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Anderson returns to '17 form, but Crew loses

MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- Between Chase Anderson's electric start and Brad Miller's Brewers debut on Saturday, Milwaukee might have fewer questions entering the final month before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Anderson rebounded from a home run-heavy outing against the Phillies to strike out a season-high nine and Miller drove in a run, but Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina's second multi-homer game in four days handed the Brewers a 3-2 defeat on Saturday afternoon at Miller Park. Milwaukee stayed two games ahead of the Cubs in the National League Central after Chicago lost to Cincinnati on Saturday.

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MILWAUKEE -- Between Chase Anderson's electric start and Brad Miller's Brewers debut on Saturday, Milwaukee might have fewer questions entering the final month before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Anderson rebounded from a home run-heavy outing against the Phillies to strike out a season-high nine and Miller drove in a run, but Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina's second multi-homer game in four days handed the Brewers a 3-2 defeat on Saturday afternoon at Miller Park. Milwaukee stayed two games ahead of the Cubs in the National League Central after Chicago lost to Cincinnati on Saturday.

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With Zach Davies, Wade Miley and Jimmy Nelson all sidelined for the Brewers, Milwaukee needs the Anderson it became accustomed to last season when he finished 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA and only allowed 14 home runs in 141 1/3 innings -- otherwise, they might need to shop for an extra starter at the Deadline. Except for seven shutout innings against the Cubs on June 12, the 2017 Anderson had been nowhere to be seen since getting off to a strong April, entering Saturday with already 16 homers surrendered.

Video: STL@MIL: Counsell on Anderson's outing, quiet offense

Despite a second-inning shot to Molina, Anderson was dominant against a Cardinals lineup that has managed seven total runs over three games this series. He struck out seven batters looking, the second most in a start by any Major League pitcher this season (Corey Kluber, nine).

"The strikeouts were really good," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He struggled with his command a little bit, but it's close. The misses were good, the stuff was really good, crisp. It's just the next step of pushing the strike zone a bit more. But he gave us a chance today and did a nice job."

Video: STL@MIL: Molina crushes a solo jack to right-center

It wasn't the most efficient outing for Anderson -- 100 pitches and just 57 strikes with four walks over five innings -- but he avoided any big frames and exited with the lead.

On his up-and-down outing, Anderson liked that he was more consistent than he has been but still said he was "spotty" and must work on the fastball up in the zone to be the ace the Brewers need.

"I'd have it one hitter, but I wouldn't have it the next," Anderson said. "Overall, I kept us in the game, but the four walks are still what I'm working on. I'm either getting guys 3-0 or 0-2 and the pitch count is getting up there. But that's something that you do as you try to be more consistent. I call this a good building game."

Milwaukee built its advantage on a first-inning rally, capped by Miller's RBI single on his first pitch as a Brewer. Miller, who also drew a walk in the seventh inning and converted all of his defensive chances at second base, was called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Saturday morning as the Brewers optioned right fielder Domingo Santana.

Video: STL@MIL: Miller hits an RBI single in 1st Brewers AB

With Tyler Saladino still serving a stint on the disabled list and Orlando Arcia batting .220 since returning from a brief stay in Triple-A in late May, the Brewers can surely use Miller's bat -- which had 30 home runs in 2016 -- for middle-infield depth.

The Brewers struggled to hit Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas after the first, recording one hit over his final 5 2/3 innings.

"It's one of those things where he was locating his pitches pretty well," said Eric Thames, who went 1-for-4. "As hitters, we have to do a better job of not swinging at balls in the dirt and barrel the balls he leaves us to barrel."

Video: STL@MIL: Mikolas fans 5 across 6 2/3 solid innings

Jeremy Jeffress allowed the go-ahead two-run homer to Molina in the sixth. Jeffress' season ERA dipped to 0.32 on May 27 but has jumped to 1.19 after allowing four earned runs since May 30.

"I think that's the fine margins of relief pitching," Counsell said. "He made some good pitches that a good hitter got him on a pitch that probably got a little too much of the plate."

Video: STL@MIL: Molina hammers second homer for the lead

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Brewers unable to solve Hicks: Jordan Hicks continued a spectacular rookie campaign for the Cardinals by leaving the tying run on third base by inducing a Manny Pina groundout to end the seventh inning. Hernan Perez reached second base on a throwing error by Jedd Gyorko and stole third during Pina's at-bat, but the Brewers' catcher couldn't cash in on one of Milwaukee's late opportunities to tie the game.

