Chacín’s out­ing an ex­am­ple of how solid the starters have been

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Sports - Brew­ers Tom Hau­dri­court Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel USA TO­DAY NET­WORK – WIS.

While all the buzz on the free-agent pitch­ing mar­ket last win­ter cen­tered on where Jake Ar­ri­eta and Yu Darvish might go, the Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers – ru­mored to be in on both pitch­ers – qui­etly signed Jhoulys Chacín four days be­fore Christ­mas.

The two-year, $15.5 mil­lion didn’t get much at­ten­tion and not just be­cause folks were busy buy­ing hol­i­day presents. The 30-year-old right-han­der was con­sid­ered a lower-tier free agent de­spite a de­cent show­ing last sea­son in San Diego, where he went 1310 with a 3.89 earned run av­er­age for a ter­ri­ble team.

Fly­ing un­der the radar on the “Free Agent Track­ers” was just fine with Chacín, who wasn’t look­ing for head­lines.

“I just want to go out and do my job," Chacín said Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon af­ter toss­ing six im­pres­sive

in­nings in the Brew­ers’ tense 1-0 vic­tory over the Chicago Cubs (who have Darvish and his $126 mil­lion con­tract on the DL) at Miller Park.

"I was re­ally happy to sign here be­cause I wanted to come here. I saw the chem­istry as the vis­it­ing team last year and I said, ‘That’s a good team I want to go on.’ I re­ally want to win. I feel like this is a good team, a good choice for me to come to. I’m happy they gave me this op­por­tu­nity.”

Since three shaky out­ings to open the sea­son, Chacín has been a rock in the Brew­ers’ ro­ta­tion. Over his last 12 starts, he is 6-0 with a 2.66 earned run av­er­age. The mantra of every start­ing pitcher is “I just want to give my team a chance to win,” and Chacín has done ex­actly that. In his 15 starts, the Brew­ers are 12-3.

“I def­i­nitely feel great about it,” said Chacín, who caught the Cubs off guard by in­cor­po­rat­ing a new weapon in his pre­vi­ously lim­ited reper­toire, a splitfin­ger fast­ball that was mov­ing all over the strike zone.

“I’m glad I am help­ing the team. If we end up win­ning, that’s all that mat­ters. I’m happy about that.”

With a 6-1 record and 3.32 ERA, Chacín is part of an un­der­rated start­ing ro­ta­tion that gave the Cubs all they wanted in this se­ries, in­clud­ing shutouts on con­sec­u­tive days for the first time. Ju­nior Guerra, Chase An­der­son and Chacín com­bined to hold the Cubs to one earned run in 19 in­nings (0.47 ERA), al­low­ing 10 hits and seven walks with 17 strike­outs.

De­spite the lop­sided na­ture of the re­sults be­tween these teams – the Cubs have won eight of 11 meet­ings – the Brew­ers’ starters have done a com­mend­able job. In 63 1/3 in­nings, they have sur­ren­dered only 48 hits and 16 earned runs, which com­putes to a 2.27 earned run av­er­age.

The only prob­lem is Chicago’s pitch­ing, in­clud­ing its re­lief corps, has been even bet­ter, hold­ing the Brew­ers to a mere 16 runs.

Brew­ers man­ager Craig Coun­sell talked up his start­ing ro­ta­tion be­fore the se­ries fi­nale and cer­tainly had no rea­son to back off af­ter Chacín’s out­ing.

“That’s what I was al­lud­ing to ear­lier in the day, is that these guys are pitch­ing well,” Coun­sell said. “It’s in the num­bers and it’s in the re­sults. We saw that this week and the con­sis­tency has been re­ally im­pres­sive. No mat­ter who’s tak­ing the ball, we’ve got a chance to win.”

The Brew­ers’ bullpen has got­ten all of the love this sea­son from the out­side, and de­servedly so. Josh Hader is a strike­out rock star (75 in 38 in­nings), Jeremy Jef­fress leads all re­lief pitch­ers with a 0.53 ERA, and the sup­port­ing cast has been solid.

But the start­ing pitch­ers have kicked it into a higher gear, and don’t for­get, with­out Zach Davies, the 17game win­ner from a year ago who has been out with an ailing shoul­der. The ro­ta­tion has posted a 2.55 ERA over the past 12 games.

Coun­sell rarely asks his starters to go more than five or six in­nings but that’s be­cause his re­lief corps has been the team’s great­est strength. And, in the event you just re­turned from a fiveyear stay in the Ama­zon jun­gle, base­ball has be­come a bullpen game. Thus, the cre­ation of the word “bullpen­ing.”

“Our pitch­ing has been out­stand­ing all year,” said Lorenzo Cain, whose third-in­ning homer ac­counted for the only run in the se­ries fi­nale. “The start­ing pitch­ing, bullpen, have pretty much been car­ry­ing our team for the most part.

“We def­i­nitely need to step up as an of­fense and try to score some more runs. We’re putting too much pres­sure on our pitch­ers as a whole. They’ve been out­stand­ing, have been hold­ing the fort down for the team and do­ing a great job all year long.”

The Brew­ers ro­ta­tion is in the mid­dle of the pack in the NL with a 3.97 com­pos­ite ERA, a few clicks be­low Chicago’s ro­ta­tion (3.51), but that doesn’t tell the com­plete story. With no true No. 5 starter – that spot has been a re­volv­ing door – Davies con­tribut­ing lit­tle due to in­juries and Wade Mi­ley un­able to get out of the start­ing blocks be­fore go­ing on the DL, things have gone bet­ter than many ex­pected.

“They’ve been lights out, es­pe­cially this se­ries,” said closer Corey Knebel, who recorded the fi­nal three outs in dom­i­nant fash­ion. “Ju­nior, Chase, Chacín, all of them threw gems.

“We all know how it is here. Coun­sell likes go­ing to his bullpen. We’re all ready to go. The starters don’t get to go as deep as other teams. I guess they get pushed un­der the radar a lit­tle bit but they do their job for five or six in­nings, and we come in and do the rest.”

Which has been good enough to post 41 vic­to­ries, most in the Na­tional League.

BENNY SIEU / USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Jhoulys Chacín tossed six im­pres­sive in­nings Wed­nes­day to push his record to 6-0 in his past 12 starts with a 2.66 ERA.

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