Pitching staff doing part to keep Brewers in hunt

Pitching staff doing part to keep Brewers in hunt

PITTSBURGH -- Even with one notably subpar stretch of starting pitching -- during which the team lost 16 of 19 games in late August and early September -- the Brewers are on pace for their second-best staff ERA in more than two decades. While aware that offensive numbers are suppressed this season throughout baseball, it is one of the realities giving general manager Doug Melvin some confidence heading toward 2015.

Milwaukee figures to head into next season with at least the top four spots in the starting rotation settled, including Yovani Gallardo, whose $13 million club option is all but certain to be exercised. Jimmy Nelson and Mike Fiers would be among the returning candidates for the final spot.

"I don't think there's a need to go out and try to get another starter," Melvin said. "We probably have to look at our offense. That's the issue that's probably hurt us more."

Including Wily Peralta's one-run, seven-inning outing in the loss to the Pirates on Sunday, the Brewers' composite ERA is 3.69, which is the ninth-best mark in 46 seasons of franchise history -- despite only being good for 10th of 15 National League teams. Since 1992, the only better pitching season for the Brewers was 2011, when a rotation led by Gallardo and Zack Greinke, and a bullpen anchored by a lights-out John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez pitched the Brewers toward the NL Championship Series with a 3.63 ERA.

Put differently, this is the Brewers' second-best pitching season in the Miller Park era.

Peralta's outing on Sunday marked the Brewers' 100th quality start of at least six innings and three or fewer earned runs, trailing only the Braves (107) and Nationals (101) in the Majors.

The bad news for the Brewers was that their offense remained in a deep funk in a 1-0 loss. The Pirates scored in only two innings in the series, and won two games. So far on their road trip, Brewers pitchers have surrendered only 12 runs in six games, but Brewers hitters have scored eight runs.

Is it surprising that the Brewers have lost four of the six with such quality pitching?

"Yeah, it is," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We've done a really good job pitching."

At least that bodes well for 2015.

"I think it's real important [to have that group returning intact for 2015] to what we're doing," Roenicke said. "We know we need starting pitching. If we're going to compete in this division, we have to be able to match these other guys. The four other teams in our division have good starters, and we'd better be able to pitch with them."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.