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‘Quality’ pitching key for a Brewers turnaround

April 23, 2015

Through 15 games, the average MLB team has seven quality starts and a 3.88 ERA. The Milwaukee Brewers, as you may have noticed, are not the average team.

Just four of the team’s starts this season have been deemed “quality,” and two of those came this week. They went nine games without one before Wednesday, the Brewers’ longest stretch since 2001.

As a staff, they now sport a National League-worst 4.89 ERA, which actually has improved by nearly half a run thanks to back-to-back gems from Jimmy Nelson and Kyle Lohse. For as bad as the team’s offense had been, the Brewers’ pitching was worse.

With a quality start requiring six innings pitched and three or fewer earned runs allowed, it’s hardly a spectacular achievement. Still, it’s deemed quality for its ability to give the offense a reasonable chance to win the game. The Brewers haven’t given their offense that chance too often this season.

Milwaukee has a first-inning ERA of 6.75, and a 7.31 mark in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. By the time the seventh rolls around, the offense often has been buried. The first-inning numbers — 12 earned runs on 20 hits — are particularly concerning, as the Brewers are 0-10 this season when playing from behind.

Tuesday night’s loss to the Reds epitomized how poorly things had been going.

After a third-inning bases-loaded situation predictably resulted in a grand slam, the Brewers’ offense surprised with four runs of its own in the bottom half of the frame. But the Reds killed any Brewers momentum with a Todd Frazier grand slam in the fourth and additional blasts in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

Even on a night when the offense matched its run total from the previous six games, the Brewers still lost 16-10.

Mike Fiers’ ugly outing inflated the young right-hander’s ERA to 6.75, putting him fourth in the rotation, ahead of Lohse at 7.94 and behind Matt Garza and Wily Peralta at 5.40 and 5.68, respectively. Only Nelson is under five, with a 1.35 ERA.

The offense is showing signs of breaking out, and the pitching staff is too. If the latter can keep it up, the Brewers still have some hope of turning around the worst start in franchise history.

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