August 13, 2022

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Brewers put on K clinic behind Peralta, Williams, Hader

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MILWAUKEE — Missing two of their middle of the order hitters, the Brewers were happy to let Freddy Peralta, Devin Williams and Josh Hader do the heavy lifting against the Braves on Monday.  

Peralta worked into the seventh inning for the first time this season and set a season high with 10 strikeouts before Williams and Hader authored a dominating finish to the Brewers’ 15th 1-0 win at American Family Field since this ballpark opened in 2001.

Eight of the Braves’ final nine hitters went down on strikes — two of three in the seventh inning against Peralta and then all six men who stepped to the plate against Williams and Hader. The 16 strikeouts for Brewers pitchers matched their season high. 

“Peralta was just spot on,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “You go back and look at the at-bats. He was painting the black and the stuff was good. Then, the other two guys, oh my God. Williams and Hader, they are about as good as it gets, too.”

“A lot of strikeouts,” Peralta said. “It’s normal for them, but it’s awesome.” 

With Brewers shortstop Willy Adames down with a left ankle injury and designated hitter Andrew McCutchen awaiting his escape from the COVID-19 injured list, runs are at a particular premium of late, and Monday’s trio made sure it only took one. The Brewers’ scoring against Ian Anderson and the Braves was limited to Hunter Renfroe’s scamper home on a sixth-inning wild pitch after he doubled and took third on Omar Narváez’s productive groundout.

That’s all that was required on a night Peralta surrendered two singles and one walk over seven stellar innings and then watched Williams and Hader fire fastballs the rest of the way. All three of Williams’ strikeouts came on fastballs, an encouraging sign as the league adjusts against his signature changeup. Hader then threw nine fastballs at least 98 mph, according to Statcast, most of any outing in his career, including the postseason. His previous best was seven fastballs at 98-plus in Game 163 against the Cubs in 2018, the day Hader sealed a division title.

“Honestly, I think that’s the best I’ve ever seen Devin pitch, and that’s looking really good going forward,” said Renfroe. “Hader was electric tonight, throwing 99 [mph] and hitting spots. That’s looking really good going forward into a pretty tough stretch here for a little bit. 

“The way they’re pitching, the way our starters are pitching, they’re going to give us a chance to win a lot of ballgames. We just have to step up to the plate and give them a few runs.”

Along the way, Peralta logged strikeout No. 500 in the 372nd inning of his career. Perhaps he dreamed of reaching strikeout milestones in the Major Leagues, but Peralta said he couldn’t have anticipated reaching this one in so few innings. Of active pitchers with at least as many Major League innings as Peralta, only Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer have more strikeouts per nine innings than Peralta, who wasn’t even aware he was approaching 500. 

“I had no idea,” he said. “It’s very special for me.”

Peralta’s only pressure point came in the first inning when Austin Riley singled with two outs and Marcell Ozuna worked a walk. Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud lined a pitch down the third-base line where Milwaukee’s Jace Peterson made an inning-ending catch, and Peralta cruised the rest of the way. 

Peralta said that play “changed everything.”

“He got locked in and for seven innings; he was just even and smooth and didn’t get into trouble,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.

After some wobbly starts to begin his season, Peralta is settling in. He has a 1.57 ERA over his last five starts while holding opposing hitters to a .168 average (17-for-101) and no home runs.  

“Freddy’s a good pitcher,” Counsell said. “A couple of uneven starts at the beginning, but he’s kind of reigned in his breaking ball a little better here, and that’s kind of the equalizer. It makes his fastball better. His breaking ball has just been competitive a lot. His early starts, he missed by a pretty good margin with his breaking ball and kind of gave hitters some free pitches, but there’s none of that any more.” 

Said Renfroe: “It’s one of those games where you go out there, grit your teeth and grind out at-bats. Whatever happens, happens. A [wild pitch] wins the game.”

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