Brewers rally for 4 runs in the ninth inning, beat Pittsburgh in 11 innings

Milwaukee overcame a four-run deficit in the ninth inning for the first time in 10 years and went on to beat Pittsburgh 6-5 in 11 innings.

The Brewers were down to their last strike in the ninth when Ryan Braun drove a 1-2 pitch down the third base line to tie the game at 5-5 and send it to the 10th inning. Then, in the 11th, Eric Sogard dropped a double into left field for what proved to be the game-winning run. It scored Omar Narvaez, who started on second base under new rules for extra innings.

Reliever David Phelps held up his end by retiring all six of the batters he faced, including the final two with a runner on third base. He moved to 1-0 on the year.

The win was the seventh time Milwaukee had come back from four runs down in the ninth inning to actually win and the first since 2004.

The game, which included a nearly two-hour rain delay, saw the Brewers offense fail to get much going in the first eight innings. When they did, they weren’t able to capitalize, especially in the seventh inning. Lorenzo Cain singled in a run to tie the game at 1, but Milwaukee couldn’t take advantage as Christian Yelich flied out to center with the bases loaded. In total, the Brewers left 12 men on base.

Pittsburgh had no such issues in the bottom of the seventh, as it exploded for four runs, including three off of reliever Devin Williams and another against Alex Claudio.

In the ninth, though, the Brewers finally woke up starting with a Justin Smoak single. A walk to Eric Sogard and a Lorenzo Cain single loaded the bases. Keston Huira grabbed an RBI after getting hit with a pitch. Another run came in to make it 5-3 on a Yelich ground out but they were down to their final at-bat. That left Braun as the only hope and he came in clutch, driving a 3-2 pitch down the third base line for a two-run double — his first hit of the season.

Brewers starter Adrian Houser pitched well going five innings and allowing just one hit — a solo homer by Colin Moran — and struck out four. Relievers Eric Yardley and Josh Hader joined Phelps in allowing jut one hit over the final four innings.

The win improved the Brewers record to 2-2. It’ll be the same teams Tuesday night with first pitch coming at 6:05 p.m.

Report: 12 Miami Marlins test positive for COVID-19, home opener postponed

MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Marlins’ home opener Monday night against Baltimore has been postponed as the Marlins deal with a coronavirus outbreak that stranded them in Philadelphia.

The Marlins postponed their flight home Sunday night after their series finale against the Phillies.

A person familiar with the decision to postpone Monday’s game told The Associated Press that the move was made due to health precautions. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the postponement hadn’t been announced.

Marlins pitcher Jose Urena was scratched from his scheduled start in Sunday’s game, and catcher Jorge Alfaro went on the injured list Friday. No reasons were given for the moves, but manager Don Mattingly said those who tested positive would be quarantined in Philadelphia.

The Marlins’ precarious health raised anew doubts about MLB’s ability to finish the season during a pandemic. In Cincinnati, Reds second baseman Mike Moustakas and center fielder Nick Senzel felt sick Sunday, a day after a teammate went on the injured list because he tested positive for COVID-19.

Some Marlins players texted each other about the team’s health issues before Sunday’s game, but there was no talk of declining to play, shortstop Miguel Rojas said.

“That was never our mentality,” Rojas said. “We knew this could happen at some point. We came to the ballpark ready to play.”

Said Mattingly: “It’s fair to say guys are concerned about things. They want how they’re feeling about the situation to be heard. I think it’s fair. We’re talking about health.”

The Marlins played exhibition games at Atlanta on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Braves, who have since been without their top two catchers, Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud, after both players showed symptoms of COVID-19. Mattingly declined to say whether he thought the Marlins’ health issues were related to the Atlanta stop.

Miami is a hot spot for the pandemic, but on Sunday, Mattingly said he feels safer there.

“You feel safe at the ballpark; I feel safe with my surroundings going home,” he said. “It’s a lot scarier on the road.”

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AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.

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Brewers fall 9-1 in Chicago

Milwaukee’s bats were largely silent for the second time in three games as the Brewers fell to Chicago 9-1 in the rubber match of a three-game series.

The top of Milwaukee’s lineup — Eric Sogard, Christian Yelich and Keston Huira — combined to go 0-for-10 and Yelich struck out three times. The trio has now combined for a total of three hits over the first three games.

Tyler Chatwood got the win for Chicago. He allowed just the one run on three hits over six innings of work and finished with eight strikeouts.

On the other side, the Cubs used a big fourth inning against Freddy Peralta and Corey Knebel to take control of the game. Wilson Contreras had an RBI double, followed by Nico Hoerner’s infield RBI single. Then it was Victor Caratini singling to right to bring across another run and Ian Happ finished the scoring effort with his RBI single. Chicago added three home runs in the later innings to close things out.