The Brewers are 2-for-21 (.095) against the 21-year-old Hicks this season.

"We did a nice job late in the game," Counsell said. "We put pressure on all of their relievers and made it tough on their relievers, just couldn't get that next hit."

Video: STL@MIL: Hicks retires Pina, strands runner at third

Aguilar can't deliver: Jesus Aguilar had another chance to tie the game or put the Brewers ahead late, but he grounded out with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning. One night after being the hero with two home runs -- one to end Jack Flaherty's no-hitter in the seventh and a walk-off blast off Bud Norris -- Aguilar produced his 50th RBI of the season on a first-inning sacrifice fly but finished 0-for-3 for the game.

"We wanted to pitch [Aguilar] tough," Molina said. "We knew he was seeing the ball good. That's the guy we didn't want to beat us again."

Video: STL@MIL: Aguilar plates Yelich on sacrifice fly

Milwaukee left six runners on base and went 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position in the loss.

"It's tough to put us down," Counsell said. "They beat us today, they won out, but we made it tough on them. We had the guy up there a couple times to break it open or get that next hit, and we couldn't do it today."

Video: STL@MIL: Tuivailala retires Aguilar, escapes trouble

CAIN LEAVES GAME
Lorenzo Cain exited after the fourth inning -- the second time this series he was unable to finish a game (right hamstring strain on Thursday) -- with groin tightness. Cain went 0-for-1 and was plunked in the left shoulder by Mikolas in the first inning -- his second time getting hit this series.

"He's a little beat up right now," Counsell said. "We're just being cautious with it."

Counsell said Cain will have Sunday's series finale off, signaling Ryan Braun's first start since Tuesday.

Braun came in to play left field, with Thames moving over to right on Saturday. The action for Braun was his first since spending Wednesday in Los Angeles getting cryotherapy on his right thumb.

UP NEXT
Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (6-2, 3.18) will get the start when the Brewers and Cardinals conclude their four-game series at 1:10 p.m. CT on Sunday at Miller Park. Chacin pitched six innings and allowed one run against the Pirates last Monday, but he took the loss in a 1-0 game. He surrendered nine runs (six earned) over 10 1/3 innings against St. Louis in consecutive April starts. Right-hander Luke Weaver (3-6, 4.69) starts for the Cardinals.

Stephen Cohn is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen__Cohn.

Milwaukee Brewers, Chase Anderson, Brad Miller

Brewers send Santana to Triple-A, recall Miller

MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- With a crowded outfield since the return of Eric Thames from left thumb surgery earlier this month, the Brewers optioned right fielder Domingo Santana to Triple-A Colorado Springs and added some infield depth on Saturday morning.

After hitting 30 home runs in 2017 and starting on Opening Day in right field for Milwaukee, Santana has struggled to find any pop. The 25-year-old has three homers in '18 and has not started since June 12 against the Cubs, only filling in as a pinch-hitter since.

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MILWAUKEE -- With a crowded outfield since the return of Eric Thames from left thumb surgery earlier this month, the Brewers optioned right fielder Domingo Santana to Triple-A Colorado Springs and added some infield depth on Saturday morning.

After hitting 30 home runs in 2017 and starting on Opening Day in right field for Milwaukee, Santana has struggled to find any pop. The 25-year-old has three homers in '18 and has not started since June 12 against the Cubs, only filling in as a pinch-hitter since.

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"I think as we really just looked at what Domingo's role was going to be moving forward, we know at some point we're going to need Domingo going, and we'd both prefer that he's rolling and clicking when that time comes," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It's tough to do when you're not playing that much."

Counsell credited Santana for being "a big part of the Brewers' success last season" and believes he will return to the Majors at some point this season.

"We're hoping we're putting him in a spot to be successful," Counsell said. "When that time comes for him to be up here, we'll want him to be able to carry that load and count on him regularly."

Video: NYM@MIL: Santana flicks go-ahead 2-run double into RF

Milwaukee already sent down struggling Opening Day shortstop Orlando Arcia this season, but he was swiftly called back up after Tyler Saladino's ankle forced him onto the disabled list.

The Brewers called up infielder Brad Miller from Triple-A as Saturday's corresponding move. They will look for Miller, who was acquired from the Rays in a trade for Ji-Man Choi earlier this month, to add some offense to a scuffling middle infield.

