SAN FRANCISCO – The Brewers brought the ball into play against Johnny Cueto and good things happened.
Lots and lots of good things.
En route to Tuesday’s 6-2 win over Cueto and the Giants at Oracle Park, there was soft contact, tough contact, and every imaginable kind of contact as the Brewers first got a double-digit divisional lead for a decade and for only the second season in franchise history.
Brandon Woodruff delivered six high-quality innings and Lorenzo Cain homered while racing two runs to expand National League Central-leading Brewers’ lead over the Reds in second place to 10 games after Cincinnati slept on Tuesday. The only time the Brewers had a bigger cushion in their division was in 2011, when they led up to 10 1/2 games on their way to the club record with 96 regular season wins.
After a 19th-9th Crowned by back-to-back wins behind Corbin Burnes and Woodruff over a Giants team that started the series with the best record in the MLB, the Brewers are back to a season high of 29 games over .500 with 29 games to go on August 8th.
“We can’t get complacent,” said Woodruff. “I think we have to keep going. We have to keep playing great baseball. If we think we have it now, that’s not a good attitude.”
He added: “Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a 10-game lead in the last month of the season.”
The Brewers had 10 hits and a 6-0 lead over Cueto before the veteran Giants starter couldn’t leave the fourth inning. Cueto’s only strikeout victim was Woodruff in the third, and that was after Woodruff laced a hit an inning earlier.
The Brewers scored the soft singles of Willy Adames (70.9 mph, according to the statcast) and Christian Yelich (57.8 mph) in each of the four innings Cueto started, starting with an initial two-run and a run-groundout from Avisaíl García, who dribbled at 40.9 mph to third base.
Hard contact worked just as well. Cain hit a home run in the second inning that left the racket at 103.7 mph, and Rowdy Tellez hit an RBI triple with two outs at 105.4 mph in the third. Yelich made the loudest contact against Cueto when he hit a 106 Hit, 9 mph single with two outs in fourth and then hit all the way from first base on an Omar Narváez bloop single that came in at 84.6 mph and covered 188 feet and fell in front of a sliding Alex Dickerson in left field, when the Giants started knocking the ball around.
“He never got the rhythm going,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Cueto, whose start was delayed by a day due to a non-COVID-19 illness. “I had the feeling that we made a lot of his pitches uncomfortable. And that’s difficult. We did a good job against him. “
The Brewers have been doing a better job in this department for a while. They had the sixth worst strikeout rate in baseball for the first three months of the regular season – one for every 3.84 record appearances. They were 16th of 30 teams with 4.32 runs per game.
But for the next two months, Milwaukee Hitters had the eighth highest strikeout rate on MLB – one for every 4.68 record appearances. Runs followed. The Brewers finished fourth in the majors in July and August with 5.1 runs per game.
Woodruff, meanwhile, kept out of contact with San Francisco while allowing a five-hit, three-walk run in six innings, slashing his ERA to 2.35. The Giants had two hits in the first five innings before Brandon Belt put them on the board with a solo home run in the sixth – his fifth homer against the Brewers in five games in August.
Woodruff stranded two runners to keep the score at 6-1 that inning before relievers Jake Cousins and Brent Suter finished the game. Cousins knocked out Belt and Buster Posey after dropping a pair of one-out walks on the seventh, and Suter covered the final two innings to secure a second straight win for Woodruff, who affectionately “Big” at the clubhouse Woo “is called.
“’Big Woo’ did ‘Big Woo’ things. Dominant as always, ”said Cain.
“It shouldn’t go unnoticed,” Counsell said. “He kept the best team in baseball on a run in six innings. And until five he was really dominant, honestly. “
How does a 10-game division lead sound to the manager?
“I don’t see anything different today than I saw yesterday than a week ago, two weeks ago,” said Counsell. “The challenge ahead is the next challenge. We have to answer it. There’s still a lot of baseball to play. A whole month of baseball. It’s a long way to go and so we have to think about it. When there is still a lot to do, it is easy to concentrate on the next day. “
So on to the next challenge.
“There’s no rebate on this team,” said Cain. “We know what to do. We have to do our business. We definitely cannot take September lightly. “