Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller gets a rematch with fellow right-hander Brandon Woodruff when the Pirates open a six-game homestand against the travel-dizzied Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night.
Keller (0-3, 6.23 ERA) and Woodruff (2-1, 4.30) both pitched brilliantly head-to-head last Wednesday in Milwaukee, with the Brewers’ Rowdy Tellez producing the only run allowed by either with a solo home run off Keller in the second inning.
Woodruff didn’t give up any hits until Daniel Vogelbach singled with one out in the sixth. The 29-year-old escaped a two-on, one-out jam with a 1-0 lead, then turned the ball over to the Milwaukee bullpen, which protected the third of three straight wins over the Pirates.
The Brewers wound up with a 4-2 win that day.
Keller went 5 1/3 innings, allowing just four hits and no walks while striking out seven. Woodruff walked two and fanned nine.
Having lost seven of their first 12 games, the Pirates turned things around on their next stop in Chicago, where they took three of four from the Cubs to get back to .500. Pittsburgh pitching allowed just eight runs in the three wins.
Veteran catcher Roberto Perez believes the improved play of the Pirates over last year’s 101-loss edition starts at the top.
“I think you have to give credit to the manager,” Perez, who is in his first season with the Pirates, said of Derek Shelton. “He’s doing a really good job of matching up and putting guys in situations where they can succeed.”
Keller has never beaten the Brewers, going 0-2 with a 2.79 ERA against them in two starts. His effort against them last week was a nice bounce-back from his first two starts of the season, during which he allowed 13 hits and eight runs in 7 2/3 innings in losses to the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals.
While the Pirates had Monday off after the short flight home from Chicago, the Brewers were asked to swing by Milwaukee for a single game against the San Francisco Giants between road series against the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh.
The venture didn’t go well as the Brewers wasted 6 2/3 shutout innings by Corbin Burnes in a 4-2 loss to the Giants.
The usually reliable Milwaukee bullpen served up all four runs on four hits, including two homers, in 2 1/3 innings.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell had tried to put a positive spin on the unscheduled detour before taking the field Monday.
“It’s the same for everybody. You just have to play it,” he said of the game that was inserted into the schedule after having been missed during the lockout. “When we compare ourselves to the rest of the league, we have favorable travel.”
Woodruff will be tasked with returning the Brewers to their winning ways as they get back on the road in Pittsburgh. Milwaukee won two of three in Philadelphia.
Woodruff’s outstanding effort against the Pirates last week was certainly no surprise. He is 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA in 11 career appearances, including nine starts, against the Pirates. Woodruff has never lost in Pittsburgh, going 1-0 with a 3.77 ERA in four games, two of which were starts.
Since getting bombed for six hits and seven runs in 3 2/3 innings in a 9-0 loss to the Cubs in his season debut, Woodruff has thrown 11 consecutive shutout innings, allowing the Cardinals and Pirates a total of four hits.
–Field Level Media