Dominant outing from Lohse keeps Brewers’ red hot streak alive
MILWAUKEE — After sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in their throwback uniforms, what are the chances the Milwaukee Brewers bust out the 1980’s-style jerseys again Monday night?
"I would say 99.9 percent," Brewers outfielder Logan Schafer said. "I’m holding out because it is possible."
What uniforms the Brewers do sport when they go for their first 10-game winning streak since 2003 Monday against St. Louis isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but why change something if it isn’t broke.
Behind 8 2/3 strong innings from Kyle Lohse and a little help from the Pirates, Milwaukee kept rolling with a 4-1 victory at Miller Park on Sunday. At 10-2, the Brewers have become the talk of baseball just 12 games into the season.
"We’re having a good time," Lohse said. "The guys are loose. We’re coming in every day and taking it one at a time. We’re not worried about who’s next or anything like that until this day is over. We did a good job of just keeping our heads down and racking up as many wins as we can and seeing where we’re at.
"Right now everything’s clicking, we’re taking advantage of mistakes and not making very many on our own. It’s a good run right now."
While the Brewers did win nine games in a row last April, this streak has an entirely different vibe.
Milwaukee needed to rattle off nine straight wins in 2013 to overcome a 2-8 start to the season. A notoriously slow starting team is coming out of the gates hot, that’s the major difference.
By no means does a 10-2 start guarantee the Brewers anything, but they are putting forth some convincing evidence that they could exceed the expectations most had for them.
Some will still look at the Brewers as a fluke, and they may turn out to be right, but this was what was expected by everyone involved with the organization.
"Everyone can have their own opinions, but the only opinion that matters is ours, the one in the clubhouse," Schafer said. "We think we’re pretty good. Whether others believe that or not, they are going to have to start to because we are going to continue to play like this."
By "playing like this", Schafer means complete baseball. The winning streak has featured a whole lot of good pitching, timely hitting to drive in runs and a bullpen that hasn’t allowed just three earned runs all season.
There’s certainly some things going their way right now, but the Brewers have the potential to have some sustainable aspects of this streak. If the starting pitching and bullpen keeps throwing close to the way they have — and that’s not out of the realm of possibility — they will be a contender.
"I think any time you play good baseball and are doing things right, you seem to get more breaks," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "When we’re not playing well, I know it goes the other way. You see it all the time. Everything is going good."
By allowing just one run in 8 2/3 innings Sunday, Lohse lowered the starting five’s ERA to 2.22. Dating back to 2013, Milwaukee has had its starting pitcher allow three earned runs or fewer in 26 straight games, the third-longest streak in baseball since 1990.
Lohse retired the first nine batters of the game before two straight singles and an Andrew McCutchen sacrifice fly gave the Pirates their only run of the game in the fourth inning. After a leadoff single in the fifth, Lohse locked into a serious rhythm.
The veteran right-hander retired 14 in a row before McCutchen singled with two outs in the ninth, retiring seven batters on strikeouts during the stretch.
"Early he wasn’t working the breaking ball or the changeup, really," catcher Martin Maldonado said. "Then by the fifth inning it was the changeup command, breaking ball command. He had the slider command and the fastball command early in the game, pretty much, and that was the key."
The tone for Lohse’s outing was set right away in the first two innings by a pair of excellent defensive plays made by the Brewers. Shortstop Jean Segura robbed McCutchen of a hit with a fantastic diving stab in the hole to end the first inning, while Schafer took extra bases away from Pedro Alvarez with a leaping catch while crashing into the wall in left to start the second inning.
"It’s a really fun time right now," Schafer said. "We’re playing great baseball and doing the little things right, and we’re having a lot of fun doing it. That’s what’s really important. We’re really enjoying playing the game of baseball right now.
"We’re playing the game the right way and it’s really fun to be a part of right now."
The Brewers, usually a team that waits until July or August to get hot, are giving themselves a head start instead of being buried in an early season hole. That’s why this nine-game winning streak feels a whole lot different than last year’s.
"It’s fun, to start like that," Maldonado said. "We’ve always been bad at the start and good at the end. To get a start like this, it gives us more confidence at the end that we can do it throughout the year."
Now back to the bigger question: Will the retro uniforms come out Monday against the division-rival Cardinals?
"I don’t know, maybe," Roenicke said. "They like it. I don’t know, we’ll just keep it rolling for as long as it lasts."
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