MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers added an All-Star starting pitcher to the postseason chase on Tuesday night. Brandon Woodruff looked ready.
Woodruff’s first pitch back after nearly two months on the injured list with a left oblique strain was a 97 mph fastball. His second pitch was 98 mph. And two pitches after that, the right-hander touched 99 mph on the way to the first of his four strikeouts in two hitless innings during Milwaukee’s 3-1 win over the San Diego Padres at Miller Park.
“Just getting him back on the mound was the big thing,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
Lorenzo Cain homered leading off the bottom of the third inning and Mike Moustakas snapped a 1-1 tie with a home run leading off the bottom of the seventh for the Brewers, who have victories in 11 of their last 12 games and 14 of 17.
The Brewers (82-69) climbed within two games of the first-place St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central standings and pulled into a tie with the Chicago Cubs for the league’s second wild card berth.
Milwaukee’s originally scheduled starter, left-hander Gio Gonzalez, took over at the start of the third inning after Woodruff threw 37 pitches, 23 for strikes, in his first game of any kind since July 21. The only hitters he had faced since then were teammates. Woodruff threw a couple of simulated innings last week at Marlins Park in his next-to-last tuneup for his return.
“It was the type of injury where you can’t throw with intent for quite a while. I think we’re still building that back up,” Counsell said. “We didn’t get the mound time that you ideally would like to have, but, look, we’re in September. We need to get him going. He’s ready to get going. So we’ll do it.
“The goal is to put him in a good place going into October. A place where he can have a great October. I think that’s possible.”
The idea, Counsell said, is to build Woodruff’s pitch count in two remaining regular-season starts. Woodruff could add 15-20 pitches per outing, and be somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 pitches by the end of the month.
Woodruff was in the middle of a breakout season before he got hurt. He entered Tuesday 11-3 with a 3.75 ERA in his first 20 starts; the team entered the day 16-4 when he takes the mound.
Milwaukee also welcomed back slugging rookie second baseman Keston Hiura (strained left hamstring) to the starting lineup. He had only pinch hit twice since being reinstated from the 10-day injured list Sept. 11.
Moustakas teed off on a 1-2 pitch from reliever Matt Strahm (5-9) after Hunter Renfroe’s 32nd home run in the top of the seventh inning tied the score.
Renfroe, who had missed nine games with a sprained left ankle, connected off Matt Albers (8-5) and spoiled the six scoreless innings crafted by three Milwaukee pitchers.
Drew Pomeranz struck out the side in the eighth and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save in as many chances.
Ben Gamel scored on Trent Grisham’s sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Padres rookie right-hander Chris Paddack made his 26th start of the season and first against the Brewers. He allowed one hit, Cain’s solo shot in the third, walked one and struck out nine in five innings.
The Padres matched a season-high with their sixth straight loss.
Manny Machado had an infield single and Paddack added a base hit.
Brewers right-hander Adrian Houser (6-6, 3.84) makes his second appearance and first start against the Padres this season. He tossed 3⅓ scoreless innings in relief on June 19th at Petco Park.
Padres right-hander Dinelson Lamet (2-5, 4.06) makes his second career start against the Brewers today. He’s allowed no more than three earned runs in 10 of his 12 previous starts this season.