Through the first three months of the 2022 Major League Baseball regular season, and especially Wednesday night, the Milwaukee Brewers have done a stellar job of reversing their fates against one St. Louis Cardinal who has historically had their number.
The Brewers chased Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright in the fifth inning at American Family Field, the third time in as many outings this year that they have jumped on the veteran righthander.
The problem for the brewers, though? The game was played in Milwaukee and the Cardinals still have Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
Goldschmidt and Arenado, two of the most potent hitters in the history of American Family Field, were the thorn in the Brewers’ side once again, each blasting a two-run homer as St. Louis squeaked past Milwaukee, 5-4, on Wednesday night.
box score:Cardinals 5, Brewers 4
The Cardinals regained a one-game lead in the National League Central Division over the Brewers after claiming consecutive victories.
Goldschmidt and Arenado are both in the top six in OPS at Miller Park/American Family Field in the stadium’s history with Arenado’s mark of 1,165 entering the day the highest of anyone since it opened in 2001.
“It’s definitely up there,” said Brewers starter Eric Lauer, who gave up the homers to both, about where the Cardinals duo stands among the top one-two punches in the league. “They’re both really good hitters. They’re having great years.”
Goldschmidt opened the scoring with a towering two-run blast with one out in the first, his 16th career home run at Milwaukee in just his 54th game. He trails only Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina in homers at the Brewers stadium for a player who never played a home game there.
That wasn’t the pitch Lauer wanted back, though.
“To me, it was a good pitch,” Lauer said. “It was right where I wanted it. It didn’t seem like he really got it. I think it was 96 (mph off the bat). I didn’t feel like it was a bad pitch by any means; a good hitter got to a good pitch and it didn’t help that there was a little broken bat single right before it.
“That’s just baseball kicking me in the teeth a little bit.”
Arenado blasted a no-doubt two-run shot in the sixth that served as a backbreaker in the top of the sixth, moments after the Brewers had claimed the lead against Wainwright. It was Arenado’s 13th homer in his 34th game at American Family Field, giving the St. Louis third baseman as many long balls as strikeouts at the stadium. He also has 12 doubles and 13 walks.
The homer came on a hanging slider from Lauer that he won’t be able to get out of his mind for a few hours even after the game.
“It’s really the one strike that’s going to keep me up at night,” Lauer said. “Tonight is about just that one pitch. It changed everything on my stat line and just throughout the game. It was the game.”
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Lauer became the first Brewers pitcher since 2019 to allow at least 17 runs over a span of three starts and the 10th in history to give up eight homers in such a stretch as well.
Over his last three starts, opponents are batting 7 for 16 with six homers, three walks and just two strikeouts against Lauer the third time through the order.
“The last inning for starters, it’s a vulnerable inning,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s normal.”
The Brewers have done a good job of tagging Wainwright, whose 20 career wins against them rank sixth all-time and are by far the most of any active player this season. The 40-year-old right hander has allowed 11 earned runs in 14 innings against Milwaukee (a 7.07 earned run average) while posting a 2.57 ERA in 70 innings against the rest of the league. His three shortest outings of the season have all come against the Brewers.
On Wednesday, Rowdy Tellez and Andrew McCutchen each hit solo homers before a fifth-inning rally led to Wainwright’s exit after 4 ⅔ frames. Tyrone Taylor singled and scored on a Christian Yelich double that Cardinals leftfielder Juan Yepez misplayed at the warning track, then Yelich gave the Brewers a 4-3 lead by scoring on a ground-rule double by McCutchen with two outs.
McCutchen has been one of the Brewers best bats since snapping a 1 for 40 skid earlier this month. After his RBI double, the designated hitter was up to a slash line of .365/.468/.538 over his last 62 plate appearances.
“Cutch had a really nice game tonight, absolutely,” Counsell said.
But after the Cardinals took the lead right back in the top of the sixth, the Brewers went hitless over 4⅓ innings against the St. Louis bullpen duo of Johan Oviedo and Genesis Cabrera.
“No matter who’s in the game, we got 13 outs against the bullpen,” Counsell said. “We need to be able to put a run on the board. At the same time, they’re throwing the ball well but when you get a starter out before the fifth inning ends, you’re hoping with enough cracks against the bullpen you can put something together.”
The Brewers have struggled not only in this series against the Cardinals bullpen, going scoreless in 11 innings over the last three games, but all year. In 22 innings against St. Louis’ top five relievers, per Baseball Reference’s measure of wins above replacement, Milwaukee has scored just one run.
One final rally attempt surfaced for Milwaukee in the ninth against Cabrera.
With two outs, the tying run at second and winning run at first, Yelich pounded a hanging 1-0 breaking ball into the ground to end the game.
“They have a really good ‘pen,” Brewers infielder Jace Peterson said. “Everybody’s coming out of there throwing hard and they have good stuff, too. We were in the game, we just weren’t able to finish it off. But, yeah, they have a really good ‘pen.”