February 3, 2023

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Rotation elders offer sage advice to Ashby

3 min read
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To paraphrase: Keep doing what you’re doing.

Ashby surrendered four runs over six innings with no walks, nine strikeouts and one changeup he wishes he could take back. Jake Cronenworth hit it for a two-run home run in the fifth inning that essentially put the game out of reach for an undermanned Brewers offense that has been shut out in consecutive games for the first time since 2019. 

“Been there,” Woodruff said — and indeed, Woodruff took a 1-0 loss to Luis Castillo and the Reds in the second of those back-to-back Brewers shutout losses from July 3-4 2019.

Ashby can’t control the offense, but he has done a good job controlling opposing lineups, especially since becoming a full-time member of a Brewers starting rotation missing Freddy Peralta (shoulder) and Woodruff (ankle). Even with the four runs allowed Saturday, Ashby has a 1.99 ERA over his last five outings with 35 strikeouts versus five walks in 22 2/3 innings. Saturday marked the first of his six starts this year in which Ashby didn’t walk a batter.

“I think he looks unbelievable,” Woodruff said. “You can tell he’s settling into a groove. He was getting strike one, strike two. He was getting ahead early. He’s just getting comfortable in terms of getting in the flow of the game. I know he would like that pitch back when he gave up the home run, but overall as you watch, he’s performing unbelievably.

“I think it also helps him to know he’s getting the ball every five days. He’s getting on that routine. He’s throwing the ball as good as you can throw it.”

Said Burnes: “I just asked him how he felt, and he said he felt good. Obviously, just the one mistake that Cronenworth hit out. We all go through those stretches of feeling bad and you get good results, and then feeling good and you get bad results. It’s just part of the game.”

Ashby suffered the same fate as Burnes, as far as being on the wrong end of a sensational pitching performance. Burnes started Friday opposite Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove, who didn’t allow a hit until two outs in the eighth inning of a 7-0 Padres win. On Saturday it was rookie left-hander MacKenzie Gore, who pitched six scoreless innings and struck out 10.

Gore faced a Brewers lineup missing No. 1 shortstop Willy Adames and right fielder Hunter Renfroe, who are on the injured list; backup shortstop Luis Urías, who has a painfully bruised right thumb, and left fielder Christian Yelich, who was granted an off-day amid a cold streak. Designated hitter Keston Hiura, who entered the day with as extreme of reverse splits as you’ll see — .373 OPS against left-handers, 1.252 against right-handers even though he’s a right-handed hitter — became the second Brewers hitter this season to strike out four times. Lorenzo Cain continued to struggle, going 0-for-4. All six of the Brewers’ hits in the game were singles. 

On Sunday, the Brewers will play their 18th game in a 17-day span without a day off. 

“Seeing [Gore] the first time, obviously he did pretty well against us,” Hiura said. “We have to regroup and see him down the road. … It’s been a couple of days where we couldn’t get the bats going. Our pitchers are doing a good job, so keep it up.”

Said Burnes: “At the end of the day, things will swing our way if we keep throwing the ball well. [Ashby] has done well. Everyone in the rotation has thrown the ball well.”

Ashby’s ERA through 46 innings this season is 3.13. Through his first 77 2/3 career regular-season innings, he has a 3.71 ERA. He has allowed five earned runs in 17 2/3 innings while striking out 26 in three starts since assuming full-time starter duties.

“Aaron’s having a really good season,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He gives us a chance to win every time now, and he’s getting better throughout this. He’s gotten better since Day 1. There’s development happening.”

Even at 24 years old, Ashby is ready for Monday’s off-day. 

“I think we’re all tired,” Ashby said. “It’s just kind of part of it — there’s these long stretches of baseball, and this is where good teams are made. You have to bear down and fight.”

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