Fresh off getting swept by the Chicago Cubs, the Brewers opened what may been their most important series of the season to this point, a four-gamer with the St. Louis Cardinals who have a three-game lead in the National League Central division.
The game pitted Wily Peralta (15-9, 3.82 ERA) against Michael Wacha (5-5, 2.79 ERA). Peralta had been awful in each of his last two starts, giving up six runs to San Francisco and eight to Pittsburgh his last two times out.
Wacha was making his first start since June 17, spending 2 ½ months on the disabled list with a shoulder issue. Getting him back for the stretch run is a boon to the Cardinals, who could run away with the division with a good showing in Milwaukee.
The Brewers showed signs of life against the Cardinals, but they stranded runner after runner on base and took a 3-2 loss to fall four back in the division.
The Brewers answered back in the bottom of the first, Gerardo Parra knocked a one-out single to left and came around to score from first on Jonathan Lucroy’s 47th double of the season to cut the lead in half.
The Cardinals extended the lead in the third. With one out Peralta hit Holliday with a pitch and Molina worked a six pitch walk with two outs to put two on for Kolten Wong who singled to left to bring in Holliday and make it 3-0.
Wacha left after the third inning, as he was on a strict pitch count on his return from the disabled list. He allowed one run on three hits and one walk. He struck out three batters. Marco Gonzales came on to pitch the fourth for the Cards.
Rickie Weeks cut the lead on the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth inning, pinch hitting for Scooter Gennett with a long home run (6) making it 3-2. Two batters later Lucroy chased Gonzales from the game after legging out an infield single.
Mike Matheny called for Jason Motte to replace Gonzalez. Ramirez singled off Motte, moving Lucroy to second and putting two on for Khris Davis. Davis flew out to the warning track in right to bring up pinch hitter Lyle Overbay, hitting for Reynolds.
Zach Duke came on to pitch the seventh for Milwaukee. He got Carpenter on strikes before a Jon Jay single to end Duke’s night as Ron Roenicke called for Jeremy Jeffress to face Holliday. Holliday lined out to Parra in right on the first pitch from Jeffress. Jeffress got Peralta to ground out to end the inning.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh against Maness, Matt Clark collected his first Major League hit with a single to center. Carlos Gomez came in to pinch run for Clark and was thrown out at second breaking up a double play on a Weeks grounder, leaving Weeks safe at first.
Weeks went to third on a Parra single to center to put two on for Lucroy and chase Maness from the game. Unfortunately for the Crew, Carlos Martinez came in and got Lucroy to pop out to end the inning.
Jonathan Broxton made his Brewers debut in the eighth inning. Kolten Wong singled with one out and advanced to second two batters later on a Peter Bourjos single. Wong took off for second and Bourjos singled through the opening, but Weeks faked out Wong at second, making him think he was getting a throw so Wong couldn’t go to third on the hit. Broxton struck out A.J. Pierzynski to end the inning.
Pat Neshek came on to pitch the bottom of the eighth for the Cardinals. Aramis Ramirez led off grounder to first but rookie first baseman Xavier Scruggs threw it away to give Ramirez the base. Davis followed with a single to put two on.
Martin Maldonado came in to pinch hit for Overbay and bunt the runners up a base but he couldn’t do it and ended up lining out back to the mound. Logan Schafer followed with a deep drive to center field that Bourjos caught on a dead sprint for the second out of the inning. Segura flew out to end the inning with two stranded on base.
Will Smith came in to pitch the ninth for Milwaukee. Carpenter led off with a single to left off the big lefty. Smith walked Jay on four pitches while Jay was trying to bunt Carpenter over to second. That was it for Smith as Roenicke called for Brandon Kintzler to face Holliday.
Holliday hit a hard grounder back up the middle and hit Carpenter with it. Carpenter was ruled out on interference, and Holliday was credited with a single. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch to put men on second and third. Kintzler walked Peralta to load the bases for Molina.
Molina flew out to right and Jay tried to score on Parra’s throw from right but he was out by several feet to end the inning with no runs scored.
The Brewers trailed 3-2 coming into the ninth against Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal. He set down Herrera quickly for the first out before walking Weeks. Rosenthal struck out Parra for the second out. Lucroy walked to put two on for pinch hitter Jason Rogers but he flew out to the warning track in right to end the game.
Peralta took the loss for the Brewers who stranded nine runners on base in the last three innings, showing signs of life for the first time in a while. The series continues tomorrow when Mike Fiers (4-2, 1.93 ERA) takes on John Lackey (13-8, 3.74 ERA overall, 2-1, 4.23 ERA with St. Louis).