Peralta took the loss going just three innings and allowing four runs on three hits. He walked a pair and struck out three. Knebel managed to get just one out while giving up three hits.

In his debut after dealing with a COVID-19 scare, Eric Lauer was very good for Milwaukee. He gave up just one hit over 2 2/3 innings and fanned six batters.

Milwaukee’s lone run of the day came courtesy of an Orlando Arcia single in the fifth inning.

The Brewers fell to 1-2 on the year and will now head to Pittsburgh to face off in a three-game series against Pittsburgh starting on Monday.

Brewers bats come alive to down the Cubs

A day after collecting just three hits in a shutout loss, the Milwaukee Brewers’ bats came alive against Yu Darvish and the Chicago pitching staff in an 8-3 win over the Cubs on Saturday at Wrigley Field.

After falling behind 1-0, Milwaukee would score the next four runs. An Eric Sogard single in the second scored Lorenzo Cain. Then, in the fourth, left fielder Ben Gamel drove in a pair of runs with his bases clearing triple. First baseman Justin Smoak would add another run with a solo home run off the right field foul pole — the first homer of the year for the Brewers.

Chicago managed to close the gap with a two-run shot from Kyle Schwarber in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Milwaukee bounced right back in the sixth thanks to Christian Yelich. Following a two-out walk by Sogard, the 2018 NL MVP drilled a no-doubt home run to center field. It was his first hit of the season and it gave Milwaukee a 6-3 lead.

The Crew blew the game open in the seventh as Omar Narvaez doubled in a run and Lorenzo Cain singled in another. Cain finished the day going 3-for-4.

Corbin Burnes got the start for Milwaukee and went 3 1/3 innings, giving up the one run on two hits. He walked three but also struck out six. Brent Suter gave up the home run to Schwarber but was otherwise solid in his 2 2/3 innings of work. Devin Williams got into some trouble in the seventh inning as he loaded the bases before getting a strikeout to end it.

Milwaukee improved to 1-1 on the year. The two teams will play the rubber match of their opening series on Sunday afternoon.

Brewers bats silenced in Opening Day loss in Chicago

Friday was Opening Day for Milwaukee but someone forgot to tell the Brewers bats.

Manager Craig Counsell’s club managed just three hits and fell 3-0 to the Chicago Cubs at a fan-less Wrigley Field.

Starter Kyle Hendricks threw a complete game shutout, his first since last May and the first by a Cubs pitcher on Opening Day since 1974. It included nine strikeouts, a number he reached just three times all of last season. The heart of Milwaukee’s order was especially inept against the righty. Christian Yelich, Keston Hiura and Justin Smoak went a combined 0-for-11 with six strikeouts.

The only guy with any success against Hendricks was Orlando Arcia. The shortstop went 3-for-3 on the night — the only Brewers player with a hit.

Milwaukee’s pitching made just two mistakes on the night but they were significant. Starter Brandon Woodruff left one out over the plate that Ian Happ drilled out for a two-run homer in the third inning. The game stayed 2-0 until Anthony Rizzo took J.P. Feyereisen deep on a solo shot in the eighth inning.

Woodruff ended up going five innings and allowed just four hits while striking out five. He took the loss.

After not pitching all of last season due to Tommy John surgery, Corey Knebel pitched a scoreless seventh inning.

Milwaukee and Chicago will meet again on Saturday with first pitch coming at 12:05 p.m.

MLB, players agree to expand playoffs to 16 teams

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed Thursday to expand the playoffs from 10 teams to 16 for the pandemic-delayed season, a decision that makes it likely teams with losing records will reach the postseason.

The agreement was reached hours before the season opener between the New York Yankees and World Series champion Washington Nationals. The deal applied only for 2020.

Sixteen of the 30 teams will advance to a best-of-three first round: the first- and second-place teams in every division and the next two clubs by winning percentage in each league. Those winners move on to the best-of-five Division Series, where the usual format resumes. The final four teams are in best-of-seven League Championship Series, and the pennant winners meet in the best-of-seven World Series.

“It’s such a unique season, why not try a little something different and make it as exciting as possible,” said Colorado shortstop Trevor Story, whose team has never won a World Series title. “I know it’s going to be such a sprint with the 60-game season; adding more playoff teams will just add to the fire and the excitement and the fandom around the game. Anything can happen in a 60-game season. I’m all for it.”

In each league, the division winners will be seeded 1-3, the second-place teams 4-6 and the teams with the next two-best records 7-8, which means up to four teams in one division could be in the postseason. The first round pairings will be 1 vs. 8, 2-7, 3-6 and 4-5.