"I'm pretty excited to get the call and come to a team in first place," Miller said. "Just getting in this organization, everybody so far to me has been first class, and I want to contribute to this winning culture."

Tweet from @Brewers: Brad Miller, the newest member of the #Brewers, meets with the Milwaukee media. Prior to today, Miller had never been to Miller Park. He bats sixth today and will play second base. #MILvsStL pic.twitter.com/JH5jGJkbrb

This is Miller's first stint with a National League team after spending six seasons with the Mariners and Rays. He has started everywhere except pitcher and catcher in his career, and Miller thinks his skillset should work with an NL team, especially during double switches and pinch-hitting scenarios.

"In Interleague games, the few of them I've had, it's kind of fun," Miller said. "Definitely, I think my ability to play everywhere and be a left-handed bat fits well."

Miller knocked 30 home runs in 2016 with Tampa Bay, but he hit .201 last season. Still, he believes he can get back to his '16 level and contribute offensively for the first-place Brewers. In 48 games primarily at first and second base with the Rays in '18, Miller hit .256 with five home runs and 21 RBIs. Miller hasn't been at shortstop for a couple of seasons, but Counsell said his ability to play all over the field regularly makes him "versatile and a very good athlete."

"Each year's different, and you kind of go with the ebbs and the flows," Miller said. "But being in this environment, the culture they've created here, it seems pretty positive for everyone involved."

Miller, who started at second and batted sixth, drove in a run with a bloop single and drew a walk in his Brewers debut in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Cardinals. He was pulled in favor of Eric Sogard during a double switch in the seventh inning. His performance came one night after Milwaukee's middle infielders -- Arcia, Hernan Perez and Jonathan Villar -- combined to go 0-for-7. But getting the start just hours after arriving in Milwaukee didn't startle the newest Brewer.

"That first day -- no matter how much sleep you have, no matter the travel -- it doesn't really matter," Miller said. "You're just running on adrenaline and want to get out there and get going."

Video: STL@MIL: Miller hits an RBI single in 1st Brewers AB

Brewers sign sixth-round pick Rasmussen
The Brewers on Friday agreed to terms with another one of their top picks from the 2018 Draft, signing Oregon State right-hander Drew Rasmussen.

Rasmussen, Milwaukee's sixth-round selection, signed for $135,000, although his pick value (No. 185) was $251,700, according to MLB.com's Jim Callis. A redshirt junior, Rasmussen has undergone two Tommy John surgeries and missed all of last season. He was drafted as a supplemental first-rounder by the Rays in 2017, but he failed his physical and returned to college.

Only first-rounder Brice Turang and ninth-round pick Arbert Cipion remain unsigned for the Brewers in the top 10 rounds.

Stephen Cohn is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen__Cohn.

Milwaukee Brewers, Brad Miller, Domingo Santana

History for Crew: No-no, game each end on HRs

Aguilar's 2 solo shots carry Brewers after Cards rookie deals
MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- After barely making the team out of Spring Training, Jesus Aguilar was the Brewers' third-string first baseman. Now, he's been welcomed by teammates at Miller Park's home plate with a walk-off shower twice this season and is arguably his team's most feared hitter.

In their 2-1 win over the Cardinals on Friday night at Miller Park, the Brewers had three hits: an eighth-inning single from Eric Sogard and two solo home runs from Aguilar. In the victory, Aguilar became the first player in the Expansion Era (since 1961) to break up a no-hit bid of five-plus innings with a home run and hit a walk-off homer in the same game, per Elias Sports.

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MILWAUKEE -- After barely making the team out of Spring Training, Jesus Aguilar was the Brewers' third-string first baseman. Now, he's been welcomed by teammates at Miller Park's home plate with a walk-off shower twice this season and is arguably his team's most feared hitter.

In their 2-1 win over the Cardinals on Friday night at Miller Park, the Brewers had three hits: an eighth-inning single from Eric Sogard and two solo home runs from Aguilar. In the victory, Aguilar became the first player in the Expansion Era (since 1961) to break up a no-hit bid of five-plus innings with a home run and hit a walk-off homer in the same game, per Elias Sports.

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"I'm confident," Aguilar said. "I'm confident in myself. When I get a chance to go there, I'm going to give my 100 percent. That's how I think."

