Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader rose to the occasion, but another key member of the vaunted bullpen, eighth-inning change-up specialist Devin Williams, continues to struggle.
Hader preserved a 6-5 victory over St. Louis on Sunday for his 100th career save, giving the host Brewers a split of their weekend series with the Cardinals heading into their three-game set against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates, who have won four of their past five.
Left-hander Eric Lauer (0-0, 6.23 ERA) will start for Milwaukee in the series opener on Monday night, while the Pirates will counter with right-hander Zach Thompson (0-0, 4.50).
Hader, the NL Reliever of the Year three of the last four seasons, pitched a perfect ninth against the heart of the Cardinals’ order. The hard-throwing left-hander got Paul Goldschmidt on a bouncer to third and then fanned Tyler O’Neill and Nolan Arenado for his fourth save of the season.
“No reliever’s had a better start to his career than Josh Hader in the history of the game,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “I’m not exaggerating; that’s a fact. I don’t think it’s really disputable.”
Williams, however, gave up two runs on two hits with two walks, getting just two outs in the eighth. Trevor Gott had to get the final out of the inning. In his previous outing, Williams, the 2020 NL Reliever of the Year, gave up two runs on two hits with a walk and hit batter, getting just one out.
“Some of the misses today, he was really down with the change-up,” Counsell said. “The other thing is, right now the fastball’s maybe not getting by hitters and setting it (change-up) up.”
The Brewers’ offense, which produced just one run in each of the two back-to-back losses to St. Louis, showed signs of improvement in Sunday’s victory, as well as patience, drawing seven walks.
Lauer allowed four runs, three earned, on three hits in 4 1/3 innings in his first start, a 5-4 victory over Baltimore on Tuesday, with all the runs coming on a second-inning grand slam by Cedric Mullins.
Lauer is 2-2 with a 2.66 ERA in eight career games against Pittsburgh, including seven starts. He was 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA in four games, three starts, against the Pirates last season, allowing three earned runs in 18 innings.
Thompson will make his second start of the season. In his first start, he exited in the fifth inning after being struck in the shoulder by a line drive. Thompson allowed two runs on five hits in four innings, striking out three and walking one.
Thompson, 3-7 with a 3.24 ERA last season with Miami, has never faced the Brewers.
Pittsburgh is coming off a 5-3 win over Washington on Sunday, rallying from a 3-0 deficit, to take three of four from the Nationals to cap a 4-2 homestand. The Pirates have come from behind in each of their five victories this season.
“I appreciate the fight,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “Getting down 3-0, we got down the other day in the first — they continue to battle. I think the thing about it is they play hard.”
“If you look at all the games we’ve won, there’s been a play — (Jake) Marisnick slides, Yoshi (Tsutsugo) beats out a ball, (Andrew) Knapp beats out a ball — little things like that that we’ve asked our guys to do,” Shelton said. “And just continue to play hard and play a full nine innings. I think we’ve done that.”
The Brewers were 14-5 last season against the Pirates, who finished 34 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central. The Brewers were 47-29 last season against division opponents, while the Pirates were 23-53.
–Field Level Media