The higher seed in the first round will host all games.

“This season will be a sprint to a new format that will allow more fans to experience playoff baseball.,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

Tiebreaker games, which have produced famous home runs by Bobby Thomson and Bucky Dent, are eliminated. Ties would be broken by head-to-head record, followed by better record within a team’s division and record in the last 20 games within the division. If still tied, the standard would be last 21 games within a division, then 22, etc.

As part of the deal, MLB agreed to guarantee a postseason pool that would be $50 million: $20 million in the first round is played and $10 million for each additional round. The postseason pool usually comprises ticket money from the postseason, but baseball anticipates playing the entire year in empty ballparks due to the coronavirus.

“The opportunity to add playoff games in this already-abbreviated season makes sense for fans, the league and players,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement. “We hope it will result in highly competitive pennant races as well as exciting additional playoff games to the benefit of the industry.”

ESPN was given rights to seven of eight first-round series and TBS the other for no additional money as a makeup for missed games. ESPN and TBS were to have split the two wild-card games in the original format.

The change means 53% of the 30 teams reach the playoffs. If eight teams qualified for the playoffs in each league from 1995 through 2019, 46 teams at or below .500 would have made it, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, an average of just under two per season. Those teams included 25 from the AL.

There would have been only three seasons in which all playoff teams would have had winning records, Elias said: 2000, 2003 and 2009.

“From a selfish, White Sox standpoint, I’m certainly in favor of it just for the mere fact that it enhances the possibilities that this group’s going to get exposed to October baseball,” Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “We’ve talked over the years of this rebuild and into this next stage that learning how to win is part of that. And certainly learning how to win in October is very much part of getting us to our ultimate goals.”

Two additional NFL teams reach the playoffs this season for a total of 14 of 32 NFL teams (44%) in the playoffs. Sixteen of 30 (53%) usually go to the playoffs in the NBA and 16 of 31 in the NHL (52%), which expands to 32 franchises next season.

MLB long restricted its postseason to just the pennant winners facing each other in the World Series. Postseason teams doubled to four with the split of each league into two divisions in 1969, then to eight with the realignment to three divisions and the addition of a wild card in 1995, a year later than planned due to a players’ strike. The postseason reached 10 with the addition of a second wild card and a wild-card round in 2012.

The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals hold the mark for the lowest winning percentage of a World Series champion, according to Elias, after going 83-78 for a .516 clip. The lowest percentage for a pennant winner was .509 for the 1973 New York Mets, who went 82-79 in a strike-shortened season.

“There’s no question that by definition, it gives you more of a safety net,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I hope they they continue to put a premium on winning divisions.”

The new format created a minimum 14 additional postseason games and as many as 22 if each first-round series goes the distance. The plan was part of MLB’s proposal last month to restart the season, but the union ended those talks and told MLB to unilaterally announce a schedule. That move preserved the union’s right to file a grievance claiming MLB did not negotiate in good faith to play as long a regular season as economically feasible, subject to conditions set in a March 26 agreement between the feuding sides.

“It would be a great way to keep fan bases engaged throughout the entire season,” Milwaukee Brewers star Christian Yelich said. “You’d have a really tight race all the way down to the last day of the season. I think there’d be a lot of teams in it within a game or two of each other going into that final day.”

AP Sports Writers Pat Graham, Steve Megargee and Andrew Seligman contributed to this report.

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Brewers: Corbin Burnes gets the call to replace an injured Brett Anderson

orbin Burnes is getting another shot at being in Milwaukee’s rotation to start a season.

The Brewers said this morning that Burnes would fill the vacancy created by Brett Anderson starting the year on the 10-day injured list with a blister on his throwing hand. It means Burnes will be on the mound on Saturday in the second game of the season against Chicago at Wrigley Field.

Burnes struggled last season and had an ERA north of 10 after his first four starts of the year. He ended up 1-5 with an 8.82 ERA for the season. That came after a stellar 2018 out of the bullpen when he went 7-0 with 2.61 ERA. But in spring ball, and again in summer camp, the righty has looked more like his old self.

“He’s been pretty much unhittable,” third baseman Jedd Gyorko said Tuesday. “I think all the hitters have said pretty much the same thing. His stuff has been electric. I know I faced him last year (with St. Louis) a couple times and he’s added a few things, a couple wrinkles to his game. It’s really paid off.

“I think we’re all excited to watch him go out and pitch against somebody else. Tired of him shoving it up our butts, let him do it against someone else.”

Milwaukee will face the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday in an exhibition game before opening the season on Friday against the Cubs.

