Woodruff cruised to his National League-leading 10th win of the season, Eric Thames homered and tripled, and the Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1 on Saturday night.
Woodruff (10-2) allowed one earned run and six hits with six strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings, helping Milwaukee improve to 4-5 on its current 10-game homestand.
“You look at the numbers across the board, the guy’s legit,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “That’s the best fastball we’ve seen from him. He held it through seven innings. Slider was tight. He threw it in any count. He’s 10-2 for a reason. He’s legit.”
Woodruff’s 120 strikeouts are the fifth-highest total in the first half in franchise history, the highest since Yovani Gallardo’s 122 in 2010.
“You don’t know what to expect coming into the season but to have 10 wins before the break, that’s pretty cool,” Woodruff said.
While Woodruff hardly broke a sweat, counterpart Jordan Lyles (5-4) threw two wild pitches, hit a batter, gave up a home run and allowed three earned runs in six innings in his first start since being placed on the 10-day injured list with hamstring tightness. Lyles is 0-2 in three starts this season against Milwaukee.
“I was very encouraged by his body of work tonight,” Hurdle said. “I think he got into a good rhythm. He used all his pitches. His fastball, he used it to the four spots.”
The Pirates scored in the first when Colin Moran doubled to right to score Kevin Newman. Newman reached on a single, extending his hitting streak to 19 games, the longest by a Pittsburgh rookie in a single season since 1900.
After drawing a walk, Christian Yelich knotted the game at 1 in the bottom half, scoring from third on a failed pickoff attempt at first base. Lyles was looking to catch Ryan Braun napping, but the right-hander made an errant throw.
Thames tripled down the right-field line, scoring Braun and putting the Brewers ahead 2-1.
That was all the cushion Woodruff would need.
Woodruff retired the side in order in the second, third and fourth innings. After allowing two baserunners in the fifth, Woodruff went on to retire seven of his final nine batters.
“The biggest thing for me is to get to the point where I can get deep into games and give the team a chance to win,” said Woodruff, who exited the game to a standing ovation from the 37,821 in attendance. “Lately, I’ve been able to do that but I couldn’t do it without the guys behind me playing great defense. I just try to let those guys work.”
Thames added another run in the fourth on a solo blast to right, his 11th. Thames now has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 starts.
“My whole goal this last month has been to see the ball, trust my hands, trust my skill and just hit it,” Thames said. “I’ve been working with (hitting coach Andy Haines) a lot on off-speed pitches in the cage, on the breaking ball machine and fastballs in … Just trying to see a little of everything.”
Josh Hader retired the side in the ninth to pick up his 20th save, joining Dan Plesac as the only left-handed pitchers in franchise history to record at least 20 saves in a season.
Hader has not surrendered a run or a hit in his last eight appearances, allowing just four walks and striking out 20 in 11 1/3 innings.
“He’s on a good run right now,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s a lot of strikes, a lot of early swings. He’s putting the ball in good spots. He’s having a tremendous season. You guys were concerned early but he’s doing all right.”
ONE MORE TO 1K
After failing to register a hit on Saturday, Yelich remains one hit shy of 1,000 for his major league career.
“He’s doing fine,” Counsell said. “He’s had some bad luck but he took his walks today. So we’re waiting. He’ll get it tomorrow.”
Brewers: LHP Gio Gonzalez (left arm) played catch on Friday and Saturday. Counsell says he wants to see Gonzalez “get off the mound a couple times before the All-Star break.” Gonzalez is expected to be out until at least July 20. He hasn’t pitched since May 27.
Brewers right-hander Zach Davies (7-2, 3.34 ERA) faces left-hander Steven Brault (3-1, 4.50 ERA) in the finale of three-game series Sunday afternoon. Davies has an 8.10 ERA over his last four starts. Brault has allowed a total of seven runs in his last five starts.