Counsell’s faith repaid
Closer Jeffress returns to form after shaky Game 1
MILWAUKEE — The Brewers weren’t just blowing smoke when they expressed confidence in closer Jeremy Jeffress after his rough outing Thursday night in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.
They proved that Friday night when they turned Game 2 over to him, clinging to a 1-0 lead over the Rockies and needing two innings from him.
Jeffress proved that faith was not misplaced by finishing the game and preserving a 4-0 victory to give the Brewers a 2-0 edge in the series heading into Game 3 on Sunday in Denver.
Manager Craig Counsell insisted his confidence in Jeffress never wavered after he blew a save opportunity the previous day, allowing two runs in the ninth inning.
“Before the series I’d said that this is a rested guy that we’re going to need to carry a heavy load this series,” Counsell said. “(Game 1) was not part of the equation for me. He’s an All-Star. He’s been one of the dominant relievers in this league this year.
“There was no hesitation at all. He is a guy that we’ll continue to count on and are going to need to make a really good run.
“I’m proud of him. You get thrown right back in the fire after Game 1 of the playoffs where you gave up some runs, and you’ve got to have a little fortitude. And knowing that you’ve got to get six outs, that’s not easy. I’m proud of him for handling it well and doing a nice job.”
That sort of belief means everything to Jeffress, who G1: G2: G3: G4: G5: was determined to reward it this time.
“I can’t put it into words, the confidence that Counsell has for me,” said Jeffress, who had 15 saves during the regular season as he took over the closer role the second half of the season. “I’m grateful. To see those two innings in front of me just gave me even more confidence to know I’ve got a lot of work to do.
“These games are very important, and we’ve got to have a short-term memory to go back out and just attack guys.”
Outside of Jeffress’ sketchy inning in Game 1, the Brewers’ pitchers have been successful attacking the Rockies’ hitters, holding them scoreless in the other 18 innings of the series.
Rockies manager Bud Black knows what his team is up against in Jeffress.
“He’s got a big arm with velocity and movement and a good breaking ball and a good split, so that tells you a little bit of what this guy is made of,” said Black. “I don’t know this fellow, but to bounce back and come back and pitch two innings and to put up a couple zeroes, it says a little bit about the makeup of this kid.”
Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, pitching on three days’ rest for the first time in his career, took care of the first five innings, working his way out of trouble in the first and third innings.
“He was magnificent,” Counsell said.
Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress reacts after getting Ryan McMahon to ground out to end Game 2 on Friday night.