After losing the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader in St. Louis, the Milwaukee Brewers won their next two contests and had a chance to win the series with a victory tonight. Zach Davies got the start for the Brewers and struggled right out of the gate, allowing a leadoff double to Matt Carpenter in what wound up being a 2-run first inning for the Cardinals. Davies was hit around quite a bit, actually, giving up 9 knocks and four runs across just 5.0 innings pitched. In addition to the two runs in the first and he gave up single runs in the third and fifth innings. A misplay by Domingo Santana on a leadoff “double” in Davies’ final inning didn’t help things, however.
Ultimately it was yet another supbar start for Davies, who has been unarguably bad this season. His ERA now stands at 4.91 and his FIP at 5.09. For those still in the “slow starter” camp on Davies, last year both his ERA and FIP through 14 starts were more than a half-run better at 4.22/4.43. His strikeout rate has plummeted down 6.26 K/9, and after being one of the best command pitchers in the game last season, Davies has seen his walk rate jump to a pedestrian 3.19 per 9.
The Brewers got their first runs on the board in the second inning. Michael Wacha walked catcher Jett Bandy with two out, and then served up the longest dinger in the history of new Busch Stadium to Keon Broxton:
ICYMI: @KeonDDBroxton hit the longest home run ever in New Busch Stadium! #ThisIsMyCrew #MILatStL pic.twitter.com/s79vuoNAwk— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) June 16, 2017
The Brewers added a run in the 3rd inning on a Domingo Santana RBI single, and appeared primed to blow the game open in the fifth inning. The Brewers loaded the bases with no out, prompting Mike Matheny to pull Wacha in favor of John Brebbia. The first man he faced, Travis Shaw, singled to right field to drive home one run, but Eric Thames was thrown out by a mile trying to score a second run on the play. Then Hernan Perez dropped down what looked like a bunt hit attempt, and Domingo Santana inexplicably broke for home and was thrown out easily. Bandy struck out to end the threat after Milwaukee could scratch only one run across the board.
With both Corey Knebel and Jacob Barnes unavailable tonight, the game was left in the hands of the rest of Milwaukee’s relief corps. The uneasiness was a familiar feeling. But the ‘pen was surprisingly up to the task. Josh Hader was up first and despite walking two batters, managed to work two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh. Then came Carlos Torres in for the eighth. He issued a one-out walk, but escaped unscathed by inducing an around-the-horn double play off the bat of Jose Martinez.
The game was tied at 4 heading into the top of the 9th, and the Cardinals called upon their closer, Seung Hwan Oh, to preserve the tie and give them a chance to walk off. Pinch hitter Jesus Aguilar singled against Oh with one out, and one batter later Eric Thames came to the plate with two men down. On an 0-2 pitch, Thames got a belt-high fastball and knew what to do with it:
Two outs, 0-2 count.— MLB (@MLB) June 16, 2017
Cue @EricThames. pic.twitter.com/cKWZ3ovtDB
The two-run shot (Thames’ 18th of the year) gave Milwaukee a 6-4 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. Oliver Drake came on to try and convert the save, and he needed only 13 pitches to retire the Cards in order with two punchouts. It was the first save of the 30 year old’s MLB career.
The win moves the Milwaukee Nine to four games over .500 at 36-32 and extends their lead in the NL Central to 2.5 games over the idle Cubs. The Brewers head back home to Miller Park tomorrow to face off against the 27-40 Padres. Junior Guerra is slated to face off against former Brewer farmhand and current Padres Rule 5 pick Miguel Diaz in a matchup so compelling I thought it was possible only in my wildest dreams.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs