PHILADELPHIA — Through four innings on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park, it felt like more of the same for the Brewers and starter Adrian Houser.
A couple of miscues led to some early runs for the Phillies, while the Brewers were once again being held scoreless behind Houser, who had received no runs of support over 9 1/3 innings in his first two starts. But that all changed in the fifth inning when Hunter Renfroe ripped a leadoff double — one of his three hits on the day — that served as the turning point in Milwaukee’s 5-3 comeback win.
But Renfroe and Houser weren’t the only Brewers hoping that Saturday’s victory serves as a watershed moment for the season, as a whole. Setup man Devin Williams flashed some encouraging signs of his own while breezing through the eighth inning before handing the ball to closer Josh Hader.
While it was business as usual for Hader — he tossed a perfect inning for his seventh scoreless outing in as many appearances this season — here’s a closer look at each of those other three players and what Saturday’s performances may mean moving forward.
1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 K (nine pitches)
Williams looked a lot more like the nearly untouchable reliever from the last two years than the one who has struggled to find his groove over this season’s first two weeks. Facing the top of the Phillies’ order with the Brewers clinging to a 5-3 lead, Williams needed only nine pitches to retire the side.
The right-hander got Jean Segura to swing through a changeup for the first out, then erased a Rhys Hoskins single by getting Bryce Harper to ground into an inning-ending double play. Of Williams’ four changeups that the Phillies swung at, three resulted in whiffs and the fourth was Harper’s double-play ball.
“Both Devin and Josh had tough innings with the hitters faced and they were both really efficient,” manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s great to see Devin just be efficient with the pitches. … So just good, clean innings for both of them.”
3-for-4, HR, 2B, RBI, 2 R
Williams’ clean frame protected a lead that Renfroe helped build. Trailing 3-0 through four innings, Renfroe laced a leadoff double in the fifth to trigger a four-run inning that featured a pair of two-out RBI singles and a double steal of home.
Renfroe added an insurance run with a 402-foot opposite-field homer in the sixth, then singled in the ninth for his first three-hit game in his brief time with the Brewers.
“Just a big offensive game,” Counsell said. “We needed a big offensive game and Hunter kind of broke out. The home run to add on a run was big, so I thought Hunter had a really nice game.”
Though Renfroe had a three-strikeout day in Friday’s series opener, that came on the heels of hitting his first homer of the season on Tuesday and a multi-hit effort on Wednesday.
“Once you got a few at-bats under your belt, you’re obviously seeing the ball a little better, feeling a little more comfortable in the box,” Renfroe said. “We’ve got a tough stretch here with all the travel and stuff, but just gotta keep going out there, keep battling and do what you can.”
6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K
When Renfroe crossed the plate on Jace Peterson’s single in the top of the fifth, it marked the first time this season that Milwaukee had anything other than a zero on the scoreboard while Houser was in the game. The Brewers had scored just one run in his first two starts — and that came well after he had departed the game.
“I was just trying to go out there and keep us in the ballgame, especially after giving up three runs early,” Houser said. “Just trying to go out there, get outs, get the guys back in the dugout and let them get on a roll. It worked out. We got on a roll and they picked me up today. It was huge.”
Houser rewarded his offense by recording impressive shutdown innings in both the fifth and sixth. The righty forced an inning-ending double play from Hoskins in the fifth, then breezed through the heart of the Phillies’ order in the sixth. He fooled Harper with a well-placed changeup below the zone on a full count for the first out before needing just three more pitches to get Nick Castellanos and J.T. Realmuto.
“I thought it was a great game by Adrian,” Counsell said. “It’s one of those games that just shows how he’s gotten better. … They did a nice job to put us down 3-0, and then he was just really, really good after that. He just kept putting up zeroes, kept fighting, kept making good pitches. And that’s why we won the game.”
There figures to be plenty more wins on the horizon if Williams, Renfroe and Houser stay on this track — especially with Hader slamming the door.