You might not believe it by looking at the final score, but today’s series finale between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals was quite the pitchers’ duel for the first six innings. Chase Anderson got the start for the visitors and worked four innings while allowing only one hit, which unfortunately was a solo home run by Harrison Bader in the third. He issued two walks and struck out six, but was trailing to Michael Wacha 1-0 when he was pulled after 64 pitches.
The Brewers put plenty of balls in play against Wacha during his five innings, but couldn’t break through for any runs. He worked around five hits and struck out only one batter, but got help from a ground ball double play in the first inning and a baserunning blunder by Cory Spangenberg in the fifth inning that wound up going in the books as a double play on a fly out.
Brent Suter delivered two perfect frames in the fifth and sixth with one strikeout to lower his ERA to 0.79 in 11.1 innings since returning from Tommy John surgery. Genesis Cabrera threw a scoreless sixth for St. Louis, so this game was still 1-0 when the top of the seventh inning began. Cabrera started the inning and allowed a leadoff hit to Eric Thames, then was replaced by right-hander Ryan Helsley. He retired Lorenzo Cain, but then Spangenberg atoned for his earlier TOOTBLAN by driving a 3-1 fastball that crossed the plate middle-middle at 97 MPH out over the fence in left center, tilting the advantage to Milwaukee at 2-1.
Ray Black had been pitching well of late to earn some high leverage opportunities, and he was the man Craig Counsell called upon to face St. Louis with the lead in the bottom of the 7th. He started the inning by throwing four straight fastballs out of the zone to walk Marcell Ozuna, then he grooved a first-pitch fastball letter high down the middle that Paul DeJong lined for a home run to retake the lead for the Cardinals at 3-2. Black then induced fly outs from Yadier Molina and Tommy Edman, but with two outs, Bader struck again. He got a 1-0 fastball at 98 MPH down the middle and hit it out for his second home run of the game to give St. Louis a two-run lead. Black would allow another base hit after that before finally getting yanked, and Alex Claudio threw one pitch to retire Dexter Fowler and get Milwaukee out of the inning.
Andrew Miller threw the top of the eighth for the Cardinals and yielded an unearned run when Mike Moustakas reached on a fly ball to the outfield that fell in thanks to a collision in the outfield, and later scored on an RBI single by LoCain. Claudio got the first out of the eighth before Matt Albers retired the final two batters of the inning, and it was a 4-3 ballgame heading into the top of the ninth.
The Cardinals have been using Carlos Martinez as their closer but he was unavailable today with an illness, so John Gant came on to save the game for St. Louis. He walked Ben Gamel to lead off the inning, then Travis Shaw drew a pinch-walk in an eight pitch at-bat. Trent Grisham whiffed on the pitches for the first out, then Yasmani Grandal drew his 99th walk of the season to load the bases with one out. That brought out Mike Schildt to play matchups, as he brought in lefty Tyler Webb to face Moustakas. Moose got to a full count before lifting a fly ball to medium center that was caught by the strong-armed Bader, which wasn’t deep enough to convince Ed Sedar to send Gamel home. So with two outs and the bases loaded, Ryan Braun strolled up to the plate with the chance to play hero.
The latest #RyanBraunForever moment was his 20th home run of the season, the 10th time he has reached that dinger threshold in his career. It was the seventh grand slam of his career. The moonshot also the 232nd home run hit by the Brewers as a team in 2019, breaking the previous franchise record for more team homers in a single season. Braun’s second game-winning home run since his pal Christian Yelich got injured gave Milwaukee a 7-4 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth and brought Josh Hader out of the bullpen for the save opportunity.
Hader didn’t make it easy. He walked Yadi with one out, then got ahead of Edman 0-2 with a couple of high fastballs. After Edman fouled off an 81 MPH slider, Hader went back to the high heat. Edman tomahawked the 96 MPH offering — which was several inches above the strike zone — out over the fence in right for his ninth homer of the year. That made the score 7-6, but the game would end there after Hader punched out Bader and Tyler O’Neill to end it and secure his 33rd save of the season.
The Brewers lost the series opener 10-0 and were outscored 18-12 over the three-game series, but still managed to take two out of three against the Gateway City Nine. Even though they’ve been outscored by 30 runs on the season, our beloved local nine is 26-15 in one-run games and now owns an 80-69 record for 2019. They’ll begin play tomorrow one game behind the Cubs (who walloped Pittsburgh again today) for the second Wild Card slot and three games behind the Cardinals for the divisional lead with thirteen games to play.
The Brewers return home to begin a four-game series against the Padres while the Cardinals face the Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals and Cubs take on Sonny Gray and the Reds. Milwaukee will send Zach Davies to the mound while San Diego counters with Garrett Richards, who will be making his first start of the season after returning from Tommy John surgery. First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 PM central.