MILWAUKEE — After losing 6-5 in 10 innings to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday to finish their homestand 3-3, the Milwaukee Brewers packed their bags for a six-game road swing that starts Monday night in San Diego.
Waiting for them is a Padres team that made some pretty significant additions during the offseason, serving notice that they are dead set on knocking the NL West-rival Los Angeles Dodgers off of their championship perch.
Petco Park was jam-packed and amped up over the weekend as the Dodgers made their first visit of the season. Brewers right-hander Brandon Woodruff expects a similar atmosphere when he takes the mound to start the series opener.
"It's going to be a pretty good series," Woodruff said. "I know (the Dodgers series) was emotional for them, linking up for the first time, but I think anytime you go out, you want everybody's best."
Woodruff has been at his best through three starts this season. In 17 innings, he's allowed four earned runs on 10 hits and three walks while striking out 19. His last time out, he held the Chicago Cubs to one run on three hits while striking out six over six innings.
Despite the impressive results, Woodruff said it wasn't one of his better performances. He struggled at times with his command as well as maintaining his tempo. But he credited his experience, along with his work between starts, with helping him overcome those obstacles and put up numbers that left his teammates in a position to win.
"For me, that's the fun side of it, the (work) in-between (starts)," Woodruff said. "And then the days you pitch, you're there to compete and whatever happens, happens. I think I am in a good spot and I am trying to keep that going and keep it as consistent as possible."
His work over the past few days focused on studying an offense that owns a .726 OPS, the fourth-best mark in the National League, and features dangerous sluggers Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth.
Woodruff faced a powerful Twins offense on Opening Day, then the slumping Cubs his next two times out. The Padres represent his biggest challenge yet this season, though he's not letting their numbers dictate his approach.
"They're a good team," Woodruff said. "They've got a lot of big names but at the end of the day, it doesn't change how I approach each start or how I'm going to pitch. I try to keep it as simple as possible because I think that's what works for me."
Sunday marked the 12th consecutive game the Brewers have held their opponents scoreless in the opening inning while Daniel Vogelbach's solo home run and Travis Shaw's RBI double gave the Brewers 17 first-inning runs through 15 games.
Milwaukee scored a total of 15 runs in the first inning during last season's 60-game slate, which manager Craig Counsell considered a leading factor in the offense's futility in 2020.
"It's a good stat," Counsell said. "It's certainly a great feeling. We've had a couple of games with big runs early, playing from a lead. We've talked about it from the other team's side of what it does to you. That's a nice trend to start, too. It puts the other team behind the eight-ball right away."
The early outbursts have helped give Milwaukee's starting pitchers more freedom to work against opposing lineups, specifically in terms of attacking the zone and playing more to contact knowing that there is some breathing room.
"Walking out there with the big lead early in the game is a great feeling for a starting pitcher," Counsell said. "It puts you on the aggressive side of everything that you're doing, takes the careful out of everything that you're doing and it's a great way to pitch."
Right-hander Devin Williams worked a scoreless inning Sunday as he continues working back to his 2020 form.
Williams got off to a slow start in spring training while he continued recovering from a shoulder injury and made only four appearances in Cactus League play.
After giving up two runs in his first two outings — doubling his total from 2020 — Counsell moved Williams out of the set-up role in favor of lower-leverage situations in order for him to get settled in for a full season.
"Devin is feeling pretty good right now so I think we're getting there and making progress," Counsell said. "That was a big spot for us today, so it was good for him to have a good inning in a big spot."
Around the horn
Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2-for-3 Sunday to cap off a 6-for-13 series and extend his hitting streak to eight games. He's 11-for-33 during that stretch, raising his batting average from .100 at the start of the streak to .231. ... Avisail Garcia had a big series, going 4-for-11 with a home run and three RBIs, and went 10-for-21 on the homestand. ... Closer Josh Hader pitched a clean ninth inning. He's yet to allow a run or a hit and has walked one batter while striking out 10 in 3⅔ innings
While the Padres' batters try to figure out Woodruff, Milwaukee's offense faces right-hander Joe Musgrove (2-1, 0.47 ERA), who threw the first no-hitter of the season — and, the first in Padres history — his last time out.
Watch now: 5 of the Brewers' most eye-popping defensive plays so far this season
April 1: Luis Urias' debut
The Brewers wanted to see what Luis Urias could do at shortstop this season and he didn't make them wait long to find out. Three pitches into the first inning of the season, Urias made a leaping grab to rob Twins leadoff hitter Luis Arraez of a base hit.
Urias, 23, was expected to share time at shortstop with Orlando Arcia, but now the job is his after the Brewers dealt Arcia to Atlanta for a pair of right-handed pitchers.
"He has earned this and it's an important time for him," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's going to get a great opportunity here."
April 6: Kolten Wong's double play
Kolten Wong's two Gold Glove Awards were a primary reason the Brewers signed him to a two-year, $18 million contract ahead of Spring Training and while he hasn't made much of an impact at the plate, his defense has already lived up to expectations.
Wong put his elite glove work on display late in the April 6 game against the Cubs. The Brewers led, 4-0, when Brad Boxberger drilled Cubs catcher Willson Contreras to lead off the ninth. With left-handed hitting Anthony Rizzo up, Milwaukee's infield went into a full shift with Wong lined a up a few steps over and behind first baseman Travis Shaw — perfectly positioned to scoop up Rizzo's grounder.
But instead of just tossing to Shaw for the easy out, Wong was able to turn around, get a throw off to third baseman Daniel Robertson who charged the bag for the force then got the relay to first in time to retire Rizzo.
At first glance, the play looked to be a routine double play, but Counsell said Wong's skill disguised its difficulty.
"It’s a hard play that he made look very easy, that’s the best way I can describe it," Counsell said. "The degree of difficulty was much more than Kolten made it seem. That’s what great defenders do: they make hard plays look fairly routine.
"Once he put it in his glove, the double play looked fairly routine."
April 7: Avisail Garcia saves the shutout
Brandon Woodruff's no-hit bid had just been spoiled by an Ian Happ single and the Cubs were threatening to break a scoreless tie when Kris Bryant sent a 3-2 fastball to shallow right field.
Avisail Garcia charged, slid and hauled it in to rob Bryant of a single, snuff out a potential rally and close out a sparkling effort for Woodruff.
"Honestly, when Bryant hit that I did not think that there was going to be a shot to catch it," Woodruff said. "Then the ball just kind of hung up there at the last second and he kind of closed in on it and made a heck of a catch. That was huge."
It turned out to be even bigger when Lorenzo Cain hit the first of his two go-ahead home runs in the eighth inning as the Brewers clinched the series with a 4-1, 10-inning victory.
April 10: Travis Shaw's diving stop
Most of the discussion when Shaw returned to the Brewers on a minor league deal this spring focused on his bat, and while he's been one of the team's best offensive performers so far, he's also provided steady defense at third base.
Shaw made a number of important plays April 10 against the Cardinals, including a diving stop to rob Austin Dean of a game-tying single with two out in the fourth inning and a nice backhanded grab to start a double play later in the game.
"Just play after play," Counsell said. "He had a big day and impacted the game in many ways."
April 10: Jackie Bradley Jr. robs Justin Williams
Moments after Dean cut the Brewers' lead to four with a three-run homer in the eighth off Josh Lindblom, Jackie Bradley Jr. charged to the wall in center to pull back what would have been a solo home run by Justin Williams for the first out of the inning.
"Jackie hasn’t gotten hot with the bat yet but I think he’s shown us defensively why he’s got such a great reputation," Counsell said.