Brewers: Brett Anderson to the IL, Ryan Braun’s availability for Opening Day in question

Milwaukee will need a new starting pitcher for Saturday’s game against the Cubs in Chicago.

On Monday, the team placed Brett Anderson on the 10-day injured list due to a blister on his throwing hand.

“It’s improving but our concern is a little bit the bigger picture here of just having it linger and have it affect him for multiple starts,” manager Craig Counsell said prior to the news of Anderson going on the IL.

It’s unclear who Milwaukee will turn to on Saturday, but Corbin Burnes is a possibility after having another strong outing on Monday in an intersquad scrimmage.

Meanwhile, Ryan Braun’s status for Opening Day is up in the air. Counsell told reporters that the veteran outfielder would once again not be on the field during the Blue-Gold Series at Miller Park Monday afternoon.

“I don’t know where we’re going to end up there. I’m starting to get concerned for sure,” Counsell said. “It’s kind of a back, oblique, neck — it’s kind of been all throughout his upper body. I don’t know. We’re going to just have to wait and see how he responds (Monday). We definitely need to have a day with marked improvement to be on track.

“It could also be a scenario with him where he’s just not ready for Opening Day but he’s ready shortly after. That could be a scenario as well.”

Brandon Woodruff named Opening Day starter for the Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell knew Brandon Woodruff would be his Opening Day starter last October, but it took until Friday for him to tell that to the media.

Speaking with reporters, Counsell said Woodruff will get the ball to open the season when the Brewers travel to Wrigley Field next Friday to take on the Chicago Cubs. It will be his first Opening Day start, and he’ll be the first pitcher drafted and developed by the Brewers to be on the mound for an opener since Yovani Gallardo in 2014.

“The first part of our conversation was this will be the first of many to come for you,” Counsell said of his talk with the 27-year-old Woodruff. “It’s important that he’s a Brewer and we developed him.”

Woodruff was named an NL All-Star last season as he completed his first full year in Milwaukee’s rotation, though he did miss around six weeks with an injury. He went 11-3 with a 3.62 ERA as the Brewers made it to the postseason for a second-straight season.

The big righty got the ball in the NL Wild Card game against Washington and allowed just two hits and one run over four innings of work in a game Milwaukee would end up losing. That followed a strong postseason in 2018 where he had an ERA of 1.46 over 12.1 innings and also hit a home run off of Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the NLCS.

“He’s gone through this not always perfect path, but actually a pretty good, if you even it out, just gradual path to this place,” Counsell said. “And he’s ready to keep going.”

Counsell said Brett Anderson would get the ball in the second game against the Cubs assuming the blister on his throwing hand clears up.

Brewers: Gold beats Blue in Game 1 of Blue-Gold Series

The Gold team earned a 4-1 win over the Blue team in Game 1 of the Blue-Gold Series at Miller Park on Tuesday night.

The Brewers split squad matchup played out over six innings and featured three home runs, a strong outing from Brandon Woodruff and piped in crowd noise.

Here were three things that stood out:

Gamel stays hot

The hottest hitter of Summer Camp stayed that way Tuesday night. Gamel, who made adjustments to his left-handed batting stance since Spring Training, was 2-for-2, including a two-run homer in the first inning. He also added a walk in his third at-bat.

Milwaukee figures to field a normal starting outfield of Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Avisail Garcia, but if Gamel can carry over what he’s done in a short sample size in camp, then manager Craig Counsell has another promising option to offer opposing pitchers off his bench.

Woodruff looks ready

Milwaukee’s ace found some trouble in the fourth inning, giving up a home run, but for much of the night he was overwhelming. That was especially true against the best the Brewers have to offer in Yelich. The big righty struck out the 2018 NL MVP all three times he faced him, which accounted for half of his six strikeouts on the night.

Woodruff hit his pitch limit in the fifth inning, finishing at 78. His line was solid, going 4 1/3 innings, allowing the one run on four hits and walking two. He likely has one more tuneup this weekend before almost certainly taking the mound opening day against the Cubs on July 24.

Crowd noise

The Brewers experimented with piped in crowd noise for the first time. You could barely tell it was there to begin with, but once the game started it was very noticeable. Sometimes it made perfect sense — the crowd went crazy when Jedd Gyorko drilled a two-run homer in the first inning — and sometimes it didn’t make any sense — the crowd got very loud after a Logan Morrison walk.

The club is obviously trying to get a feel for what is appropriate without fans in the stands. Yelich said it felt like a real game except when he looked for the crowd and no one was there. Still, the sound system provided the funniest part of the night, as well.

What’s next?

The two teams will meet again on Wednesday night with first pitch coming at 6:40 p.m.