the third time in four games, with Rob Scahill giving up a two-run double to San Francisco's Aaron Hill to break an eighth-inning tie and struggling former closer Neftali Feliz letting the game get out of hand by allowing three more runs in the ninth.
The Giants emerged with a 7-2 victory.
Milwaukee's bullpen now has 17 losses, the most in baseball this season, yet the Brewers (30-28) are tied for first in the division with the Chicago Cubs (29-27).
"We've got to find some guys to get some outs down there," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Hot and cold every other outing isn't good enough."
Counsell said earlier this season that the last spot in the bullpen would be "fluid," and early on, that was the case. Still, Milwaukee has been relatively quiet in terms of acquisitions or call-ups, and he suggested after the Monday meltdown that for the time being, the Brewers are likely to stick with the arms already on hand.
"We've got to get outs down there," Counsell said. "The nature of our games has been close and late. That means Jacob (Barnes) and (closer) Corey Knebel have been used quite a bit. Carlos (Torres) has been used quite a bit. Oliver Drake has been used quite a bit. He was the most used reliever in May that we had. These guys have got to get outs."
The bullpen's struggles come just as Milwaukee's starters have managed to find their groove. Even with a short outing Monday by Junior Guerra, the Brewers' rotation has combined to go 5-1 with a 1.32 ERA over the past 11 games.
Milwaukee right-hander Chase Anderson, who will start Tuesday, has turned in a pair of gems during that stretch. Anderson (4-1, 3.30 ERA) worked seven scoreless innings in each outing while striking out 18 with just four walks. He opened with seven no-hit innings May 27 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, giving way after a leadoff single in the eighth and a season-high 114 pitches.
"He's got four pitches working. He's become a four-pitch guy," Counsell said. "That's a credit to his hard work and to (pitching coach) Derek Johnson, improving that curveball and the cutter he's using effectively, too. He was really fastball/changeup in the early part of his career. Those other two pitches have become a big part of his career."
Anderson hasn't fared well against the Giants, going 1-2 with an 8.15 ERA in four career starts against them. However, San Francisco's Tuesday starter, Matt Cain, hasn't seen much success against the Brewers, either, posting a 3-8 record with a 5.01 ERA in 102 2/3 career innings over 13 career starts against Milwaukee.
Cain (3-4, 4.53 ERA) has lost each of his past three starts, but he was burned by a lack of offensive support in that span. The Giants managed a total of four runs in the three defeats.
Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija (2-7) was dealing with similar issues before San Francisco got him the win Monday, when he struck out 10 in 7 2/3 effective innings.
"Good for him to get a win," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He should have a few more wins. Good we found a way to score some runs for him."
While Cain has struggled against Milwaukee, the Giants (24-35) have won 14 of their past 16 games against the Brewers, outscoring them by a 104-41 margin.