Brewers Bullpen with Key Performance in Playoff Push
The 2017 edition of the Milwaukee Brewers were a topic for conversation in the early going of the season as they were leading a division that many people thought the world champion Chicago Cubs would run away with. While the Cubs did end up taking the division, the Brewers didn’t make it as easy as most of us thought.
It is the end of September and to the surprise of many, the Brewers are making a huge push for the second wild card spot. As of Friday morning, the Brew Crew found themselves just two games back of the Colorado Rockies with three games to play. A huge win over the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park on Thursday night played a pivotal roll in keeping the postseason hopes alive in Wisconsin.
All of the offense in Thursday night’s game came between innings four and six, but the real story of the contest came in innings seven, eight, and nine. After taking a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth, the Brewers sent revamped reliever, Anthony Swarzak, to the mound in an effort to maintain the lead.
Swarzak walked two in the seventh, one of those was issued intentionally and intelligently to Joey Votto with the speedy Billy Hamilton on second, but he managed to pitch around it and hold the one run lead. Manager Craig Counsell decided to send Swarzak back in, perhaps in an effort to instill confidence before a potential playoff run, to begin the eighth.
The right hander out of Fort Lauderdale got two outs to start the inning before walking Adam Duvall. With Stuart Turner coming up for the Reds, Counsell decided to stay with Swarzak instead of bringing in his all star closer, Corey Knebel. Just when it looked like Swarzak might lose Turner, he came up with a huge strikeout out on a big breaking ball that dove into the dirt. It was his 37th pitch of the outing, his second most all season, and it was a big one. Swarzak gave a fired up fist bump, Stephen Vogt made the throw down to first, and Knebel prepared to come in and shut things down.
Those of you that have gotten to watch Corey Knebel this season know him as a dominant asset in the late innings. The product of UT Austin and his near triple digit fastball came in for the ninth in an attempt for his 39th save of 2017. Knebel did what Knebel does best and struck out the first two batters before getting Patrick Kivlehan to ground out innocently to end the game.
It was a huge performance in a high leverage situation for the Brewers bullpen. While the Brew Crew coming up short of the playoffs is still a huge possibility, performances like this in September are always noteworthy. A lot of praise should go to Swarzak, Knebel, and manager Craig Counsell for giving us a little excitement in late September.
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