Aguilar's team-leading 15th homer broke up Jack Flaherty's no-hit bid with one out in the seventh inning. His 16th won it in the ninth off of Bud Norris. Add five-plus one-run innings from Junior Guerra, a lights-out bullpen and the benches clearing in the eighth and Milwaukee is above .500 (17-16) in the National League Central this season with its NL-best 45th win, extending its lead over the Cubs to two games.

But Brewers manager Craig Counsell was zeroed in on Aguilar carrying the team in his fifth-consecutive multi-RBI performance.

"It's again, it's putting together at-bats, smart at-bats, knowing what's going on," Counsell said. "[Aguilar has] really improved on that. He knows what he's looking for. I think that's the best way to say it. Able to use a good swing and the strength and be a really dangerous player."

Video: STL@MIL: Counsell on Aguilar's two home runs in win

The Brewers' offense scored 11 runs off two-time All-Star Carlos Martinez and the Cardinals' staff in a series-opening romp on Thursday night, yet they were anything but dangerous for most of Friday.

Flaherty had no-hit stuff for 100 pitches, but it was his 101st pitch when Aguilar connected for the Brewers' first hit -- a game-tying homer in the seventh.

Video: STL@MIL: Aguilar homers to break up no-hitter in 7th

Behind in the count 0-1, Aguilar said he was "just trying to hit the ball. [Flaherty] was dominating the strike zone tonight, and I think we got lucky. We tied the game in the moment, it's a new game, and we're moving forward, thinking we're going to win this game."

Flaherty pitched seven innings and tied a career-high with 13 strikeouts, blowing by the nine he had against the Brewers on April 3. Yet the rookie's one mistake to Aguilar -- who didn't have a home run this season until April 21 -- denied him of his fourth career victory.

Jordan Hicks hurled a scoreless eighth, allowing the single to Sogard, which led to the benches clearing after Sogard slid into Cardinals shortstop Yairo Munoz at second base.

Video: STL@MIL: Benches clear after force play in Milwaukee

Norris came on in a tie game in the ninth, and retired Travis Shaw before getting ahead of Aguilar in the count, 0-2. Then came another slider, one that Aguilar sent into the right-field bullpen.

"Well, I mean, it was just outstanding," Counsell said. "He hit two sliders. First one, guy's pitching a heck of a game, it's a ball out of the zone, it's just kind of strength and a good baseball swing gets it out of there. The last one, Norris has got a very good slider, it was a little up I think, but to get to that ball with two strikes was absolutely amazing. Yeah, he put us on our back tonight and carried us."

Video: STL@MIL: Aguilar clubs 2nd homer to walk off Brewers

Aguilar's recent tear, which included a first-inning RBI double on Thursday off Martinez, is also earning respect from his opposition.

"Great hitter, he's hot right now," Norris said. "I got ahead, which was my focus. Then I got to expand him. I'm trying to throw a fastball up. I yanked it. He put a barrel on it, ball went over the fence. Not happy about it, that's for sure. "

With Eric Thames back in the lineup after thumb surgery and Ryan Braun healthy following a short cryotherapy procedure in Los Angeles earlier this week, Counsell certainly has several options for first base and left field.

Aguilar is making his best argument for earning the starting first-base job, just months after even making the team was in flux.

"When [Counsell] puts me there," Aguilar said, "he knows I'm going to battle and do what I'm supposed to do."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hader puts out fire with 3 K's: With no outs and runners on first and second in the sixth inning, Josh Hader relieved Guerra, and finished the inning by striking out the Cardinals' 7-8-9 hitters to keep the deficit at one run.

Video: STL@MIL: Hader K's Flaherty, the side in the 6th

"I was just attacking them," Hader said. "Using my strengths, and for me, that's not giving them anything they can put in play to score those runs."

The Brewers and Cardinals combined for 30 strikeouts over nine innings, and Milwaukee's bullpen -- Hader, Jacob Barnes, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel -- had eight over four innings.

Video: STL@MIL: Barnes strikes out Martinez in the 7th

Some of those strikeouts led to disputes with home plate umpire Tim Timmons, including an ejection to Tommy Pham in the first inning after arguing with Timmons from the Cardinals' dugout. Thames threw his bat and slammed his helmet after his second strikeout of the game in the third.

