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Devin Williams got the night off Thursday when the Milwaukee Brewers opened a four-game weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The young right-hander certainly earned it after pitching in back-to-back-to-back games for the first time in his brief but wildly successful big-league career.
Williams’ career-high workload was necessary because All-Star closer Josh Hader was not with the Brewers during their trip to San Diego. The left-hander was placed on the medical emergency list and stayed behind in Milwaukee to be with his wife, who was experiencing pregnancy complications.
Starting a lengthy road trip without arguably the best closer in the game is a daunting task but the Brewers’ hardly missed a beat thanks to Williams, who threw three scoreless innings while earning his third and fourth saves of the season.
Williams was far from the only Brewers pitcher to step up against the Padres. With Williams sliding into Hader’s ninth-inning spot, the rest of Milwaukee’s bullpen had to adjust to a temporary change in roles.
Luis Perdomo and Brad Boxberger followed that effort with impessive innings of their own to set the stage for Williams’ second save in as many nights. Right-hander Trevor Gott and lefty Hoby Milner also recorded crucial outs in high-leverage moments to help Milwaukee win a series for the 11th time in 15 chances this season.
“That’s what the unit does,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “They pick each other up. We’re missing Josh but a lot of guys delivered some great stuff.”
Milwaukee was also playing without serveal key members of its position-player group. The Brewers arrived in San Diego already missing the services of shortstop Willy Adames (ankle), right-handed starter Freddy Peralta (shoulder) then lost hot-hitting outfielder Hunter Renfroe to a strained hamstring during the series opener Monday night.
With Luis Urias sliding over to cover Adames’ spot at short, Mike Brosseau and Jace Peterson have been covering for Urias at third and in the outfield, the injury to Renfroe has opened the door to get more at-bats for Tyrone Taylor, who was 8-for-20 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in five games before going 0-for-2 with an RBI Thursday.
“I already show up here every day expecting to play even though I knew what my role was,” Taylor said. “I’m just looking forward to going out there with the guys and having some fun playing ball.”
As a result, the Brewers arrived in St. Louis with a 3 1/2-game lead over the Cardinals in the National League Central and just 1 1/2 back of the Dodgers for the best record in the National League.
“(It) just kind of shows the depth of the team,” right-handed starter Corbin Burnes said. “When someone goes down, we have other guys who can step up. We’ve done a good job of that.”
The road is only going to get tougher. After playing three more in St. Louis, the Brewers move on to Chicago where they’ll play three games in four days starting with a Memorial Day doubleheader Monday. After that, they return home for four more against the Padres before finally getting a day off on June 6.
Help, though, is on the way. Hader returned to the team Thursday ahead of the series opener in St. Louis, Adames has been working on the field and Renfroe’s IL stint isn’t expected to be long.
In the meantime, the Brewers are confident that they’ll be able to maintain their momentum until they’re back to full strength.
“Injuries are bad kind of no matter where they come from, and when they impact your guys that are regulars in your lineup or your rotation, there’s going to be a cascading effect,” Counsell said. “Unfortunately we’ve lost some really good players the last couple of days or weeks and we just got to withstand that as a group. Every day, hopefully guys are getting better and getting closer to playing again and that’s how you gotta see it.”