Willy Adames and Brandon Woodruff stay on fire to spark another Brewers win over the Yankees
Willy Adames and Brandon Woodruff have gotten hot at the right time. Have the Milwaukee Brewers done the same?
Adames supplied the power, clubbing a three-run homer for the second straight night, and Woodruff did the rest from the mound to lead the Brewers past the New York Yankees, 4-1, on Saturday night at American Family Field.
The win was the second in as many nights against the potent offense of the visitors from the Bronx and the seventh win in Milwaukee’s last nine games overall. The Brewers continue to apply pressure in the National League wild card race and, though the San Diego Padres won to remain 1.5 games ahead for the final spot, a Philadelphia Phillies loss brought them to within two games of Milwaukee.
After three-plus months of, at best, mediocre play and, at worst, uninspiring performances, might the Brewers have turned a page?
"Isn't that crazy, how winning kind of takes care of everything?" Woodruff said. "The vibes are good in here, man. We’ve got a party going on after we win and we look forward to that. It’s a fun time of year."
A night after tying Robin Yount’s franchise record for homers by a shortstop in a single season, Adames surpassed it. Yankees starter Jameson Taillon allowed a Victor Caratini walk and Christian Yelich single in the bottom of the third, setting up Adames to launch a line drive out to left to open the scoring.
"It means a lot. It’s a special place for me," Adames said. "Obviously, I’m honored to be on that list. I’m just happy. It means the world to me to be right next to a legend like Robin Yount. He means the world for this organization and this city, so it’s an honor for me and a pleasure."
Adames’ blast was his 30th of the season and tied Rowdy Tellez for the team lead in addition to breaking Yount’s record set in 1982.
“We’ve talked about his impact last year, and you hit 30 homers at that position, it’s really impressive," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "There’s great shortstops in the game, and I think he’s putting himself in that conversation with the season he’s having and the defense he’s playing. We’re lucky he’s here.”
Over his last 27 games, Adames is batting .303 with seven homers and 25 runs batted in. Over his last 11 games, he’s been even hotter, going 14 for 40 (.350) with four long balls and driving in 15.
"I just feel like the timing is right," Adames said. "I feel like whenever you’re struggling, maybe the timing is not right. Right not, I feel good at the plate. Hopefully we can continue to do that and we can keep winning games."
Adames also helped out defensively. In the fourth, after Josh Donaldson gave the Yankees a run with a solo homer to lead off the inning, Adames made a ranging play but his one-hop throw to first skipped under the glove of Rowdy Tellez. He made up for it a play later with a diving stop on a grounder up the middle for a critical first out as Woodruff would go on to strand the runner at second.
"Willy made a great play keeping that inning kind of intact," Counsell said. "After the home run and the error, that great play kind of helped shut down that inning. Otherwise we’re first and third or maybe 3-2 right away with a man on first.”
The performance of late from Adames has been the type of heater Woodruff is rather familiar with. The righthander’s performance of late fits that description, especially considering how the Brewers have needed to scratch and claw to find innings with three starters injured.
Woodruff covered eight dominant innings, striking out 10 and giving up five hits and one walk. Since returning from the injured list on June 28 in Tampa Bay, Woodruff has a 2.56 earned run average. In his 15 starts, he’s struck out at least eight more times (nine) than he hasn’t. And over his last three starts, when the rest of the team’s starting pitching ranks have been especially depleted, he has turned in 21 innings, allowed just four runs and a strikeout to walk ratio of 26 to 2.
"I expect a lot out of myself and early on in the season it just wasn’t myself," said Woodruff, who had a 4.74 ERA through his first nine starts of 2022 prior to getting injured. "It’s nice to be able to go out there and help the team win. We still got this little window at the end of the year to win some ballgames."
This run Woodruff is on is only one type of heater he's been producing; the other was on display against the Yankees as Woodruff matched New York’s power with his own.
He fired off 57 fastballs out of his 101 total pitches. He got nine swings and misses and eight additional called strikes with his four-seamer alone.
"I felt like early on, I was able to set the tone with that," Woodruff said of his fastball.
The swing-and-miss was there when Woodruff needed it, but so was the efficiency.
At 79 pitches through five innings and the heart of the order coming up, it looked like the sixth could have been Woodruff’s final inning. Instead, he faced the minimum in the sixth and did so again in the seventh and, for good measure, once again in the eighth. He required only seven pitches to get through the sixth, then five in the seventh and 10 to cap the outing. A pair of inning-ending double plays in the final two frames didn’t hurt that cause.
“The pitching situation we’re in, of course, it helps a lot," Counsell said of Woodruff going eight innings. "We got through a game, we won another game without using a bunch of guys. We’re going to have to use a bunch of guys here. We don’t have days off, so it’s important and it’s an added bonus to a great performance.”
Christian Yelich and Devin Williams also contribute in win
The Brewers tacked on an insurance run when Christian Yelich doubled home Garrett Mitchell in the fifth to help Woodruff pick up his team-best 11th win of the year. The play featured arguably Milwaukee's two best base runners both tearing up the infield dirt at once, with Mitchell zipping from first to home to just beat out the Yankees' relay throw and Yelich following in tow into third.
"It’s funny. I thought we haven’t really gotten yet to see Mitchell use his speed to our advantage," Counsell said. "That I thought was a great example of that. I don’t know how many guys score on that ball from first base. Great send by Jason (Lane, third base coach). That’s where speed gets you a run, absolutely.”
Devin Williams pitched a perfect ninth inning with a pair of strikeouts to pick up the save.
RELATED:Golf influencer Paige Spiranac has ceremonial swing at Brewers' new X-Golf America
RELATED: Where are the Brewers in the NL wild card standings, MLB playoff odds?
The Brewers continue to apply the pressure in the playoff race but still trail Padres for final wild-card spot
Really, it was no surprise to see Woodruff toe the bump and deliver a critical performance for the Brewers. He cut his teeth in a postseason chase as a rookie in 2017, starting games down the stretch, and flourished whenever his name was called upon in the regular season and playoffs in 2019.
In each of the last three years, he's continued to give Milwaukee one clutch outing after another. It's what the club has come to expect from him, and Woodruff has bestowed those same expectations on himself.
"I love this time of year," Woodruff said. "I love September baseball. I love games that really mean something and obviously the Yankees coming into town, there’s always that buzz with them. It was fun. They’ve got a great lineup.
"It’s just fun this time of year. I love this baseball. I love playoff baseball and hopefully we can keep stringing together some wins and get in and you never know what can happen. Just enjoying this month and seeing where it takes us."
If the season ended today, it would take the Brewers nowhere but the golf course. Luckily for them, however, 17 games still remain and two teams ahead are very much within grasping distance.
"We still have a couple more games to win," Adames said. "It’s really important, obviously. I’m trying to do the most I can to contribute to the team and help the team win games. We need it now the most."