Kris Bryant had an up-close view the last few years as the Milwaukee Brewers kept getting better and better. It was Bryant's Chicago Cubs who were supposed to put together a perennial contender in the NL Central, but as the Cubs failed to build on a title run in 2016, the Brewers became the division's most consistent winner.
The Brewers have reached the postseason three straight years and are running away with the NL Central. As their latest run kicked into gear, the Cubs tore it down, sending Bryant to the other side of the country, where he wouldn't have to worry about facing a dominant staff led by Corbin Burnes.
Or at least that's what he thought.
"I mean, I thought I was getting away from him coming over here," Bryant said Monday night, smiling. "But I've seen him twice now."
The Giants have faced Burnes two times this month and scored two total runs. They had just four hits against him Monday, falling 3-1 in their return to Oracle Park. A few minutes later, the Los Angeles Dodgers won their game to inch to within 1 1/2 games out in the NL West.
The Giants and Dodgers seem to be on a collision course, with one set for the NL West crown and the other headed for the top Wild Card spot. That could set them up for a mammoth NLDS matchup, and the road after that won't be any easier. The Brewers have been the National League's third best team and they could be waiting. The four matchups thus far have shown how difficult that will be.
The Giants and Brewers have split four games, but if Avisail Garcia had caught a ninth-inning fly ball to right in Milwaukee, the Brewers would have a third win. They'll try to get it Tuesday behind Brandon Woodruff, who ranks third in the NL in ERA, one spot behind Burnes.
"It's no secret that they have a really good pitching staff, a good back end of the bullpen," Bryant said. "When my career started in 2015 they weren't as good, but every year they've gotten better. They're kind of one of those teams that isn't talked about as much but they should be, because they win. We're out here battling them but they just have good at-bats, it's a good lineup, a good staff. That's a recipe for a lot of wins."
The Giants have followed it, too, with one more twist. They are as dangerous as any team late in games, consistently getting late homers or hits to swing games. They couldn't do it against a very, very good Brewers bullpen, though.
Bryant teamed up with Brandon Belt to help knock Burnes out of the game in the seventh, but with the tying run on second and no outs, Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson made quick and soft outs against Brad Boxberger. Darin Ruf followed with a liner to left that was right at Christian Yelich.
As good as the Brewers are at the top of their rotation, their real strength might be the back of their bullpen. Devin Williams and Josh Hader closed the Giants out Monday, handing them a third loss in four games.
"Burnes was as good as he normally is. He's one of the top two or three starting pitchers in baseball," manager Kapler said. "And then we faced three of the better relievers in baseball and the bottom line is they just shut us down."