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Tipsheet: Brewers shrug off injuries, continue NL Central march

Tipsheet: Brewers shrug off injuries, continue NL Central march

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The Milwaukee Brewers have suffered one personnel setback after another this season, yet they remain atop the National League Central.

"We're getting hit with injuries," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "There's no reason to get upset about this. We have to deal with it. We're working on getting guys healthy. Not one of these injuries is a long-term thing. We will get these players back."

The Brewers edged the powerful Los Angeles Dodgers 2-1 Thursday to improve to 15-10 this season. They are two games up on the second-place Cardinals.

“It just shows what our pitching’s done,” third baseman Travis Shaw said. “Our pitching’s been unbelievable.”

Their latest bit of adversity was the loss of ace pitcher Corbin Burnes, presumably to COVID-19 protocol. “Corbin is on the injured list,” Counsell said Thursday afternoon. “I can't discuss it.”

So there is no way to project if this is a short-term issue – as the Cardinals hope with Adam Wainwright, who was sidelined by contact tracing – or a more significant problem.

Burnes is 2-2 with a 1.53 ERA, 49 strikeouts and zero walks this season.

“He's done historic stuff so missing him for any period of time hurts,” president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “I feel bad for Corbin. He's worked really hard to get to this point, to have this level of success and now he has to press pause. Clearly we want him back as soon as we possibly can get him.”

The Brewers are edging closer to full health. Outfielders Christian Yelich (back) and Lorenzo Cain (quadriceps muscle) are working their way back from injuries and like to return soon.

"It's all good news," Counsell said. "They're all out on the field going at fairly close to game speed."

That's not great news for the rest of the division, which continues to play .500 ball.

TALKIN’ BASEBALL

Here is what folks are writing about Our National Pastime:

Alden Gonzalez, ESPN.com: “The Dodgers on Tuesday lost a third game in a row for the first time since late August 2019. That loss, at home to the Reds, gave them seven over the course of nine games, so the Dodgers aren't unbeatable. Their offense has languished somewhat, but that will undoubtedly turn itself around. The serious questions are in their bullpen, especially with Corey Knebel, David Price and Victor Gonzalez now hurt. As of Wednesday morning, only two bullpens had a higher WHIP than that of the Dodgers -- the Rockies' and Tigers'. Those are, uh, not good teams.”

Michael Baumann, The Ringer:  “Nobody knows better than the Royals how fleeting a hot start can be; in 2003, Kansas City jumped out to a 16-3 record but lost the divisional lead by mid-May. After that season, it would be almost five years before the team regained sole possession of first place in the AL Central, even for a day. And, in the interest of transparency, it’s not like the Royals woke up on April 1 and turned into the 1975 Reds—they’ve been lucky as well as good. Kansas City is 6-1 against the woeful Tigers and Rangers and 9-7 against everyone else. The Royals are also 6-1 in one-run games and entered Wednesday night’s matchup in Pittsburgh with a run differential of just plus-3. They’re outperforming their Pythagorean record by three games; only Oakland has been as fortunate. These are all powerful indicators that the Royals will eventually drift back to the pack.”

Steve Gardner, USA Today: “Something you rarely saw even a decade ago has now become commonplace in today's game. In a lopsided contest, managers have decided it's better to use a position player to finish the game than bring in an actual relief pitcher for mop-up duty.  Most of the time, it ends up being just harmless fun. Like this exchange when Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo took the mound against fellow All-Star Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves. Freeman was 4-for-4 when he stepped in to face Rizzo in the bottom of the seventh. But he walked away as Rizzo's first career strikeout victim. Earlier in the day, infielder Alex Blandino of the Cincinnati Reds came in to get the final out in an 8-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. A quick run through Baseball-Referemce.com shows the addition of Rizzo, two other Cubs teammates and Blandino makes 17 different position players who have pitched so far this season. (The Nationals' Hernan Perez has done it twice!) And it's still April. At what point though, do these hijinks become less of a novelty and more of an aberration? We've already seen a trend toward more pitchers than hitters on MLB rosters. Why do the hitters have to pitch, too?”

Jordan Shusterman, FoxSports.com: “Fresh off their first postseason appearance since 2003, the Marlins entered 2021 with a tremendous amount of good vibes and a lot of reasons to be excited about the direction of the organization. Miami proved capable of hanging around with its big-budget counterparts in the NL East, thanks in large part to an exceptionally young starting rotation. A lot of that hype was centered on the promise of right-hander Sixto Sanchez, who dazzled in his debut in 2020 but has yet to pitch in 2021 because of a shoulder injury. Instead, it has been Trevor Rogers leading the charge so far for the Fish. After his start Monday, in which he out-dueled burgeoning Cy Young candidate Corbin Burnes (and just a couple of weeks removed from his going toe-to-toe with perennial Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom), Rogers’ ERA sits at 1.29, fourth-lowest in MLB. His 38 strikeouts are tied for eighth in all of baseball and are comfortably first among southpaws.”

Mike Axisa, CBSSports.com: “The Twins have been banged up a bit, Luis Arraez and Nelson Cruz are the only regulars who've stayed in the lineup and hit consistently, and 2020 AL Cy Young runner up Kenta Maeda has a 6.56 ERA in five starts. The Twins are bad at everything right now. Add it up and you get 13 losses in 15 games. Minnesota has also been hurt by MLB's new rules. When they play anything other than a traditional nine-inning game, they're losing . . . Last year the Twins went 3-1 in extra-inning games with the automatic runner at second base, and 4-4 in seven-inning doubleheader games. They weren’t great in those new rules games, though they were at least competitive. This year those games have been an automatic L.”

MEGAPHONE

“Everybody knows they’re a really good team. They’ve got a great lineup, a bunch of really good, disciplined hitters. I feel like, for me, I enjoy that challenge. It’s one of those things that makes you raise your game. I enjoy facing them because they’re a really good team.”

Brewers pitcher Eric Lauer, after improving to 6-0 in his career against the Dodgers.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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