WASHINGTON -- Between Brandon Kintzler earning this third Major League win on Sunday with a scoreless sixth-inning relief appearance, and John Axford being forced to close it out, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke got a good look at a bullpen that has transformed from one of the most maligned units in baseball to a quality, reliable group.
Roenicke said he initially wanted to stay away from Axford in the ninth, as Milwaukee's closer had pitched an inning in each of the previous three days. But after Jose Veras put two runners on base, Roenicke was forced into using Axford for the final out.
Any gripes with the situation were washed away by the 6-2 win, as well as the fact that the Brewers continue to get solid looks at some of their younger and lesser-utilized players this month while remaining in contention.
"[Kintzler's] got a very good fastball with movement on it," Roenicke said. "He's got a strikeout changeup, he's got a nice slider. He's got stuff to be able to get out of anything. You just hope he doesn't have to do it that often."
Kintzler has appeared in eight games since being called up on Sept. 3, tossing 10 1/3 innings with a 2.61 ERA in the process. After beginning the season on the disabled list, Kintzler was eventually designated for assignment on June 28.
The Sept. 1 roster expansion allowing the Brewers to add Kintzler to a bullpen that entered Monday with a 4.52 ERA, 12th in the National League. Adding the right-hander has paid of for both the 28-year-old and the team.
"It's fun," Kintzler said. "It's something I've been thinking about the whole year, thinking I'd be a part of."
Lineup depth has been key to Brewers' surge
WASHINGTON -- Throughout the Brewers' climb back into postseason contention, several factors have contributed to their turnaround.
A more reliable bullpen might be the most prominent factor, but with the Brewers seeking a series win over the Nationals on Monday, manager Ron Roenicke was praising the depth of a lineup that has produced the most runs in the National League. Milwaukee entered the series finale having plated 733 runs this season, third in all of baseball to the Rangers and Yankees.
That offense has come from a lineup that lost Prince Fielder to free agency last winter and has endured injuries of varying significance throughout this season to Corey Hart, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Braun and others.
"It is deep," Roenicke said of his lineup. "For a while there, I was writing out the lineup and thinking, 'Well, I hope this little group right here does something.' Now I write up the lineup and I say, 'Wow, that's really nice.' When [Jonathan Lucroy] is sixth, you've got a really good lineup."
Feeling the full brunt of September baseball, the variety of injuries has only increased as the Brewers wrapped up their series with the Nationals and prepare for another pivotal three-game set with the Reds.
But even with Hart continuing to work his way back from a left arch injury and Braun playing through groin issues, Roenicke isn't checking with players daily to see if they can go. A quick check with head trainer Dan Wright covers that, and with the Brewers entering play Monday 2 1/2 games behind the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card race, players throughout the clubhouse are playing through their ailments.
"We're in that situation where every game is intense, every play is intense," Hart said. "You never know how many chances we're going to get, so every chance is big for us. We've been playing like that for the past month, and that's why the way we are."
After scoring two runs against the Nationals on Sunday, Braun became the only Major League player to score at least 100 runs and record at least 100 RBIs in each of the last four seasons. Braun entered Monday with 100 runs scored and 108 RBIs.
Over the last 20 games entering Monday, Brewers relievers went 8-1 with a 3.16 ERA. Milwaukee's bullpen also held opposing hitters to a .222 batting average over that span.
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.