One mighty swing by Rowdy Tellez saved the day.
His homer to right-center off Charlie Morton in the seventh inning generated both runs, and the pitching stood up throughout as the Milwaukee Brewers edged the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at American Family Field on Friday.
Corbin Burnes recovered from a shaky start to throw six strong innings, Adrian Houser pitched two innings out of the bullpen and Josh Hader slammed the door shut as the Brewers snapped a four-game postseason losing streak dating to Oct. 20, 2018, despite collecting only five hits.
Milwaukee entered Friday having dropped five of its six final regular-season games after clinching the Central Division title on Sept. 26 as manager Craig Counsell opted to take his foot off the gas pedal and rest players for what was ahead.
But his offense had been sputtering for much longer than that — since a three-game sweep at Cleveland from Sept. 10-12.
And with pitching dominating in the playoffs more often than not it came as little surprise that the Brewers did little overall against the veteran Morton, who largely controlled the first six innings.
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But it took only a couple mistakes for an opportunistic Milwaukee to jump on the right-hander in the seventh.
Avisaíl García fell behind in the count, 0-2, before being hit by Morton’s fifth offering.
That brought Tellez to the plate and he also fell behind Morton, 1-2, only to respond with his biggest swing of the year to date, a 411-foot blast to right-center that hit off the lower facing of the video board to snap the scoreless tie.
Tellez gestured to the Milwaukee dugout a couple steps into his home-run trot, then was coaxed out for a curtain call in the aftermath.
Houser was pitching his second inning of relief behind Burnes and had retired the first two batters in the bottom of the seventh before pinch-hitter Joc Pederson went the other way and muscled a pinch-hit homer out to left to halve Milwaukee’s lead.
Houser finished up the eighth, setting the stage for Hader in the ninth.
Hader opened by walking the dangerous Freddie Freeman, and after striking out Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley followed with a single to put two on.
The dangerous Adam Duvall followed with a chopper out in front of the plate that allowed the Brewers to get the force at second.
That brought up former Brewer Orlando Arcia, who battled his former teammate for six pitches before grounding out to Kolten Wong at second base.
As quiet as Milwaukee’s offense was, Atlanta managed only four hits itself in the game.
The victory was Milwaukee’s first in the playoffs since Oct. 19, 2018, when it downed the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-2, in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at then-Miller Park.
Burnes was uncharacteristically shaky in the opening innings — nerves, perhaps? — topping out at just 97.1 mph with his cutter and issuing three walks to match his season high as the Brewers and Braves met for the first time ever in the postseason.
His first two free passes came to start the game, as Jorge Soler and Freeman each worked one before Albies hit a hot shot to Tellez at first base.
Tellez quickly stepped on the bag and fired home to get a sliding Soler, who’d previously advanced to third on a wild pitch. A strikeout of Riley got Burnes out of the inning, but he needed 22 pitches in all to do it.
The 37-year-old Morton, meanwhile, allowed just one ball to be put in play — a tapper back to the mound by García.
Otherwise, it was five strikeouts in six at-bats for the Brewers.
Burnes registered a 1-2-3 third — his first economical frame of the game — and Milwaukee finally got to Morton for the game’s hit in the bottom half when Lorenzo Cain laced a one-out single to right.
Burnes followed with a bunt, but Freeman made a nice play charging in from first to force Cain at second and Wong struck out.
Two more strikeouts in the fourth left Morton with eight, three shy of tying his season high.
He entered the game with a major-league-leading 127 strikeouts on curveballs, his bread-and-butter pitch, but six of his eight punchouts came via a four-seam fastball he was consistently throwing in the 97-mph range.
Burnes settled in to retire 13 of the final 15 hitters he faced, looking much more like the Cy Young Award candidate he finished the regular season as.
His 88th pitch of the game was his hardest, a 98.8 mph sinker to Albies, and with two strikeouts in his final inning he’d generated 19 swings and misses — three more than Morton.
With his spot due up to lead off the Milwaukee sixth, Burnes was pulled at 91 pitches. He allowed two soft singles, didn’t walk another batter after the second and struck out six in an uncommonly deep start for a Brewers pitcher during Counsell’s regime.
Houser replaced Burnes after another scoreless inning by Morton and did what he does best — generate three ground-ball outs to send a scoreless game to the seventh.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Brewers top Braves behind big home run, strong pitching in NLDS Game 1
Source: Yahoo Sports