"There was good pitching on both sides tonight," Counsell said. "When the pitchers keep putting the balls on the corners, there's going to be some disagreements. There were a lot of balls put on corners tonight."

Video: STL@MIL: Pham tossed for arguing from Cards' bench

SOUND SMART
Aguilar's walk-off home run not only made him the first Brewer with multiple walk-off homers in a season since Corey Hart in 2010, but helped him match Jeromy Burnitz's club record (1999) with multiple RBIs in five straight starts.

HE SAID IT
"Never. Never. Never. Don't strike out. That's why I was overaggressive trying to hit that pitch in front." -- Aguilar, who said he has never been on a team that was no-hit at any level of baseball and that his only game plan against Flaherty before the home run was to not strike out

Video: Must C Clutch: Aguilar hits tying, then walk-off HR

UP NEXT
Right-hander Chase Anderson (5-6, 4.54 ERA) will look to rebound in the third game of the Brewers' four-game series with the Cardinals on Saturday at 3:10 p.m. CT at Miller Park. Anderson allowed a season-high six runs on only five hits in a loss to the Phillies on Sunday. Right-hander Miles Mikolas (7-2, 2.69) will start for the Cardinals.

Stephen Cohn is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen__Cohn.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jesus Aguilar

Benches clear briefly between Cards, Brewers

Munoz, Sogard exchange words after slide at 2nd base
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

MILWAUKEE -- Tempers flared briefly during the eighth inning of the Brewers' 2-1 victory over the Cardinals on Friday night at Miller Park, after Yairo Munoz and Eric Sogard traded words following a play at second base. But after the game, both characterized the incident as a misunderstanding.

"We got caught up in the moment," Munoz said. "He didn't say anything [bad] at all. I just want to leave it at that."

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MILWAUKEE -- Tempers flared briefly during the eighth inning of the Brewers' 2-1 victory over the Cardinals on Friday night at Miller Park, after Yairo Munoz and Eric Sogard traded words following a play at second base. But after the game, both characterized the incident as a misunderstanding.

"We got caught up in the moment," Munoz said. "He didn't say anything [bad] at all. I just want to leave it at that."

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"The first words that came out of my mouth were, 'Are you all right?'" Sogard said. "I don't know if he understood what I was saying, but he got a little mad and I guess we both got a little fired up."

Video: STL@MIL: Sogard, Counsell on slide in 8th inning

With the score tied at 1, Munoz and Sogard collided when Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks threw to second after fielding an attempted sacrifice bunt by Hernan Perez. Hicks fired to get the lead runner, but his throw led Munoz into Sogard, who slid into the base and was out on the play. Teammates of both players rushed onto the field in the moments that followed, and the conflict fizzled shortly after. No one was ejected.

"The ball just took me into where he was coming," Munoz said. "I don't think [the slide] was inappropriate or anything."

It was an important play in the flow of the game. Hicks took a chance throwing to second, and it proved large when he walked Christian Yelich two batters later to set up a two-on, two-out situation for Lorenzo Cain. Hicks struck out Cain to strand the potential go-ahead run at second. The Brewers won an inning later when Jesus Aguilar walked it off with a solo home run off Bud Norris, largely overshadowing the spark of fireworks that came before.

"It was just kind of a heat of the moment thing," Sogard said. "I'm glad it didn't escalate into anything further."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Yairo Munoz, Eric Sogard

2nd-rounder Gray signs with Crew, meets idol

Outfielder, 18, plays catch alongside Yelich before game
MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- Joe Gray Jr. signed a contract to play professional baseball on Friday, and when he came to Miller Park, the thing he was most excited for was to meet Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich.

"That's my favorite guy, no offense to anyone else on the team, but that's my guy," said Gray, the Brewers' second-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. "When I got to the park, I really wanted to make sure I met Yelich and [Lorenzo] Cain before I left."

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MILWAUKEE -- Joe Gray Jr. signed a contract to play professional baseball on Friday, and when he came to Miller Park, the thing he was most excited for was to meet Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich.

"That's my favorite guy, no offense to anyone else on the team, but that's my guy," said Gray, the Brewers' second-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. "When I got to the park, I really wanted to make sure I met Yelich and [Lorenzo] Cain before I left."

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When Gray was playing catch in foul ground on the first-base side of the field before Friday's game between the Cardinals and Brewers, Yelich was right beside him.

On if that was cool, Gray nodded and smiled, "That's, mm-hmm, yeah."

