Facing a pair of familiar faces on the mound, the Milwaukee Brewers delivered a result with their bats that has been foreign to the team nearly all of this month.
The Brewers struck for eight runs over three innings against the Colorado Rockies combination of starting pitcher José Ureña and reliever Jhoulys Chacín to back the effort of their own starter Brandon Woodruff and roll to a 9-4 win Saturday night at American Family Field.
On a heat-soaked, sweaty night inside the closed roof, Hunter Renfroe was once again the hitter making life even more miserable for the Rockies. The Brewers outfielder delivered a key home run for the second consecutive game, making good on a two-out rally by launching a three-run blast off Ureña, who opened the season in the Brewers bullpen, in the fourth to put Milwaukee up, 3-1.
"It was hot. Good gosh it was hot," Renfroe said. "But we pulled it out. It was fun."
Renfroe continues to do precisely what the Brewers acquired him to do when they traded for him over the winter: hit the ball far. He's now up to 15 homers in just 61 games despite battling injuries in his hamstring and calf and is the only player on the team slugging over .500.
"That’s what power does for your lineup," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He’s been in a position the last couple of nights where you put a man on base and those are game-changing hits. He’s capable of that every time he steps up there. He’s going to hit homers.When you put men on base, they’re game-changers."
Woodruff has seen Renfroe's prodigious power – as well as his proclivity for hot streaks – ever since they were teammates at Mississippi State a decade ago.
"He's always had that type of power and you never know when he's gonna go on his run," Woodruff said. "But when he does, it's cool to see. They're just so majestic home runs. He makes it look cool when he hits them."
Renfroe wasn't the only former Bulldog singing his teammate's praise after they both shined on a muggy night that felt like it was taken right out of Mississippi.
"When he's good, he's electric," Renfroe said of Woodruff. "I've faced him, I've played behind him, I've caught him. I've done it all and when he's good, it's electric; 95-99 (mph) coming in at you and bearing down, it's tough. And he's got a good changeup to go with it.
"I don't even want to talk about having to hit it."
The good news for Renfroe: he doesn't have to right now. But the Rockies did on Saturday.
Woodruff, over six innings of eight-strikeout, one-run ball, continued to look like the all-star version of himself since returning from the injured list on June 29. Namely, his sinker continues to bear down on right-handed hitters, allowing his four-seam fastball to play up even to an even greater level.
"He just went out there and threw bowling balls at them the whole night and they couldn't do anything with it," Renfroe said.
After allowing a first-inning run on a two-out Brendan Rodgers RBI single, Woodruff buckled down and only allowed two base runners, not including an error by Luis Urias, over his final five innings. The righthander struck out eight over six frames, his fourth start out of five since returning with at least eight punchouts. His command was also improved from his last time out in San Francisco when he grinded through 5⅔ innings by walking five and allowing five hits.
"Woody, he was just really good," Counsell said. "I thought he got himself through that sixth inning and pitched and that’s how you put up zeroes."
Since his return, Woodruff has allowed seven earned runs in 28⅔ innings, good for a 2.20 earned run average, with 39 strikeouts and nine walks. He seems to have honed in on the slight mechanical flaw that was throwing off the shape of his sinker early in the year, leading to atypical results.
"The injury probably set us back a little bit but I think in the end, the injury is going to help Brandon be really effective the rest of the year," Counsell said. "He’s relatively fresh and throwing the ball really, really well. The sinker is definitely back."
So is the feeling in Woodruff's hands after a bout with Raynaud's syndrome that delayed his return from the IL by approximately two weeks. With rising temperatures helping increase blood flow to his fingers, Woodruff may have been the only one in the park not complaining about the heat on Saturday.
"I didn't like it but it was good for my hands," Woodruff said. "It's kind of a drastic change from San Francisco when it was upper-50s and wind blowing. Coming into tonight, it's 90 and humid so I'll take warm days any day."
After Woodruff completed his night with a double play on pitch number 100, the Brewers bats chased Ureña in the bottom half of the sixth, spinning the wheels on the hitting merry-go-round.
Willy Adames singled to open the inning, Rowdy reached on an error and Kolten Wong singled to drive in a run and chase Ureña with one out.
Facing Chacín, the Brewers top starter in 2018, Renfroe loaded the bases with an infield single for Victor Caratini, who drove in two with a blue-darter to right for a double off to plate two more. Renfroe scored on a wild pitch, then Christian Yelich made the lead 8-1 with a single up the middle for his first RBI hit since July 2, a span of 40 at-bats.
The eight runs were the most in a game for the Brewers since July 1. They had averaged just 3.4 runs per game in that span and only 3.0 per game during regulation.
"We did a nice job on offense today," Counsell said. "Ureña was really good the first three innings. Hunter’s hit was huge, obviously. It’s a three run home run and that’s a big deal. But it gave everybody a little bit of breathing room."
That still didn't exactly make it easy to breathe inside the 31,694-person sauna that was American Family Field but, luckily for the Brewers, they had two guys from Mississippi who could feel right at home and lead the charge.
Our subscribers make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal.
DOWNLOAD THE APP: Get the latest news, sports and more
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Brewers vs. Rockies at American Family Field: lineup, score, updates