Brewers’ pitching makes statement in sweep of defending champs
If there’s a way to make a statement in the first week of the season, sweeping the defending World Series on their home field would be it.
Led by another strong start from Yovani Gallardo, the Milwaukee Brewers completed a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox with a 4-0 victory at Fenway Park on Sunday. It was Milwaukee’s first sweep of the Red Sox since October of 1993, a span of 19 series.
Boston wasn’t swept in a home series at all in 2013, as the Red Sox never lost more than three games in a row during their World Series-winning season.
Gallardo not only put together his second consecutive scoreless outing, but the right-hander continued the impressive start to the season being put together by the Brewers’ starting staff. Milwaukee’s starting pitchers have a 1.64 ERA in six games this season, allowing just seven earned runs in 38 1/3 innings.
"It’s been outstanding," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Hopefully this is a sign that it’s going to be a great year on the mound. I think it is going to be."
Wanting to get off to a quick start to put last season behind him, Gallardo improved to 2-0 by not allowing a run to the potent Boston offense and striking out three over 6 2/3 innings. He’s now worked 12 2/3 scoreless innings to open up 2014.
He kept the ball down Sunday and seems to be focused less on accumulating strikeouts and instead trying to be more efficient.
"Some things were really sharp," Roenicke said of Gallardo. "His curveball wasn’t on today which is unusual, but his other pitches were good. He makes the right pitch at the right time.
"I think he’s changed the way he’s pitched, especially since he first came up. When he first came up, he was a high fastball strikeout out of the zone. Now everything he does is trying to be down. When you are down it usually turns into groundballs."
The most impressive part of the Brewers’ pitching staff’s early-season success is that it has come against a dangerous Atlanta lineup and the Red Sox, the best offense in baseball in 2013.
"I think you can see that in spring training that this was going to happen," Roenicke said. "I saw it in 2011 when those five starters got together, and they were watching each other and there was some competition going on in there. I’m seeing the same thing with these guys."
Offensively, the Brewers took advantage of a couple of defensive miscues by the Red Sox to beat Boston ace Jon Lester.
Jonathan Lucroy led off the second with a double and moved up to third on a bunt single by Khris Davis. Mark Reynolds followed with a base hit to right to score Lucroy, and Davis came around to plate the second run after Daniel Nava booted the ball in right field.
A two-out RBI single from Jeff Bianchi scored Davis in the seventh inning to provide a big insurance run, while another Boston error led to another tally in the eighth. Ryan Braun stole second base and was able to head to third when David Ross’ throw went into centerfield, allowing him to score on Aramis Ramirez’s single to right.
Outside of a couple of pitches in the second inning and a few in the seventh and eighth, Lester was on his game. The left-hander retired 16 in a row after Reynolds’ RBI single in the second.
"He made a couple of mistakes, and we were able to capitalize on them," Reynolds said. "He’s one of the toughest pitchers in the league. To string a couple of hits together against him was big early on. It kind of let ‘Yo’ go out there and settle down and throw his game. He pitched a great game for us."
With Will Smith and Brandon Kintzler likely unavailable after pitching Friday and Saturday, the Brewers needed the strong outings they got from relievers Zach Duke and Tyler Thornburg. Duke replaced Gallardo with runners at the corners and two outs in the bottom of the seventh and got Nava to fly out to end the inning.
After picking up the win Saturday, Thornburg shut the door with two scoreless innings in the series finale. He allowed two hits but struck out three to prevent Roenicke from having to go to closer Francisco Rodriguez for the third day in a row.
"I think any time you have all three pitches going you are going to be confident out there," Thornburg said. "I’m hoping to keep this rolling.
"Goodness, I think all of our pitchers have pitched like that. It’s been incredible, really."
Early decision: The Brewers found out they won’t be playing Monday during Sunday’s game, as the Philadelphia Phillies pulled the plug on the series opener quite early.
The Phillies made the call to postpone Monday’s game until Tuesday due the impending threat of inclement weather, as the forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of rain during the afternoon. An off day Tuesday was originally built into the schedule for this very reason, ensuring Philadelphia will get its home opener in without delay.
Roenicke said he is fine with the decision to push the game back more than 24 hours before it was supposed to start.
"I am simply because it’s miserable to sit out there for hours and you don’t know if you are playing or not," Roenicke said. "It’s always better to know the weather is going to be better the next day and we can get it in.
Tuesday’s game will start at 3:05 p.m. CT, with the first pitch coming at 6:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday and Thursday.â
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