MILWAUKEE — Coming off a supercharged series against the rival Dodgers, might the Padres be emotionally spent when the Brewers arrive in San Diego on Monday? It might surprise you to hear Brandon Woodruff hopes not.
“I think you want everybody’s best,” said Woodruff, who will tangle with Fernando Tatis Jr. & Co. in the opener of a three-game set. “I know it’s an emotional series for them [against L.A.], first time linking up this year. But, yeah, I think anytime you go out and play, you want everybody’s best.”
It’s Woodruff, Milwaukee’s Opening Day starter, in the 9:10 p.m. CT opener Monday followed by Corbin Burnes on Tuesday, when he’ll chase history. Burnes has 30 strikeouts and no walks through his first three starts. The all-time record for a starting pitcher is 35 strikeouts before issuing a single walk, a mark set by the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright in 2013.
Woodruff and Burnes are two big reasons the Brewers have one of baseball’s most formidable starting rotations. Entering Sunday’s games, Brewers starters led the National League in ERA (1.85), opponents’ average (.175), WHIP (0.86) and hits per nine innings (5.45) and were second with a 28.8% strikeout rate. Burnes led the league’s qualifying pitchers with a .067 average against and Woodruff was 10th at .164. Burnes led the league with a 0.22 WHIP and Woodruff was sixth at 0.76. Burnes was second to Jacob deGrom in the NL with a 48.4% strikeout rate and Woodruff was 11th at 29.2 percent.
When Adrian Houser starts Wednesday’s series finale, the focus shifts from swing and miss to contact. Houser is second in the NL with a 64.3% ground ball rate.
“They’re a good team. They got a lot of big names,” Houser said. “But I think at the end of the day, it doesn’t change how I approach each start and kind of how I’m going to pitch. Most of the times I just look at areas I can go to and I think the biggest thing for me is just not getting too predictable. … I try not to get too crazy with [scouting reports] and try to keep it as simple as possible because I think that’s what works for me.”
Woodruff will pitch opposite Joe Musgrove, who threw the first no-hitter in Padres history on April 9. That left the Brewers (Juan Nieves in 1987) with the second-longest no-hitter drought in baseball; only Cleveland (1981) has gone longer.
Haines: Injuries create opportunities
Yelich and Cain won’t play against the Padres and Wong probably will not, since he’s not eligible to come off the IL until Tuesday and manager Craig Counsell said he didn’t expect Wong to be ready immediately when his stint is up.
“I’m never going to say there’s a benefit to our All-Stars being down,” Haines said, “but I would say those guys getting these opportunities right now this early in the season — I think can pay very big dividends as we go forward because you always need those guys at some point.”
He was talking about the likes of Billy McKinney, the former top prospect who came to the Brewers via waivers from Toronto late last season and has been starting in left field with Cain and Yelich down. The Brewers also called up outfielder Tyrone Taylor this week.
“It takes your whole roster, man, to be good. It just does,” Haines said. “And you’re going to need those guys at some point. I think that can be the benefit of it. Billy, a guy like that usually just needs opportunity. If you look at his big league career, he hasn’t had a ton of opportunity. So, if we’re able to give him one, it will be exciting to see what he can do, and I think he’ll run with it.”
• Haines goes way back to the Minor Leagues with Yelich and knows how much it hurts the Brewers’ starting outfielder to sit on the IL, saying, “He just never wants a day off. He knows the responsibility he has to people paying to watch him play, and to the organization. He takes that as serious as anyone can take it. So, I know he’ll play it off a little bit, but I know deep down it hurts him, man. You can’t hurt Christian worse than him not being able to play.”
• Jackie Bradley Jr. has become the Brewers’ leadoff hitter with Cain and Wong sidelined, but he’s not up there hunting walks. Bradley had his first three-hit game in a Brewers uniform Saturday night and said, “I don’t want to be passive; I want to be aggressive with pitches that are in the zone. Swinging at strikes. It really bothers me a lot when I foul off pitches. Obviously, I know it’s part of the game, but pitches I feel like I can handle, sometimes it gets me in a bad count.”
• Luis Urías was out of the lineup Sunday after committing three errors Saturday to tie a dubious franchise record. The last Brewers player charged with three errors in a game was outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis in 2016.