WP - Jordan Lyles (9-8)
LP - Jack Flaherty (8-7)
SV - Josh Hader (26)
HR - MIL: Keston Hiura (16); STL: Kolten Wong (10)
With just 30 games left to play and their playoff hopes seemingly starting to slip away, the Brewers desperately needed someone to step up to avoid a sweep at the hands of the division-leading Cardinals.
It turns out several players did.
First, it was Jordan Lyles, who continued to impress since re-joining the Brewers. While he didn’t flirt with a no-hitter this time around -- he lost that bid in the 2nd inning on a flukey infield single by Yadier Molina -- he did strike out 9 batters over 5.1 innings with his curveball looking especially sharp.
Lyles started to run into trouble in the 6th inning, though, once he faced the top of the Cardinals order for a third time. Craig Counsell pulled him with two men on base, turning to Junior Guerra to get out of the jam.
Guerra did exactly that and more, inducing an inning-ending double play from Molina in the 6th before striking out the side in the 7th.
Offensively, the Brewers faced the difficult task of trying to score runs off of Jack Flaherty, who only had one run scored against him for the entire month of August entering this start. In fact, you had to go back to July 2nd to find a start in which Flaherty gave up more than two runs.
The Brewers matched that total in the first couple innings thanks to some small ball.
Trent Grisham led off the home half of the first inning with a single before Christian Yelich hit what appeared to be a fairly routine double play ball to second -- except Kolten Wong threw the ball into left field, allowing Yelich and Grisham to reach second and third base. Keston Hiura would drive in his first of 3 RBI on the day with a groundout to give the Brewers an early lead.
Ryan Braun would lead off the second inning with a double before moving to third on a productive groundout by Cory Spangenberg. Orlando Arcia followed with a sac fly to score the Brewers’ second run.
Hiura added a third run in the bottom of the 4th inning in a way we’re more accustomed to seeing from the Brewers, teeing off on a 3-0 fastball from Flaherty for his 16th home run of the season.
The Brewers’ offense would go quiet after that until Hiura delivered again in the 8th inning, ripping a two-out double down the line to score Yelich, who had worked a two-out walk.
It turns out the Brewers didn’t need that BMIR, because Josh Hader looked like his old dominant self in his first appearance since Sunday and his first save opportunity since August 17th. Hader took over for Guerra in the 8th inning and used his slider more than he has all season to keep the Cardinals off-balance -- although he did still blow away Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna with straight heat.
Hader’s 9th inning after Hiura’s insurance run was stress-free, getting Paul DeJong to strike out swinging on a slider low and in before inducing a pair of weak flyouts from Molina and Tommy Edman to end the game.
The win improves the Brewers’ record against the Cardinals to 7-9 this season with three games against them left to play in mid-September. It remains to be seen how important those games will be.
In the meantime, the Brewers move back up to 5.5 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central race. They’ll be cheering for the New York Mets tonight against the Cubs in hopes of heading to Chicago this weekend closer than 3.5 back in the wildcard race.