August 10, 2022

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Williams' flawless run continues to fuel Crew

4 min read
Right-hander extends scoreless streak to 30 appearances as Brewers stay hot

BOSTON — Setup man can be the most thankless job in the big leagues. And Devin Williams is doing it about as well as it can be done.

Williams delivered a 30th consecutive scoreless appearance in the eighth inning of the Brewers’ 9-4 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday, extending his own single-season franchise record on a day it took contributions from all over the roster to win a game that was closer than the final score suggests.

Hunter Renfroe homered for the fifth time in eight games since the All-Star break and Omar Narváez and Tyrone Taylor also went deep. Milwaukee got RBIs from seven players, three hits and a critical defensive play from Rowdy Tellez while the game was still in the balance and then some breathing room thanks to a three-run ninth that cemented the team’s seventh victory in eight games to open the second half.

The Brewers have scored 55 runs over those eight games — not shabby for a team looking at bats ahead of Tuesday’s 5 p.m. CT Trade Deadline — but right at the center of those contributors was setup specialist Williams, who earned a relatively rare accolade for an eighth-inning man earlier this month when he was a late addition to the National League All-Star team. He pitched a scoreless inning at the Midsummer Classic, too, then returned to the Crew and continued a string of scoreless outings that began on May 13 in Miami and has seen Williams deliver 28 2/3 high-pressure innings without allowing a run.

Over that span, Williams has allowed 11 hits, including the line drive that popped out of third baseman Luis Urías’ glove on Saturday, with eight walks to 47 strikeouts.

“I would probably say this is the best we’ve played as a team,” Williams said. “It’s not offense one day, pitching the next day. I think we’re kind of clicking on all cylinders right now, defense included. It’s been good to watch.”

Williams hasn’t just watched, he’s been a big part of it. Long before he got to 30 straight scoreless outings, he broke the previous single-season franchise mark of 23 in a row shared by Doug Jones (1997), John Axford (2013) and Jeremy Jeffress (2018).

The single-season MLB record is Craig Kimbrel’s 38 straight scoreless outings in 2011.

“I’m just trying to put up a zero every day,” Williams said. “Usually when I pitch, it’s a one- or two-run game, like it was today, and it’s either put up a zero or we’re going to be tied or losing.”

Williams’ outing on Saturday was standard fare: A groundout, a tough-luck single, then two swinging strikeouts. Minus the milestone of 30 in a row, the outing might have gone unnoticed amid another big day for the Brewers’ offense. That’s how manager Craig Counsell described the job of a setup man earlier Saturday: “He’s got the job where you don’t ask about it when he’s doing well.”

“You get spoiled by streaks like this. I think we all do,” Counsell said. “Just the number of pitches you have to keep making, to not make a mistake or leave a pitch out over the plate and throw a pitch that somebody can drive. That’s what he’s done so well. …

“He’s done such a good job of getting the hitter in between enough where they don’t feel offensive or damage-oriented against him. That’s what the swing-and-miss does.”

Take Friday night’s series opener in Boston, Counsell said. Williams inherited a 2-1 lead and yielded a leadoff single on a sharp grounder under the glove of a diving Tellez. Then, a one-out infield single. Williams stiffened, striking out Xander Bogaerts on a changeup and getting J.D. Martinez to ground out.

What does Williams tell himself in those high-pressure moments?

“Really, it’s just attacking the next guy that comes up,” Williams said. “I don’t think it changes my mindset at all. There’s nothing I can do about it once it leaves my hand, unless it’s hit to me. Other than that, I don’t have any effect on what happens. All I can do is keep pitching.”

In their first series at Fenway Park since 2014, the Brewers will go into Sunday’s finale with a chance to sweep.

“I think we’re hitting our stride pretty good,” Renfroe said. “The more games we can win by multiple runs, the better our pitching can be if we’re giving the back-end [bullpen] guys rest.”

“It’s good baseball,” Counsell said. “You win games, it means you’re doing a lot of things right, and that includes the defensive side of the ball. It’s contributions from a lot of people. It’s contributions from a lot of areas of the game. It’s important to show yourself you can play like this. We’re doing it on the road right now, and that’s a good sign.”

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