Milwaukee bullpen boasts 1.61 ERA in last 28 frames
By Curt Hogg
MILWAUKEE -- If you feel like the Brewers have been playing nothing but close games recently, you're not alone -- just ask the bullpen.
Relief pitchers Michael Blazek and Tyler Thornburg pitched two scoreless inning to complete a 5-3 win against the Cubs on Thursday as Milwaukee wrapped up a seven-game homestand in which Brewers relievers were thrust into high-leverage situations time and time again.
"We always knew there was going to be a time where our starters got rolling and we'd be in a ton of close games," said Thornburg, who picked up his first career save on Thursday. "That's what you expect as a late-inning guy. You expect and want to pitch in every game."
Each of Milwaukee's last six games has been decided by either one or two runs. With little margin for error, the bullpen did its job in aiding the Brewers' series win over the Cubs and their first winning homestand of the season.
"[Close games] are fun," said Blazek, who has not given up a run since May 2 to lower his ERA to 2.14. "They're stressful, but they're fun. Everyone's ready to go. Everyone's adrenaline is racing in those situations."
Over a 28-inning stretch that spans nine games, Brewers relievers have only given up five earned runs, good for an ERA of 1.61.
With an influx of tight games comes the managerial quandary of how much rest to give relievers.
"We really have used pretty much the same guys and rode them pretty hard," manager Craig Counsell said. "We'll have to back off them a little bit, certainly."
That was the case for closer Jeremy Jeffress in the rubber match. Jeffress, who has 11 saves and a 2.50 ERA through 19 games, had pitched in each of the Brewers' last five games over six days and was unavailable to slam the door shut on the Cubs.
Thornburg, no stranger to high-leverage situations on the mound as Milwaukee's regular setup man, came on in his place. Despite walking Addison Russell and Miguel Montero to open the inning, Thornburg settled in, finalizing the save with a strikeout of Jason Heyward.
"I don't think any of us really care what inning we're throwing in as long as we get our job done as a bullpen," Thornburg said.
Curt Hogg is a reporter for MLB.com based
in Milwaukee.. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.