Collmenter one man who is wrecking Crew
Arizona starter dominates Milwaukee for third consecutive outing
PHOENIX -- Yes, the Arizona Diamondbacks were down, 2-0, in this National League Division Series, on the doorstep of elimination Tuesday night. But they had a real reason for optimism. They had Josh Collmenter going against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Also on the plus side, the D-backs were home at Chase Field, and they knew they wouldn't quit. But best of all, they had Collmenter vs. the Brewers. The record may be brief, but it speaks with only one voice. The Brewers can't beat him. They can barely touch him. They would probably have a better chance against Justin Verlander.
The D-backs beat the Brewers, 8-1, with Collmenter once again short-circuiting the Milwaukee attack on two hits over seven innings. Think about the situation: This 25-year-old rookie was all that stood between the D-backs and the end of their postseason. And the game ends up being a no-contest in his favor.
Milwaukee's offense is normally not going to be dismissed out of hand in this manner. The dynamic-duo presence of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder all by itself is a major threat. But Collmenter does not appear to be threatened by the Brewers. In fact, they seem to represent no particular problem for him.
In two regular-season starts against Milwaukee, Collmenter pitched 14 scoreless innings, yielding only six hits. Here, in the pressure-packed postseason, Collmenter was as composed as ever, and as effective as usual against Milwaukee. And that is saying a lot.
He did give up a home run to Corey Hart in the third inning. The thought occurred that the Brewers had finally broken through against Collmenter and that now their offense could get in gear. But this one run proved to be an aberration, not a trend.
That was all the Brewers put up against Collmenter. In seven innings, one run. And two hits.
To briefly review, for the Brewers against Collmenter, including this postseason start, that would be 21 innings and one run on eight hits. Collmenter's ERA against Milwaukee is 0.43. His WHIP is 0.52. This is dominance. You can't imagine any pitcher doing any better over three starts against a Milwaukee lineup that includes some of the game's most dangerous hitters.
Collmenter's delivery is deceptive, but his stuff is not particularly Verlander-like. His high-80s fastball is spotted well and he keeps the changeup down. His composure is apparent, even in these heightened circumstances. But all of this does not explain his utter domination of the Milwaukee club. Why is Collmenter vs. the Brewers such a one-sided contest?
"That's what the coaching staff is asking ourselves, is why is this guy so tough?" Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "But, you're right, we haven't hit him three games now.
"And just two hits off him. We didn't square up too many other balls. It's something about that deception on the fastball. The changeup is very good. The changeup is down in the zone always. And he's got great motion on it. And then he spots his fastball well.
"I don't know. I've looked at other games that he's pitched, and I've seen some he's pitched well and I've seen some he hasn't done so well. And it comes down to command on the fastball. I can't see corners [from the dugout], but it looked like he commanded the fastball pretty good."
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, asked about Collmenter's domination of the Brewers, suggested that it was "incredible." Thus, both teams were in complete agreement on this topic.
"We talked about it before, he obviously has great deception," Gibson said. "He obviously has great character. He was very composed tonight, and threw strikes. He kept them off balance, and it's what we needed. He deserves a lot of credit for the way he threw and the way he was composed tonight."
Collmenter himself was matter-of-fact about his work against the Brewers, even here under the bright lights of baseball's postseason stage.
"Coming into the game, I knew I had success against Milwaukee," Collmenter said. "I knew if I executed my game plan, I could get them out. I didn't have to pitch out of my head. And I think that gave me some confidence to know that if I ever got in the situation with some runners on or got in a jam, I knew I'd pitch out of it by executing pitches against different guys."
It ought to be pointed out, just for the sake of contrast, that three starts ago, Collmenter gave up six earned runs in four innings to the San Diego Padres, the 15th best offense in the National League in terms of runs scored. This is not noted to diminish his worth. He had a very nice rookie season, including a 3.38 ERA. But not everybody found him to be completely unhittable, the way the Milwaukee club does.
In any case, Collmenter helped to give the D-backs life in this NLDS. They're at home with a chance to even the series now in large measure because he stopped the Brewers for the third straight time.
On the plus side for the Brewers, they won't see Collmenter starting again in this series, unless he pitches on two days' rest in Game 5. If there is a Game 5, that starting assignment would go to Arizona's ace, Ian Kennedy. At this juncture, though, the Brewers would be happy to see any D-backs pitcher not named Josh Collmenter.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.