If their four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers at American Family Field was indeed a measuring stick, the Milwaukee Brewers have to be happy with how they stacked up against the best team in the major leagues.
Andrew McCutchen turned in his first multi-homer game of the season and Hunter Renfroe went deep as well, providing all the offense in a 5-3 victory as the Brewers earned a split on Thursday afternoon.
Corbin Burnes experienced a shaky sixth inning but was solid otherwise and Milwaukee's bullpen contributed 3 ⅓ shutout innings behind him to finish off Los Angeles and keep the Brewers from falling any further behind the pace in the Central Division (three-game deficit) and wild-card (two games) standings.
"We played good baseball this series," said manager Craig Counsell, whose team was outscored by only a 13-11 margin in four well-pitched games by both teams.
"You’d obviously like more runs; that team’s got something to do with it," he continued. "I’m not going to complain one bit about the series we just played. We played a good series.
"Absolutely played a good series."
In earning their two victories, the Brewers prevented the Dodgers (81-36) from taking their sixth consecutive series. Even still, they held massive 16½-game lead in the NL West as they departed Milwaukee.
"We played good ball all four games," McCutchen said. "We were in those games. We competed. I think we did a good job against a really good team – probably one of the better teams, if not the best team – right now in baseball.
"We showed that we were able to compete against them. We’ll take a split as something good against them, because they probably haven’t been doing that against a whole lot of teams."
BOX SCORE: Brewers 5, Dodgers 3
Home runs by Andrew McCutchen and Hunter Renfroe are the difference
It was home run or bust for the Brewers against Dodgers starter Andrew Heaney.
The left-hander generated 19 swings and misses en route to 10 strikeouts over just 4 ⅔ innings of work but also surrendered the pair of homers to McCutchen and another to Renfroe.
McCutchen's initial blast came in a 1-2 count and with two outs in the first and gave the Brewers a quick 1-0 lead. Then with two outs in the third, he slugged another with Christian Yelich aboard that upped Milwaukee's lead to 3-0.
The multi-homer game was the first for McCutchen since June 1, 2021.
“We’ll take a split as something good against them,” says Andrew McCutchen after the Brewers split four games with the Dodgers: pic.twitter.com/GMJgiKtNru
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) August 18, 2022
He entered the game hitting only .229 with four homers, 12 RBI and an OPS of .731 against left-handed pitching this year – one of the primary reasons the Brewers signed him early in spring training.
"It was good," he said of his day. "I’m trying to simplify, keep it simple, take what they give me, and I was able to put two good swings on pitches I could do something with.
"It doesn’t happen all the time, so it was good to be able to have a game like that."
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) August 18, 2022
Heaney had actually retired the side in the fifth by striking out McCutchen, but a passed ball by catcher Will Smith allowed him to reach. One batter later, Renfroe homered to make it a 5-0 game and chase Heaney.
"We got a really good day from our guys that have hit left-handed pitching really well, and that’s Hunter and Cutch," Counsell said. "Big hits from them with men on base, and Cutch had a huge day, a really impactful day.
"Homers with men on base are good things."
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) August 18, 2022
Corbin Burnes was solid through five innings
Burnes had mostly skated through the first five innings, allowing a pair of singles and a pair of walks, before things quickly went off the rails for him in the sixth.
The trouble began with a drive to left by Trea Turner that McCutchen failed to glove near the wall — a ball that had an expected batting average of .210 when it was hit.
Turner ended up with a double, and consecutive singles by Freddie Freeman and Smith scored him to break up the shutout.
Gavin Lux's two-run triple for the Dodgers ends Burnes' day
Two batters later, Gavin Lux sent a drive to the cutout in right-center that Tyrone Taylor made a leaping attempt on but ultimately wasn't able to reel in. The effort was enough to prevent the ball from going out of the park, however.
"He was like 'Oh, I should have caught it,' but it was a great play just to get a glove on it," Burnes said. "That was a pitch I put right over to plate to Lux and he didn't miss it, but it was a great play by Tyrone to keep it in the yard."
Lux wound up with a two-run triple, Los Angeles had pulled to within 5-3 and Burnes was done after 103 pitches. Brad Boxberger finished the inning.
Burnes (9-5) allowed six hits, the three runs and two walks with six strikeouts in his second-shortest start of the month.
"They make you work," said Burnes. There's really no quick outs or easy outs in that lineup. They're going to grind you and do what they can to get you out of the game quick.
"For the most part through five innings, I did a good job of working ahead and keeping them off balance. In the sixth, they worked some good ABs and I left a few pitches over the plate that good hitters don't miss."
Brewers bullpen shuts down Dodgers offense
The Brewers' offense went back into a shell after Renfroe's homer to follow a series-long trend against a tough Dodgers bullpen. An eighth-inning Renfroe double off former Brewer Phil Bickford accounted for the only hit after Heaney exited.
Devin Williams capped the day by striking out the side on 12 pitches in the ninth, earning his eighth save.
"We pitched really good in the bullpen all series, I thought," said Counsell. "Every day, I thought we did a nice job and guys filled their innings and did their roles. But today, more of the same.
"Really good effort from the ‘pen for sure."
The Brewers head south on I-94 for a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field beginning Friday at 1:20 p.m. Then, it's three more against Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium.
"Any game from here on out is going to be big," said Burnes. "We have to go out and take care of business. We've got 45 games left, so if we want to go to the postseason, we've got to go on a pretty good run here.
"But we've got the team to do it, we've got the guys to do it and we've got plenty of home games. If we play our best baseball, I think we can do it."
Milwaukee also made a pair of roster moves Thursday, reinstating right-hander J.C. Mejía from the restricted list and optioning him to Class AAA Nashville and designating catcher Jakson Reetz for assignment.
Mejía was suspended for 80 games on May 17 for a positive PED test.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Andrew McCutchen's two home runs lead Brewers past Dodgers