PHILADELPHIA — One thing seemed clear when both Freddy Peralta and catcher Victor Caritini emphatically pumped their fists following an inning-ending strikeout of Nick Castellanos in the fourth on Friday night: The Brewers’ vaunted rotation is “back.”
Of course, it never really went anywhere, but the first turn through the rotation for Milwaukee’s highly regarded pitching trio did not go as planned. That trend continued into the second start for Peralta, but the third time proved to be the charm — albeit in a 4-2 loss against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
Peralta looked far more like the All-Star from 2021 than the guy who put up an 11.57 ERA through his first two starts this season. After allowing hits to two of the first three batters he faced on Friday — including an RBI double to Bryce Harper — Peralta buckled down on his way to striking out six over five innings of one-run ball.
“As the game went on, he just got better and better,” manager Craig Counsell said. “It was his fastball that just got better today. He just saw the results of what his fastball can do. He pitched really good with his fastball tonight.”
Peralta limited the damage to just one run in the first, then struck out the side in the second. After the Brewers tied the game at 1 in the top of the third, Peralta blew a 95 mph fastball past Harper for out No. 2 in the frame’s bottom half, then dotted the outside corner with a 95 mph fastball to Castellanos to end the frame — much to the delight of the batterymates.
“It was a big AB for the team — and for me, too,” Peralta said. “Caratini and me, we were working really good today. We were both connected and on the same page. We know Castellanos, he’s a great hitter, so it’s always good when I get him out quick like that.”
The Brewers returned the three key pieces to a rotation that ranked second in Major League Baseball last season in ERA (3.13), third in strikeouts (906) and posted the lowest opponents’ OPS (.611). Yet through three games, those three pitchers (Peralta, Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff) — all of whom had sub-3.00 ERAs last season — had combined to allow 13 runs in just 12 2/3 innings while racking up as many walks and hit batsmen (12) as strikeouts.
Peralta, who made “little adjustments” on Friday after the club discovered some minor mechanical issues on video from his first two outings, became the latest to seemingly right the ship.
“It’s a good sign for me,” Peralta said. “It’s what I’ve been working on, and finally today, I was feeling a little more comfortable than the last two games.”
The best sign, perhaps, was the renewed life on Peralta’s fastball. He recorded five of his six strikeouts on the pitch, including firing a 96 mph heater past Rhys Hoskins on his 89th and final pitch of the night.
Overall, Peralta induced seven whiffs with his four-seamer and placed another seven in the zone for called strikes. Those are the types of results Peralta and the Brewers will be looking for from a pitch that ranked as the third-most effective four-seamer in the Majors last year in terms of run value.
“It’s really big, and it’s kind of what he set out to do today,” Counsell said of Peralta’s fastball-focused outing. “And I think he accomplished that.”