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Brewers 5, Tigers 4: Freddy Peralta wasn't sharp but Jackson Chourio and the bullpen pick him up

DETROIT -- In the seventh inning of last Saturday's game at American Family Field against the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers manager Pat Murphy lifted Jackson Chourio in favor of a pinch hitter trailing in the seventh inning.

It wasn't the first time that had happened, either, or even close to it. This had become a common theme late in games for the Brewers' $82 million phenom. When the games got tight toward the end and the opposition had a right-hander on the bump, a lefty went to the bat rack for Milwaukee while Chourio grabbed a different type of lumber — the bench.

Seven days following that seventh-inning substitution against the White Sox, Chourio found himself in a similar situation, with his team trailing by a run and the go-ahead run on base with two outs in the sixth. On the mound? A right-hander.

In the dugout, Murphy mulled the decision. Oliver Dunn and Jake Bauers were available. One of them, Murphy said to himself, would probably even be the better matchup.

But this time he stuck with Chourio and the rookie made good on that trust.

Chourio roped a two-run double off reliever Shelby Miller to give the Brewers a 5-4 lead they wouldn't relinquish as they defeated the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night at Comerica Park.

"I’m just very grateful that he has the confidence in me," Chourio said. "All I’m trying to do is go out there and win his confidence. Thanks to God that things were able to go our way there. That’s an at-bat that I’m trying to prepare myself for."

It was a rainy evening on which Brewers starting pitcher Freddy Peralta was not sharp, or even anything resembling it. The offense put runners on base all afternoon but missed out on a plethora of scoring chances. The defense made a couple of poorly-timed mistakes, too.

But all of that was made up for by Chourio and the bullpen, which picked up the pieces after Peralta exited during the fourth inning.

In the end, it was a second consecutive win for the Brewers, who needed a pick-me-up this series on the heels of being swept in Philadelphia.

Brewers leftfielder Jackson Chourio slides safely into home plate to score a run against the Tigers in the third inning at Comerica Park on Saturday.
Brewers leftfielder Jackson Chourio slides safely into home plate to score a run against the Tigers in the third inning at Comerica Park on Saturday.

Jackson Chourio delivers

The moment for Chourio in the sixth was this: Runners on the corners, two outs and the Brewers trailing by a run against Miller, who had just entered one batter prior and gotten Blake Perkins to roll into a fielder's choice.

Chourio fouled a first-pitch fastball from Miller back. Then he got another. This one Chourio roped a line, smacking the ball 103.3 mph off the bat to left-center, where it was cut off in the gap on a good play by Tigers leftfielder Riley Greene. Still, the speedy Perkins was waved around third and was safe on a close play at the plate to put the Brewers ahead by a run.

Those who follow the Brewers closely might have expected Dunn to emerge from the dugout once Tigers starter Casey Mize, a right-hander with reverse splits, was removed following a one-out single by Joey Ortiz.

In pinch-hitting for Chourio, as well as keeping him out of the lineup at times, Murphy has tried to send a message about what it takes to win at the major-league level to the former second-ranked prospect in all of baseball.

Compete on every pitch. Control the strike zone. Devise and execute a plan of attack.

"He’s got to relax and he’s got to swing at strikes," Murphy said. "It’s something he’s got to get used to. He’s got to go through it and he’s got to understand. I got to practice this and I got to take balls and swing and strikes. He gets the message most when he doesn’t see his name in the lineup. That’s the message."

Chourio, in Murphy's eyes, had earned this at-bat.

It hasn't been all flowers at the plate for Chourio of late, but the skipper had taken note of what he believes to be an improved approach in addition to solid defense and some other timely hitting, including a go-ahead three-run homer on Sunday.

“That was the decision that nobody sees," Murphy said. "It was because you’re trying to nurture this kid into, ‘We believe in you.’ But you got to keep doing the things that keep you on the field. Use your talents. And you got to know baseball. So you can’t go up there free swinging. You got to go up there understanding what you’re looking for. And that’s what’s just, inside, is that little victory in my mind.”

By the look on Chourio's face after the game, maybe it was a big victory.

"The way that I was thinking of it was it was time to put my foot in the ring to help the team win a game," Chourio said. "I was waiting on this moment."

The bullpen delivers

Milwaukee's bullpen was lights-out in Peralta's stead.

Jared Koenig, Enoli Paredes, Bryan Hudson, Joel Payamps and Trevor Megill combined to record 17 scoreless outs and only allowed one hit, which came on an infield single. They struck out eight without issuing a walk, either.

"That’s the standard that our bullpen has," said Megill, who earned his ninth save with a perfect ninth inning. "We’re just going out and executing pitches."

Koenig, who relieved Peralta in the fifth and recorded five outs, earned his team-leading sixth win. Not bad for a minor-league signing in the winter who didn't make the team out of camp and didn't make his season debut until the third week of the season.

