Led by ace Corbin Burnes, Brewers begin playoff run against Braves

Milwaukee will host Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS

Corbin Burnes smiles at a practice
Milwaukee Brewers’ Corbin Burnes smiles at a practice for the Game 1 of the NLDS baseball game Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, in Milwaukee. The Brewers plays the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. Morry Gash/AP Photo

The playoffs are coming to American Family Field on Friday.

After running away with the division, the Milwaukee Brewers will host the Atlanta Braves for the first two games of their best-of-five divisional series.

“You play all year, and you work hard, and it’s for these games. These are the most fun games for these guys to play in, and that’s because of what the fans bring to it,” Manager Craig Counsell said.

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The Brewers are the oddsmakers’ favorites to win the series, thanks to their lights out rotation, which features Game 1 starter Corbin Burnes. He became the first Brewer in history to finish the season with the league’s lowest ERA, and he’s a serious contender to win Milwaukee’s third Cy Young Award.

Based on Milwaukee’s performance leading up to these playoffs, it seems pitching will be critical to the team’s success in the postseason. But the Brewers bullpen suffered a serious blow after reliever Devin Williams broke his hand last week while punching a wall. The reigning Rookie of the Year underwent surgery, and it’s possible he could return for the World Series should the Brewers advance that far. Milwaukee still has one of the league’s most intimidating closers in Josh Hader.

Outfielder Christian Yelich said the Brewers haven’t relied on one single player this year. And similarly, it’ll take a team effort in the playoffs.

“We don’t ever take this for granted because of how hard it is to get to this point,” Yelich said. “Even though we’ve done it four years in a row, we still realize that it’s a long year and a lot of stuff has to happen. You had to overcome a lot of things this year as a team. The first goal, always, every year is to make it to the postseason. You’ve got to get in to have a chance to win the whole thing.”

In contrast to their pitching, the Brewers’ lineup has struggled down the stretch. However, the team does have players who can put runs on the board in different ways, General Manager David Stearns said this week.

Willy Adames
Milwaukee Brewers’ Willy Adames yells to the crowd after a baseball game against the New York Mets, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Milwaukee. The Brewers defeated the Mets 8-4 to clinch the National League Central Division. Aaron Gash/AP Photo

That includes shortstop Willy Adames, who the Brewers brought in through a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays this May. He’s third on the team in RBIs despite playing just 99 games this season. The acquisition seemed to spark new life in the Brewers.

“Willy has been tremendous for us, that’s been really well documented over the course of the season,” Stearns said. “Very shortly after he came in, we started playing very, very good baseball.”

Adames tries to bring a positive attitude to the field every day, the shortstop said. After playing in the World Series last year, he said pitching is essential in the playoffs.

“When you have a pitching staff like we have, I think you have the advantage,” he said. “For the Rays last year, we didn’t hit, and we still got to the World Series.”

Meanwhile, the Braves have a couple of dangerous starting pitchers in Charlie Morton and Max Fried, but their biggest asset is their offense, with sluggers like reigning MVP Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley.

“It’s a powerful lineup, and we’re going to have to do our best to neutralize that. There are going to be home runs in this series, we’re aware of that,” Stearns said. “We have some pitchers who have done a really nice job staying away from the long ball, but that’s going to be tough to do against this lineup.”

The teams split their regular season games this year. The Brewers and the Braves are linked by the teams’ shared history. The Braves started out in Boston before moving to Milwaukee in 1953, where Hank Aaron made his Major League debut. After just 13 years, the team left for Atlanta, and the Brewers arrived a few years later.

The Brewers made history this year by reaching their fourth consecutive postseason, and they were close to tying their franchise record of 96 regular season wins.

The other National League Division Series will feature the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The division rivals finished with the two best records in baseball, and the Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Wild Card game on Wednesday. In the American League, the Rays will take on the Boston Red Sox, while the Houston Astros will face the Chicago White Sox.