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Brewers rely on depth in wild-card series vs. improved D-backs

The Milwaukee Brewers will turn to ace right-hander Corbin Burnes when the National League Central champions host the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday in the opener of the best-of-three wild-card series.

Burnes (10-8, 3.39 ERA) will be opposed by rookie right-hander Brandon Pfaadt (3-9, 5.72 ERA), facing the Brewers for the first time. Arizona (84-78) won four of the six regular-season meetings with Milwaukee (92-70).

The Brewers received devastating news Monday when they learned that right-hander Brandon Woodruff, scheduled to pitch the second game, would miss the entire series with a right shoulder injury, with the remainder of the postseason in doubt.

“We’ve got good pitching, we’ve got really good pitching,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Monday. “We feel good about how we’re going to get through this series with a lot of guys on the mound. Giving the ball to Corbin on Day 1 is as good a feeling as you can have.”

The Diamondbacks, in the postseason for the first time since 2017, finished the regular season with four consecutive losses but secured the final wild card on Saturday when other contenders also lost.

Arizona was 52-39 at the All-Star break and tied with the Dodgers for the NL West lead but finished 16 games behind Los Angeles. The Diamondbacks, who lost 110 games in 2021, are just the third team in major league history to go from a 110-plus loss season to the playoffs within three years.

“It’s a first for a lot of people, not just our pitcher, and I think there’s just a certain readiness that they’ll all have because they’ve worked hard to get here,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “The team is extremely hungry, they have a lot to prove, they’re very connected, and we feel like we’re very dangerous.”

In getting swept by Houston to end the season, the Diamondbacks scored just two runs and were 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position. Arizona also used its two top starters, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, against Houston.

Milwaukee, appearing in the postseason for the fifth time in six seasons, was 27-13 over its final 40 games.

Catcher William Contreras brings an 18-game hitting streak into the playoffs. He hit .342 (52-for-152) with five homers, 11 doubles, 24 RBIs, 25 walks and 33 runs over his final 39 games.

Milwaukee improved its offense with the trade deadline acquisitions of Mark Canha and Carlos Santana. Canha’s 33 RBIs from Aug. 1 to Oct. 1 trailed only Contreras (34) for most on the team. Santana had 11 homers and 33 RBIs in 52 games after being acquired from Pittsburgh.

Outfielder Tyrone Taylor, injured much of the first half, hit .291 (23-for-79) over his final 23 games with five homers, nine doubles and 17 RBIs.

“These guys have done it for a lot of years, so adding them to our lineup, it lengthens it a bit,” said outfielder Christian Yelich. “I just feel like we have quality at-bats up and down the lineup and it puts a lot of pressure on people.”

Burnes was 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA in five starts in September, including three scoreless starts. In his final two outings, he scattered seven hits over nine scoreless innings.

Burnes struck out 200, the third consecutive season he reached that mark, and walked 66. Opponents are batting .200 against him, but just .183 in September.

Burnes is 2-1 in five career starts vs. Arizona, including 1-1 with 4.85 ERA in two games this season.

Pfaadt was 2-2 with a 4.32 ERA in five appearances in September, including four starts. In two of his last three starts, he did not allow a run.

In his last start, he allowed five hits over 5 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out eight and walking none in a crucial 3-0 win over the White Sox.

Arizona right fielder Corbin Carroll, the likely NL Rookie of the Year, had 25 homers and 76 RBIs, hitting .285.

–Field Level Media

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