Counsell: Burnes not 'physically ready' to pitch for Brewers in Game 4
Burnes, 26, started Game 1, Milwaukee's only win in its NLDS matchup against the Atlanta Braves. The right-hander threw six shutout innings, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out six on 91 pitches.
After Atlanta won the next two games, the Brewers opted not to start Burnes on three days' rest, saving him instead for a potential Game 5 that didn't happen. On Tuesday, the Braves went with Game 1 starter Charlie Morton, who'd also gone six innings to open the series and was on three days' rest.
"(Burnes is) just not physically ready to do it," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said before Game 4, according to Adam McCalvy and Zachary Silver of MLB.com. "He wanted to do it, but we had to make sure he was physically ready to do it. He's just not ready to do it."
Burnes confirmed that he told the team he was not 100% ready but said he still wanted to make the start.
"I told them, 'Hey, I'm good to go out there,'" Burnes said Tuesday afternoon. "They said, 'Is it 100%?' I said, 'Not quite 100%, but I think I can give you a good outing.' The better, probably smarter option was to go with (Eric) Lauer, who is 100% ready to go."
Lauer wound up going 3 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks with a pair of strikeouts. Game 2 starter Brandon Woodruff pitched in relief, recording four outs on 12 pitches before turning the ball over to Josh Hader, who surrendered the game-winning homer to Freddie Freeman.
"I think this is why it's important to have an open dialogue with a pitcher," Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. "If a pitcher really feels as though he has recovered enough and is close to 100%, then yes, it could make sense. I think what happens a lot, and we see this in the performance record with teams that do go with a short starter, is that the pitcher feels as though he is obligated to make a start and you sometimes get a pitcher out there who isn't ready to do it."
The Brewers entered the postseason with the third-best record in the Senior Circuit, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers and Giants are mired in an NLDS matchup set to go the distance, with Game 5 scheduled for Thursday. The winner will face the 88-win Braves in the NL Championship Series.
Burnes led all qualified starters with a 2.43 ERA, a 1.63 FIP, and a 12.6 K/9 rate. The All-Star was limited to 167 innings pitched over 28 starts, which could impact his Cy Young candidacy alongside NL stalwarts Zack Wheeler, Max Scherzer, or Walker Buehler.