Patient approach has Brewers walking tall

Milwaukee works six free passes against Keuchel during win vs. Astros

Patient approach has Brewers walking tall

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell spent a chunk of his morning meeting with reporters on Sunday lauding his hitters' patience, and it took those hitters only an inning to prove Counsell's point.

Domingo Santana led off the bottom of the first with one of the Brewers' four walks in a two-run inning against reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel. It was the first of six walks against Keuchel, matching his career high, and seven Brewers walks in the game, a 3-2 win that capped Milwaukee's patient opening homestand.

Small sample alert, but the Brewers walked 26 times in their first six games, their highest total since walking 29 times in the first six games of 2009.

"I've been very pleased with what we've done," Counsell said. "As much as anything, the walks we're drawing -- that's the part I like about how we're starting out. Our patience at the plate, at least the quality of our at-bats, I'm really pleased with that. So that's probably the No. 1 thing that sticks out."

Last year, the Brewers ranked 25th of 30 teams with 412 walks, an average of 2.5 walks per game. In the opening week of 2016, they averaged 4.3 walks per game.

"I give our hitters credit," Counsell said. "Keuchel's M.O. is to nibble around the strike zone. He has late movement and the ability to make a ball look like a strike. He got a little late movement out of the zone and we did a nice job laying off."

Aaron Hill made Keuchel pay for those first-inning walks when he dropped a two-run single in front of right fielder George Springer. It gave the Brewers a lead for good.

Does the team's patience qualify as an early season surprise?

"I don't think so," Hill said. "Watching these guys in Spring Training, you saw some great hands, some great eyes and a lot of talent offensively. It will be fun to get them a year of at-bats and see what they can do with this. It's a great opportunity for some of them.

"Those guys feel good. They took Spring Training into the season. A lot of guys are swinging well."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.