Junior Guerra is one of those feel-good stories that come around Major League Baseball every few years. And after one full season in the big leagues, the Milwaukee Brewers feel much better than good when Guerras toeing the rubber.
Guerra made his major-league debut at the age of 30 with the Chicago White Sox on June 12, 2015. He made three relief appearances before being waived, and later, claimed by the Brewers in October 2015. It marked general manager David Stearns first official roster move with the Crew.
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Claiming Guerra looked like a small splash at the time, but the right-hander exceeded all expectations in 2016. He started 20 games and finished the year with a record of 9-3 and a 2.81 earned-run average -- the lowest among nine pitchers to start a game for the Brewers. More importantly, Milwaukee was 14-6 in games he started. And out of those six games lost, Guerra gave up more than three earned runs just once.
The 31-year-old rookie became a 32-year-old opening-day starter for the Brewers. A follow-up to his remarkable rookie campaign was put on hold, however, after a calf strain in the third inning sidelined him for the first two months of the season.
Guerra makes his long-awaited return to the mound on Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. To commemorate his return, we take a brief peek at his best five starts from his MLB career.
May 13, 2016
Guerras third-career start gave Brewers fans their first glimpse of what was to come. After allowing four runs over six innings in each of his first two starts, Guerra settled down and stepped up his game at Miller Park. He didn't allow a single run and gave up just two hits in six innings, topping opposing left-hander Christian Friedrich and the San Diego Padres in a pitchers duel, 1-0.
May 19, 2016
Guerra followed up the dominant performance against the Padres by setting a career high in strikeouts, a personal best that still stands today. The right-hander held the hot-hitting Chicago Cubs to five hits and three earned runs and fanned 11 hitters in a 5-3 win at Miller Park. The start lowered his ERA below 4.00 for the first time, a mark it would never come close to touching again.
June 29, 2016
The Los Angeles Dodgers rolled into Milwaukee in late June to discover a piping-hot Guerra on the mound. Guerra shut down Dave Roberts bunch, refusing to allow a single run in eight innings. He tallied seven strikeouts in an easy-going 7-0 Brewers victory.
July 4, 2016
Guerra spoiled Independence Day in the nations capital with another scoreless outing, this time lasting 7 1/3 innings. He whiffed seven Nationals hitters -- fresh off a six-homer game the day before -- in a 1-0 win. Guerra outpitched two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who lasted only six innings.
July 29, 2016
To reward Guerra for the best start of his career, manager Craig Counsell sent Guerra out in the ninth inning with a chance to complete his first career shutout. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Andrew McCutchen knocked in a run to close the scoring gap to 3-1. Counsell replaced Guerra with Jeremy Jeffress after 8 2/3 innings and four hits and just the one earned run allowed. The Pirates were finished off one pitch later, and Guerras ERA dropped to a season-best 2.70.
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