Hader entered in the ninth inning and recorded three short, sweet outs for his 13th save of the season in the Brewers’ 2-1 series-opener win over the Marlins on Friday night at loanDepot park.
Fittingly, it was Friday the 13th (the only one of 2022).
With the outing, Hader broke the record for consecutive games to start a season with a save, passing Lee Smith (1994, Orioles) and Jose Mesa (2005, Pirates).
“He’s been as good as you can be,” manager Craig Counsell said. “That stat, it’s a little bit random that he’s been in there in those situations, but he’s been dominant. And we’ve seen this before from Josh.”
The save also marked Hader’s 34th consecutive scoreless appearance, covering 32 2/3 innings dating back to 2021, both of which are the longest active streaks of any Major League pitcher.
The secret to Hader’s success this season has been a combination of big strikeouts and pitching to contact. He’s allowed just two hits and five walks in his 12 1/3 innings this season while striking out 18. His approach is to attack early and try to get out of the inning as quickly as possible. And it’s working, and working well.
“We’re just trying to execute pitches and really keep the hitters off balance,” Hader said. “I can’t control if it’s a save or not. It’s a team, so I tip my cap to the team for always putting me in this situation. … It’s pretty sweet [to have saved No. 13].”
“[Hader was] unbelievable,” Jace Peterson said. “I don’t know how many one-run ballgames we won this year, but what he does on a day-in and day-out basis — comes out there and shuts the door — is remarkable. I don’t think he gets talked about enough really, to do what he does.”
But the save wouldn’t have been possible without an RBI walk from Peterson that broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the ninth inning. The walk was the culmination of the Brewers’ ability to get the first three runners of the inning on base against a pair of Marlins relievers (Tanner Scott and Anthony Bender).
Christian Yelich singled on the second pitch of the inning. Luis Urías was hit by a pitch. And Tyrone Taylor roped a clutch pinch-hit single over the head of right fielder Bryan De La Cruz, who had ended the previous inning with a catch at the wall (stranding a Crew baserunner).
“Tyrone’s hit was the big hit of the inning, and just put a lot of pressure on them,” Counsell said. “[It] put a lot of pressure on Bender to be perfect. He threw some great sinkers to [Hunter] Renfroe, and then just lost the strike zone a little bit against Jace.”
That ninth-inning run bookended seven scoreless innings for the Milwaukee bats, which went quiet after Kolten Wong hit a home run on the second pitch of the game. In the end, the squad’s lack of hitting against Miami’s potent Pablo López didn’t matter.
Neither did the one run that Corbin Burnes allowed in the third inning — a homer to Jesús Aguilar. Burnes delivered six scoreless innings around that one run while striking out seven over his seven innings of work. Though the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is shoving on the mound — evidenced by his 131 whiffs and 1.77 ERA in 45 2/3 innings — the Brewers have too often come out on the losing side of games he’s pitched.
On Friday night, they came out on the right side, despite continuing their stretch of minimal run support behind Burnes (19 runs in his seven starts, 2.7 runs per game).
“It’s weird. I don’t understand it, but that’s baseball,” Peterson said about the close games the Brewers have had behind Burnes. “There’s a lot of weird things that happen but you know, Corbin threw well, he always does, and fortunately we’re able to come out with a win. I wish we could have got more [runs] for him.”