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Pitching gave Brewers hope, but bats threw them a curve

by The Associated. Press | October 14, 2021 at 2:31 a.m.
Cy Young Award candidate Corbin Burnes is one of three All-Star pitchers that had the Milwaukee Brewers believing they could make a long postseason run this year, but the Brewers may need to upgrade their lineup to advance to their first World Series since 1982. (AP/Aaron Gash)

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Brewers made a franchise-record fourth consecutive playoff appearance this fall and have the type of starting rotation that could enable them to keep that streak going in future years.

But their loss to the Atlanta Braves in the National Leauge division series revealed they may need to upgrade their lineup if they're ever going to get back to the World Series for the first time since 1982.

A lineup that struggled to score runs at various points in the season produced a total of six runs in the four-game series. The Brewers went scoreless in 33 of 36 postseason innings.

"We've got the best pitching in baseball, I think," first baseman Rowdy Tellez said Tuesday after the Brewers were eliminated with a 5-4 Game 4 loss in Atlanta. "And I think just after this loss, it's tough. It's kind of devastating. We didn't think it would be like this."

The Brewers won 95 games and took over sole possession of the NL Central lead for good in June, but postseason frustration continued for a franchise that has never won the World Series.

Milwaukee was a game away from getting to the World Series in 2018 before losing Game 7 of the NL Championship Series at home to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Brewers haven't won a playoff series since.

The Brewers had reason to believe they could make a long postseason run this year because of a rotation featuring three All-Stars in Cy Young Award candidate Corbin Burnes (11-5, 2.43 ERA), Brandon Woodruff (9-10, 2.56) and Freddy Peralta (10-5, 2.81).

"Those guys all took big steps forward," Manager Craig Counsell said. "And they want that label, I think, of what they've earned this year, and they deserve it. And I think they're not going to stop trying to go to the next place."

That pitching was good enough to help the Brewers roll to a division title without much hitting. The Brewers ranked 27th out of 30 MLB teams in batting average (.233), though they were 12th in runs scored (738).

Atlanta exposed the shortcomings of Milwaukee's lineup and left the pitching staff with little margin for error. When Atlanta's Freddie Freeman hit a tiebreaking home run off All-Star closer Josh Hader in the eighth inning of Game 4, the Brewers couldn't respond.

But they accomplished enough to believe they can put themselves back in contention next season.

"We're going to focus on next year and come back," Tellez said. "We're always going to be a force here."

The most obvious way for the Brewers to boost their lineup is for 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich to regain the form he showed his first two years in Milwaukee.

Yelich led the NL in OPS in 2018 and 2019 but has slumped the last two seasons. He batted .248 with just nine home runs and 51 RBI in 117 games this year. The Brewers' season ended Tuesday when Yelich struck out looking with the tying run on first.

The 29-year-old Yelich is set to make $26 million each of the next seven seasons, though $4 million of that will be deferred each year.

"I understand that I've got to play better, I've got to be better," Yelich said. "Kind of take the offseason and figure out a way to do that and keep moving."

Milwaukee Brewers' Avisail Garcia (24) heads home on an RBI single hit by Milwaukee Brewers Omar Narvaez during the fourth inning of Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Milwaukee Brewers' Avisail Garcia (24) heads home on an RBI single hit by Milwaukee Brewers Omar Narvaez during the fourth inning of Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Milwaukee Brewers' Omar Narvaez (10) follows through on his RBI single against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning of Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Milwaukee Brewers' Omar Narvaez (10) follows through on his RBI single against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning of Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Milwaukee Brewers' Avisail Garcia (24) slides in to home as Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud (16) misses the tag during the fourth inning of Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Milwaukee Brewers' Avisail Garcia (24) slides in to home as Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud (16) misses the tag during the fourth inning of Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Willy Adames, left, speaks with Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Luis Urias during the seventh inning of Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves , Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Willy Adames, left, speaks with Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Luis Urias during the seventh inning of Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves , Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Milwaukee Brewers' Luis Urias (2) avoids a ball at the plate pitched by Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek (68) during the eighth inning of Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Milwaukee Brewers' Luis Urias (2) avoids a ball at the plate pitched by Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek (68) during the eighth inning of Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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