Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Burnes bounces back, but offense falters
Deprive a team of much of its top talent, and the results usually aren't going to be pretty.
With eight members of their opening-day roster currently on the injured list – Willy Adames becoming the latest Saturday with his concussion sidelining him for at least seven days – the Milwaukee Brewers continue their downward spiral.
By virtue of their 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants at American Family Field, they have now dropped 8 of their last 11 series after beginning the season by winning five of six.
At 27-25, the Brewers are still in first place in the NL Central Division standings, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates by a half-game.
But a seven-game road trip lurks, with the first three at the offensively scary Toronto Blue Jays beginning on Tuesday, and no real reinforcements on the horizon aside from the potential return of infielder Luis Urías.
So one would have to think the goal for now is to tread water, try to avoid any lengthy losing streaks and hope the streaky offense finally begins to show some signs of life.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday's loss:
Corbin Burnes looked much better this time out
A start after surrendering four home runs in a loss to the Houston Astros, Corbin Burnes delivered what was maybe his second-best start of the season.
The right-hander went seven innings -- one shy of his previous high at Arizona on April 11 -- and allowed four hits, a run and three walks with eight strikeouts.
His punchout total also matched his effort from April 11 while his 110 pitches were his most since last Sept. 3.
"I think overall, outside of the three walks, we did a better job of getting ahead," Burnes said. "This is a lineup that we've seen a couple of times, with a couple of new faces but for the most part we knew what they were doing up there.
"The cutter was probably the best it's been in a long time, so we were able to attack with the cutter and get ahead. The changeup and curveball were good. I feel like I threw really well, but you have to tip your cap to the guy on the other side (Logan Webb) who threw the ball even better."
Indeed, the cutter was the most effective pitch of the day as Burnes threw 61 of them, inducing 32 swings and nine of his 17 swings and misses. After that it was mostly changeup and curveball with a few sinkers mixed in.
The lone run Burnes allowed was as much his own doing as leadoff hitter LaMonte Wade Jr. reached on a broken-bat single, went to second on a walk, advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw and scored on Michael Conforto's sacrifice fly.
From that point Burnes dialed it in and retired 16 of the next 18 batters before really having to dig deep and strand a pair in the seventh.
"I thought his stuff was just really good today," manager Craig Counsell said. "I thought the first inning was a little scattered and then after the first inning it was wonderful, really. He pitched really, really well. Everything was working. Threw a lot of good cutters today.
"So, that led to a really good outing." Unfortunately for Burnes and the Brewers the bullpen failed to keep it a 1-1 game after the offense tied it against Webb in the seventh, as Peter Strzelecki gave up the deciding two-run homer to Mitch Haniger with two outs in the eighth.
In his last three starts, Burnes has received a total of three runs of support behind him. He's also received one or fewer runs in four of his 11 starts.
The Brewers offense has been, well, offensive this series
To struggle against Webb, one of the best pitchers in the National League, is nothing to be ashamed of.
But the Giants also shut the Brewers out in the series opener Thursday despite using six pitchers in a bullpen game, then blew Milwaukee's doors off Friday behind the pedestrian -- but left-handed -- Alex Wood.
Including the 1-for-9 day with runners in scoring position on Saturday, the Brewers are now 1 for 18 with runners in scoring position for the series while plating a grand total of two runs.
Rookie Brice Turang tripled with two outs in the seventh and Victor Caratini singled him in to account for the lone run. Otherwise, the bottom five batters in the order were a combined 2 for 18 with eight strikeouts.
Coming out of Saturday's game, the Brewers ranked 23rd in the majors with a collective .232 average, 25th in OPS at .690, 25th in runs (4.0 per game, tied with San Diego) and fifth in strikeouts with 482.
"Look, we've been facing some adversity and we're not collectively swinging the bats well right now," Counsell said. "But it's this group that's going to have to lead us to runs. So, whenever you go in those stretches like this it's really frustrating for the offense, understandably, and puts a lot of pressure on the pitching.
"But we've just got to hang with these guys. And these guys have just got to keep going, keep having good atbats and keep working and the runs are
going to come."
Jesse Winker is searching for anything positive right now
Jesse Winker's 12-pitch at-bat in the ninth inning was one of the more impressive of the season for the Brewers.
Facing Giants closer Camilo Doval, Winker saw six pitches that registered in the triple digits in velocity before eventually grounding out to first to advance Brian Anderson to third.
That left Winker 0 for 4 on the day and dropped his season average to .204. He still hasn't hit a homer and is slugging just .315 -- a far cry from what the Brewers were expecting when they acquired him (and Abraham Toro) from the Seattle Mariners in the offseason in exchange for Kolten Wong.
Granted, Winker underwent a serious neck surgery as well as knee surgery in the offseason. But with the lion's share of designated hitter at-bats going to Winker and Luke Voit this season, the duo has combined to provide among the least amount of offense from the position in all of baseball.
"We've just got to get Jesse just good at-bats, squaring up the baseball. Hard contact," Counsell said before the game. "That's where we have to get to. He's been in a slump, there's no question about. He's struggled. But there's players that have the upside that you've got to stick with them.
"Because it's a player that has done really special things in this league not long ago, and he's been through a lot. It's hasn't started out the way he wanted it to, but we're in a position where we need to keep devoting at-bats to him and try to get him going."