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Brewers take three of four against Padres

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1:53 AM UTC

SAN DIEGO — The Brewers’ most dramatic victory this season had brilliant pitching from Wade Miley, suddenly so important to a starting rotation missing one of its co-aces. 

It had no-room-for-error relief from Peter Strzelecki and Devin Williams, both in their first full seasons with elevated bullpen roles. It had old-school run manufacturing from rookie Garrett Mitchell. And there was something new, too, as everyone was reminded of how MLB’s new rules can impact a tight ballgame. 

When Williams’ 33rd pitch — a full count pitch with two outs and the bases loaded — froze old teammate-turned-foe Trent Grisham for a 1-0 Brewers win over the Padres, Milwaukee had taken three of four games in a series on the road against one of the best teams in the National League. 

“Huge, huge, huge,” said Miley. “I think people are starting to realize we’re a really good team, too.” 

Here are three moments that defined the 2023 Brewers’ defining win:

After a dream Opening Week, the reality of MLB has set in for Brewers rookies Mitchell, Brice Turang and Joey Wiemer on this long road trip. The Brewers’ talented trio went into Sunday hitting a collective .170 on the trip with 21 strikeouts in 53 at-bats. 

So, after Padres starter Yu Darvish struck out Christian Yelich, Willy Adames and Rowdy Tellez on 10 pitches in the top of the first and then sawed William Contreras’ bat in half at the handle for a groundout to open the second, Mitchell dug into the batter’s box and had an idea. He was 4-for-22 with 12 strikeouts over his last six games including 0-for-8 in this series. 

“I saw [third baseman Manny] Machado was not super far back, but not super in,” Mitchell said. “Right before Darvish got set, I made the decision I was going to put the ball down and see what happens.” 

Mitchell is a problem for pitchers when he’s on base. He took second on the afternoon’s pivotal moment, when Darvish, on his second throw over to check Mitchell at first base, was charged by home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi with a third disengagement, and thus, a balk. It marked only the second time that particular rule has been enforced across MLB this season. 

“It was right when I got on first, he had stepped on the rubber and then stepped off … to, like, restart,” Mitchell said. “So QB [first base coach Quintin Berry] and I had checked and asked, ‘Is that one disengagement?’ They said yes. I think, obviously, there was not a clear indication on [the Padres’] side whether that had counted or not. It’s an interesting play, to say the least.”

It was a game-changing play. Mitchell stole third base without a throw, then scored on Brian Anderson’s sacrifice fly to left field. 

“To me,” Miley said, “that’s cool, old-school baseball. … That’s beautiful. It was my job to go out and try to keep it there.”

2. Miley’s pinpoint control

If there’s one at-bat to exemplify how Miley, 36, commanded the baseball, it was his third meeting with Machado leading off the sixth inning. 

Miley threw a changeup to the low and away spot he wanted and didn’t get the call, pushing Machado’s count to 3-1. The last thing Miley wanted to do was put the leadoff hitter aboard in a one-run game with Juan Soto, Nelson Cruz and Jake Cronenworth coming up for their third looks at the veteran left-hander, but Miley stubbornly kept picking on the same spot. 

His next pitch was a cutter, and he got a called strike to Machado’s dismay. The next pitch was another changeup in precisely the same spot, and Machado went down with a defensive swing.

“Right there, I’m not going to let him beat me,” Miley said. “I got super nibbly.” 

Miley would pitch through the seventh, allowing four hits and no walks with eight strikeouts — his highest total in 23 starts as a Brewer in the regular season or postseason. He has a 1.50 ERA through three starts. 

“It’s not done with a lot of velocity, but it’s done where the hitter feels like he’s on defense a little bit,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “The hitter has to cover a lot of different parts of the strike zone at a lot of different speeds. That’s just pitching. With Wade, it’s a lesson in how to pitch. That’s what he’s doing.”

Williams and Grisham go all the way back to the Brewers’ Minor League system, when Grisham was known as Trent Clark.

“I’ve played with him, against him,” Williams said. “When I pitched here last year, I faced him three straight days, and then at our place, I faced him again. Now, we’re back here and I’m facing him again. We know each other very well.”

That means Grisham has as good a feel as any Padre for what Williams is thinking. By then, Williams was feeling the effects of throwing 32 pitches at the sped-up pace required by the pitch timer, which particularly impacts a methodical worker. He walked Soto to lead off the inning, then surrendered a two-out single to Ha-Seong Kim and walked Austin Nola. Williams’ misses were mostly close, but they were misses.

With the winning run in scoring position, Grisham, too, got to a full count. Contreras had already visited the mound. So had Brewers pitching coach Chris Hook. Williams needed every second the pitch timer offered.

“I don’t know if you guys noticed, but it was down to one,” he said. “I was watching it. I was aware.”

A pitcher possessing one of baseball’s best changeups threw a 93.7 mph fastball at the top of the zone.

Grisham watched a game-ending Strike 3.

“I don’t want to give away too much because I’m going to see him again,” Williams said, “but I had a feeling he was looking for a changeup there.”

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Brewers take three of four against Padres Reviewed by RP on April 17, 2023 Rating: 5

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