ST. LOUIS — With almost no losses left to give, the Brewers opened the series in St. Louis as far against a wall as they could be. The Cardinals began the game with a staggering blow, loading the bases against Wily Peralta without an out.
He would not fall, however, containing the damage to two runs. The inning could have put Milwaukee in a well early. Instead, they were in a pothole.
“When you have a pitcher like him that’s having a season like he’s having, he’s not going to give you too much,” Mike Matheny said.
Peralta would remain in the game for seven full innings, allowing just two more hits. Both of those base runners wouldn’t make it to second, with Kolten Wong getting caught stealing and Peter Bourjos being cut down trying to stretch a single into two bases.
The Milwaukee starter walked in the first run of the game, then never gave another free pass. The success that had seemed so easy in the first inning became impossible as the remaining frames wore on.
“He’s got great stuff. 97, 98 with good movement,” Yadier Molina said in the clubhouse. “He’s a good pitcher. Tough.”
Peralta faced the minimum after the first inning, making extra runs seem less and less likely as the game wore on.
He was matched by Lance Lynn, who went seven innings on 101 pitches, surrendering only one run. It came in the fourth, when Gerardo Parra cranked a solo shot to right.
“It was just a good swing. 3-1, he was ready for a fastball. He’s a good hitter. If you leave one middle in that’s where he wants it,” Lynn said. “One bad pitch, a solo homer. But as long as it’s a solo it usually doesn’t hurt you.”
Lynn allowed only two base runners in his final four innings, plagued only by poor command leading to deeper counts. His fastball, usually his most reliable pitch, was faulty most of the game.
“I had a lot of 2-0 counts with the fastball then I’d get back into it. Next thing you know it’s a full count, a lot of foul balls and things like that,” he said, referring to the aggravation of a rising pitch count. “One of those things where you just have to get through it when you don’t have your best command and I was able to do it.”
Lynn’s effort was enough to protect the lead, but it turns out the Cardinals could have used more production in the first.
“I’d say that’s part of the story,” Matheny said, talking about leaving runs on the table in the opening attack. “We gave some free bases too, that’s the rest of the story.”
The first free base came in the ninth, when Trevor Rosenthal walked Jonathan Lucroy to open the inning. The initial batter has plagued Rosenthal all season, and this one would end up extending the game.
“Every time you walk that first guy, it’s trouble,” Molina said flatly after the game.
Hector Gomez would come on to pinch run, moving to third on an Aramis Ramirez double. Despite Rosenthal getting a come-backer for the first out, a sacrifice fly would plate Gomez to tie the game and send it to extras. Rosenthal got out of the inning by stranding two, but he had blown his first save this season against Milwaukee.
“He made some good pitches, only one run, but I mean the first guy,” Molina paused briefly and shook his head slightly. “It’s tough to walk that guy.”
Another walk would ultimately do the Cardinals in, when Carlos Gomez reached with one out in the 12th. Kevin Siegrist issued the free pass, and Gomez responded by stealing both second and third.
Hector Gomez, playing third pinch running, would win the game by flaring a ball into shallow right. Three Cardinals converged, but none could catch it before it fell to the grass. The Brewers took the lead, and eventually the win.
“We walked the best runner on their team and he steals two bags. A bloop beat us,” Molina said. “Again, a walk hurt us.”
The win kept the Brewers alive, as the Cardinals now lead them by four games with two more games remaining in the series. The Pirates also won, pulling them back to 2.5 games out of first.