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Starting Rotation, Josh Hader Biding Time For Slumping Offense

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With the first month of the 2022 Major League Baseball season in the books and the Milwaukee Brewers have taken early control of the National League Central, winning eight of their last 10 games including five in a row to build a three-game lead over the second-place Cardinals.

Since dropping two of three to the Cubs at Wrigley Field to open the season, Milwaukee has not lost a series (5-0-1) and have lost consecutive games just one time — to the Cardinals on April 15-16.

They’ve done all this despite getting very little in terms of offensive production until the final week of the month, a feat made possible by a pitching staff that has established itself as of of the best not just in the National League but all of baseball.

Here’s a look back at what worked and what didn’t in April, and what lies ahead as the calendar flips to May in Milwaukee:

What Worked

Starting rotation

Everyone and their cousin knew that Milwaukee’s biggest strength this season would be its starting rotation and the group, anchored by reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes, has lived up to the expectations so far.

That Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta are off to such impressive starts isn’t surprising. The three were expected to carry the load for the Brewers this season but the work of right-hander Adrian Houser and left-hander Eric Lauer is a big reason for Milwaukee’s strong showing in April.

Late-inning relief

It took a little time for setup man Devin Williams to settle in but he’s started to show the form that made him one of the most feared relievers in baseball the last two seasons but Josh Hader has been flat-out unhittable so far, converting all 10 of his save opportunities. The left-hander has yet to allow a run in 10 innings of work and has held opponents to just two hits in 30 at-bats while striking out 15 and walking only four.

What Didn’t

Offense

Though they started showing signs of life over the final week, the Brewers’ bats spent most of the month as cold as the below-average temperatures that have plagued Milwaukee’s spring.

Prior to an 11-1 rout of the Cubs on April 29, Milwaukee had scored double-digit runs just once this season — a 12-8 victory over the Pirates earlier in the week.

Middle Relief

To be fair, this is more of a “work-in-progress” rather than something that flat-out didn’t work. Because of the aforementioned offensive woes, Milwaukee has found itself in a steady stream of close games and, as a result, has had to rely heavily on it’s three-headed monster of Hader, Devin Williams and Brad Boxberger to cover the late innings.

On nights that trio isn’t available, or when games are not quite as tight one way or the other, Counsell has turned to the likes of left-hander Hoby Milner and right-handers Trevor Gott and Jake Cousins to eat innings.

So far, all three have had moments of excellence as well as their fair share of hiccups.

He Said It

“Everybody would like to see eight, nine, 10 runs on the board every single night but that’s not how it works in this league.” — Christian Yelich, on the team’s offensive woes to start the season.

By The Numbers

6 — Home runs hit by Milwaukee in an 11-1 victory over the Cubs on April 29, the most in one game by a Brewers team since hitting seven in a 15-14 victory over the Nationals on Aug. 17, 2019.

3 — Number of strikeouts Hader needs to reach 500 for his career.

Transactions

April 6 — Acquired C Victor Caratini from San Diego in exchange for C Brett Sullivan and OF Korry Howell (minors).

April 7 — Acquired C Alex Jackson from Miami in exchange for SS Hayden Cantrelle (minors).

April 13 — Traded 2B Jamie Westbrook to Detroit for cash considerations.

April 19 — Traded LF Dustin Peterson to Philadelphia for cash considerations.

April 26 — Placed Caratini on 10-day injured list; recalled Jackson from Triple-A Nashville.

Injury Report

INF Luis Urias (strained left quad)

Urias, who appeared in just one Cactus League game before suffering a quad injury began a minor league rehab assignment on April 16. … C Victor Caratini was placed on the COVID-19 IL on April 26.

What’s Next

The Brewers open the month with a chance to sweep the rival Cubs then get their first look at the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds who come to town for a three-game series. After that, it’s back on the road for a rematch with the defending World Series Champion Braves, who brought Milwaukee’s season to an end in the NL Division Series last year.

The Braves and Brewers will wrap up their six-game season series later this month at American Family Field and Milwaukee closes out the month with a double-header against the Cubs in Chicago.

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