What's the secret?

"I drink the cherry juice, I drink the beets every night," Koenig said.

An abbreviated start for Freddy Peralta

Freddy Peralta lasted only 3 1/3 innings Saturday in Detroit, his shortest start of the season.
Freddy Peralta lasted only 3 1/3 innings Saturday in Detroit, his shortest start of the season.

Following the fifth walk from Peralta of the afternoon, Murphy took the ball and handed it to his bullpen with one out in the bottom of the fourth.

Peralta's 3 1/3-inning start is by far his shortest of the season. He allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and five walks while striking out three.

BOX SCORE: Brewers 5, Tigers 4

Peralta's velocity was down beginning in the third inning. His fastball sat mostly 89-92 mph, though he did work it up to 94.5 mph at one instance.

Murphy and athletic trainer Dave Yeager paid Peralta a visit after the first out of the third to check on the concerning velocity and were told by the right-hander everything was fine health-wise.

"We went to the mound and we didn’t understand why he was throwing 89, 90," Murphy said. "I just looked at him and said are you good. Tell me, are you good or are you hurt? And he said, 'I’m good.' It was more about just trying to find the zone."

Peralta finished with five whiffs, the fewest in any outing for him since Sept. 25, 2021, when he only threw two innings by design. The last time Peralta had five or fewer swings and misses in a "true" start was Sept. 8, 2021.

Brewers got a couple back thanks to Tigers collision

Two unearned runs came across for Milwaukee in the top of the third after it loaded the bases with nobody out following two singles and a collision in shallow right that allowed a William Contreras pop fly to drop.

Second baseman Colt Keith collided with right fielder Akil Baddoo, causing the ball to pop out of Baddoo's glove and allow all runners to advance. Keith exited the game with a knee injury, then Christian Yelich hit a sacrifice fly and Willy Adames drove in a run with a grounder to third to draw within 4-3.

More: Brewers pitcher Robert Gasser returns ahead of third opinion on his elbow injury

Déjà vu for Freddy Peralta

The issue for Peralta his last time out against the White Sox was an arduous first inning due to spotty command with two strikes. Peralta threw 43 pitches in the first that day and allowed a pair of runs.

It was more of the same Saturday. And unlike six days prior, Peralta never settled in.

In the first inning, Peralta got to two strikes on every batter but one but allowed two walks, a hit and ultimately threw 34 pitches while giving up a run before working out of the inning.

Peralta threw seven pitches to Matt Vierling after getting ahead, 0-2, as the leadoff batter. Peralta was up 0-2 on Mark Canha before walking him and also went from a 2-2 count on Riley Greene to a walk.

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It was a Gio Urshela single to left against an 0-1 changeup from Peralta that scored the Tigers' run.

The same pattern burned Peralta in the second as the Tigers plated three runs to take a 4-1 lead.

Peralta walked Baddoo, a .200 hitter, to lead off the inning after getting to a 2-2 count. Javier Baez roped a first-pitch fastball for a single, then light-hitting catcher Carson Kelly worked an 0-2 count into a RBI single through the right side.

Vierling bounced out while moving the runners up, then Greene grounded into a fielder's choice with the Brewers getting an out on Baez at home.

With a chance to escape the inning, Peralta got ahead on Canha, no balls to two strikes. What happened next was, in the scheme of Peralta's last two starts, not all that surprising. Canha worked Peralta for a few more pitches before punching a Baltimore chopper to right for a RBI single.

Exacerbating matters on the play was Sal Frelick's throw from right field skipped past Joey Ortiz at third base and out of play, which brought home a second run to put Detroit ahead, 4-1.

The two-strike issues are confounding for Peralta. Of his 90 pitches thrown Saturday, 46 came with two strikes. 25 of those were thrown out of the zone. He got only two whiffs and one called strike when in some of the most advantageous counts possible for a pitcher and allowed eight batters in total to reach after the count was 0-2 or 1-2.

"It wasn’t my best day," Peralta said. "Crazy day for me. I put some hitters 0-2 quick and then I lost them and lost the battle. I walked some of them, too. It was for me a bad day in general. But what’s more important for me is the team won the game."

Brewers schedule

Brewers at Tigers, 12:40 p.m. Sunday: Milwaukee TBA vs. Detroit LHP Tarik Skubal. Broadcasts: TV – Bally Sports Wisconsin. Radio – AM-620.

Brewers vs. Blue Jays, 7:10 p.m. Monday: Milwaukee TBA vs. Toronto TBA. Broadcasts: TV – Bally Sports Wisconsin. Radio – AM-620.

Brewers vs. Blue Jays, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday: Milwaukee TBA vs. Toronto TBA. Broadcasts: TV – Bally Sports Wisconsin. Radio – AM-620.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Brewers 5, Tigers 4: Chourio, bullpen pick up Peralta after shaky start