Preview: Brewers vs. Cubs
It could be quite some time before the Brewers get their all-star closer on the mound again.
Knebel had not pitched in six days so manager Craig Counsell sent him in for an inning of mop-up duty as the Brewers played out the string in an 8-0 thumping by the Cubs Thursday night.
It was far from a sharp outing as he plunked Javier Baez with a pitch then gave up a two-run home run to Jason Heyward. He struck out Ian Happ but on his second pitch to Tommy La Stella, Knebel fell to the ground, grabbing his left hamstring.
He was helped off the field by the team’s medical trainers and will undergo an MRI Friday morning, but is expected to miss “significant time,” according to Counsell.
“We won’t know the severity of it until (Friday),” Counsell said. “But it’s a DL move for sure.”
On the field, Milwaukee has lost two in a row — both in ugly fashion.
The Brewers have struggled in all facets of the game in those contests. They have failed to score a run, committed six errors and have seen their starters get knocked around early.
“We have not played well in any area of the game the last two nights,” Counsell said. “There’s been plays that have to be made and situations that have to be handled better. We’ve been getting down early and I don’t think that’s helping. Four days in a row of getting down early. We have to switch that around.”
It will fall on right-hander Brandon Woodruff to buck the trend in his first start of the season.
Woodruff, who made an impression in six starts as a rookie down the stretch last season, began 2018 in the bullpen but didn’t anticipate being on a short pitch count.
“I’ll go as hard as I can go, as long as I can go, until they take the ball out of my hand,” said Woodruff, who took a no-decision after allowing four runs over five innings last September in his only career outing against Chicago.
The Cubs counter with right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who held Miami to a run on four hits over six innings in his first outing of the season last Friday.
It marked Hendricks’ 100th career start and entering play Friday, his career ERA of 2.93 ranks second among active pitchers with at least 75 starts, trailing only Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw and he’s accomplished that despite having a fastball that rare passes 90 MPH mark.
“He’s not a hard thrower, so people wonder how or why he’s as effective as he is,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s because of deception and movement. Go ask a hitter, man. To be deceived from the mound and have great movement from the pitcher’s perspective is a lot more difficult than somebody you see really well who throws very hard.”
Hendricks has thrived pitching in the hitter-friendly confines of Miller Park. He’s 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA in eight career starts there and 6-4 with a 2.77 ERA in 15 career starts against Milwaukee.