After a shaky spring, Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff is finally connected
Fairly solid and fairly offensive launch.
It wasn’t always pretty, but in the end it added to a season-opening 5-2 homestand for the Milwaukee Brewers and left them with an 8-5 record as they came back on the road this weekend after an off-day on Thursday.
“We had a good homestand,” manager Craig Counsell said following his team’s 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday at American Family Field. The Brewers swept the series after splitting a game four against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“We pitched really well. That’s what we expect to do. You’ll take a 5-2 homestand every time. It was a nice way to end it. We need the day off so that everyone takes a deep breath, and then it’s on to the next set.”
Brandon Woodruff stood out against Pittsburgh, throwing six solid innings to make it 2-1 the day after Corbin Burnes dominated. He took a hit in the sixth inning before former teammate Daniel Vogelbach ruined it with a single to the center.
THE SCORE OF THE BOX: Brewers 4, Pirates 2
After: Hoby Milner didn’t even think he’d make the Brewers’ spring roster. Now he excels in the bullpen.
After: Brewers infielder Luis Urías will start playing in rehab games this week
Devin Williams was shaking a day after looking dominant as he continues to find his groove as a preparer ahead of Josh Hader.
But Brad Boxberger did his job in the seventh and Hader was solid again closing the game in the ninth, saving his sixth game in as many chances as he continues to progress to become the franchise’s all-time leader. in this category.
Eight hits on offense weren’t all that impressive, but Rowdy Tellez and Keston Hiura both homered – the second in as many days for Tellez and the first in the majors since June 28 for Hiura.
Hiura entered the second deck on the right and was a three-point shot in the seventh that ultimately weighed heavily considering the two runs Pittsburgh put up the next inning.
Brandon Woodruff is almost caught
The spring numbers looked horrendous to Woodruff – he was the first to admit it.
The right-hander lost all three starts, posted a 10.80 ERA and 1.71 WHIP while giving up six home runs in 11 ⅔ innings, but said when camp broke he felt good physically and his shots were where they needed to go into the season.
His first start against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 9 was unquestionably lousy, as he allowed six hits, seven runs and three walks in 3 ⅔ innings.
Woodruff’s next outing, in Milwaukee’s home opener, was better — five shutout innings, three hits and a walk with the same exact pitch count of 89.
Then on Wednesday, it looked like the woodruff of yesteryear. He allowed Vogelbach’s only hit, a pair of walks and struck out nine – more than double his total punches in his previous two starts combined – while throwing 95 pitches.
“Well, if you look closer, today would have basically been the last start of a full spring training,” he said. “I don’t want to say I’m caught up; I still feel like I can do some things better. Today was a good day, don’t get me wrong. But there are always things to improve.
“I feel like between the last outing and this outing, I’m starting to do some things better and things are starting to show up on the mound. It’s good. Now it’s becoming consistent with that and I’m trying to ride like this for as long as possible.”
Expect Woodruff’s fastball speed to start to pick up as the weather also begins to warm up.
It was unusual to see Wednesday that the 24 fastest pitches of the game came from Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller. Woodruff’s hardest pitch was a 97 mph fastball committed by Ke’Bryan Hayes in the first inning.
Still, Woodruff generated 18 swings and misses compared to Keller’s 11, showing his business is good. Woodruff threw his four seams 35% of the time and got nine of his 18 puffs with it. Only his change, which he launched at 15%, generated a higher rate.
Three of his nine strikeouts have come against Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh’s best player.
“I thought he was really locked up,” Counsell said. “Even his misses were borderline, just wide of the plate. Frankly, they dismissed a lot of his balls just wide of the plate. The problem with Woody is that there are no grounds free for them.
“Every pitch they had to work to even win a ball because they were right there and his fastball was very, very good all game long. He was getting on the batter. Everybody was 95 and getting on the batter . “
The outing was the seventh in Woodruff’s career in which he went six or more innings while allowing one hit or less. The last time came in San Diego, on April 19 of last season.
Vogelbach makes brewers pay
Well, pirates have been finally swept away.
But the big first baseman/designated hitter had a big streak against his former team, racking up four hits (including a Burnes homer) to go along with two walks and an RBI while bouncing between start at bat and the cleaning.
Milwaukee could have brought Vogelbach back for 2022 but refused to offer him a contract just before the lockout, leaving him a free agent. He eventually signed with the Pirates, and you have a feeling he’s going to continue to be a thorn in the side of the Brewers for some time to come.
“Vogey is great at ball-striking (recognition),” Counsell said. “He doesn’t swing at balls and he’s very good at it.”
Indeed, after fouling to start the game, Vogelbach drew an eight-pitch walk from Woodruff in the fourth before scoring down center in the sixth for Pittsburgh’s first hit of the game.
Tyrone Taylor was positioned pretty deep defensively; in a normal line-up, he or Lorenzo Cain might well have had a chance to drop the ball.
“I think you can kind of rely on him – even when he was with us – he’s going to take the first two pitches until he gets to two strikes and then he’s so hard to pull back,” said said Woodruff. “He’s got such a good eye. He’s tough in that regard because you know if you make it 0-2 you still have to make good throws because he’s not going to leave the area.
“To his credit. He’s a badass. I waved him aside after he got the hit. He’s a great guy. I miss him.
“He’s a good guy and a friend of ours.”
Vogelbach, who left Milwaukee with a .324 ERA and is tied for the team lead with two homers, will get his next shot with the Brewers next Tuesday through Thursday at PNC Park.
A-plus for defenseincluding sensational play by Willy Adames
There was a real gem of the defensive web by the Brewers, with Willy Adames going deep in the hole to glove a soft liner to shallow left field, then doubling Ben Gamel at first base to finish the seventh.
“It was obviously a big game,” Counsell said. “The throw was really good. It was a long throw – probably 200 feet – and he put it on the money.”
There were several others worth mentioning as well, starting with Hunter Renfroe’s diving take on Yoshi Tsutsugo’s sinking ocean liner right in the first.
Then, two outs later, Woodruff ended the inning himself by reaching out his throwing hand to stab a Diego Castillo revenant, then throwing to first for the out – an instinctive play that can very easily lead to an injured throwing hand. or fingers in the worst case.
“It was pure reaction and I was mad at myself after throwing it out there,” Woodruff said. “I thought he got hit a lot harder than he was, but he didn’t. It kind of hit my fingertips and I was able to go from there.
“It stung a bit but it was fine after that.”
Christian Yelich also made some fine moving plays on the left, closing out the day.
On Wednesday, the Brewers ranked 12th in the National League and 20th in the majors with a collective roster percentage of .984.