Tweet from @stephen__cohn: Introducing Joe Gray Jr. ��� the #Brewers��� 2nd round pick. pic.twitter.com/cSVIXf3K5N

Gray's goal is to one day be manning the outfield at Miller Park alongside Yelich, but the 18-year-old -- the Brewers' first Draft pick born in the 2000s -- has a way to go.

"I had a little bit of knowledge about the Brewers," Gray said. "It's a phenomenal organization, they're really playing well this year, and I hope I can be a part of that the next few years."

2018 Draft Tracker: Every Brewers pick

The Hattiesburg, Miss., native made the trip to Milwaukee on Friday with his mother, father and younger sister, but he is headed to Arizona to begin his professional career Saturday. He had been committed to Ole Miss to play college baseball. Gray, the 60th overall pick, signed for the full slot value at $1,113,500, according to MLB.com's Jim Callis.

Tweet from @Brewers: #Brewers 2nd round pick @JoJo2Gray took BP at Miller Park for the 1st time today. He also got to wear some pretty sweet threads. #ThisIsMyCrew pic.twitter.com/c66sZvsN8M

At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Gray hit .474 with seven home runs and 45 RBIs last season, and comes from the same high school program that has produced five Major Leaguers, including former outfielder Wendell Magee.

"It's always a great day when there's an opportunity for somebody to start their dream," said Brewers scouting director Tod Johnson. "We're happy it came together for us."

Video: Draft 2018: Brewers draft OF Joe Gray No. 60

Before heading off to Maryvale, Gray is just a kid soaking it in and standing next to his idol.

"It's an unreal situation right here," Gray said. "It's what every kid would dream of, and I can't be any happier."

Milwaukee's first-round pick, shortstop Brice Turang, has not signed, but Johnson said the organization is "still working through the process." Ninth-round pick Arbert Cipion also remains unsigned inside the top 10 rounds. The deadline for players to sign is July 6.

Video: STL@MIL: Stearns on Draft picks, team's defense

Barnes continues to attack
Jacob Barnes was a fixture in the Brewers' bullpen a season ago, but he was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs on May 12. Since being recalled May 28, he has appeared in nine games and allowed zero runs over 9 1/3 innings.

"Jacob has been really good since he got back," said manager Craig Counsell. "For him it's all about attacking hitters, go after the hitters. When he does that, he always gets good results."

The strikeout numbers are down for Barnes -- he had eight since returning from Triple-A and just one multi-strikeout appearance after having six such outings over his first 10 appearances -- but his ERA is down to 1.91 after reaching 2.84 at the time of the demotion.

"When he's on the attack, making them swing the bat or offering pitches right on the end of the strike zone, he's going to have success," Counsell said.

Amid a stretch of 24 games in 24 days leading into the All-Star break, the Brewers need options in the bullpen, especially because no starter has worked into the eighth inning this season. Brent Suter has lasted seven innings twice in his past two starts, and Jhoulys Chacin finished seven frames once.

Stephen Cohn is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen__Cohn.

Milwaukee Brewers

Crew clobbers Cards, back alone atop Central

MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- For the Brewers' offense right now, it's boom or bust -- there isn't much of an in-between. Take the last six games: 1 run, 13, 1, 9, 0, 3.

Add Thursday night's series opener with the Cardinals to the boom category, as the Brewers teed off on two-time All-Star Carlos Martinez and Brent Suter delivered a strong outing in an 11-3 win at Miller Park. Milwaukee has sole possession again of first place in the NL Central with its National League-best 44th win.

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MILWAUKEE -- For the Brewers' offense right now, it's boom or bust -- there isn't much of an in-between. Take the last six games: 1 run, 13, 1, 9, 0, 3.

Add Thursday night's series opener with the Cardinals to the boom category, as the Brewers teed off on two-time All-Star Carlos Martinez and Brent Suter delivered a strong outing in an 11-3 win at Miller Park. Milwaukee has sole possession again of first place in the NL Central with its National League-best 44th win.

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"You take the 11-run nights. It's what you do," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "If you can take advantage of some mistakes, take advantage of pitches and put a big number up there on some nights, for sure that's good. But it's not really reflective of the next day."

And, early on, the Brewers definitely took advantage of Martinez, who entered the night with a 2.73 ERA. They grabbed the lead in the first on a bizarre play that saw Cards left fielder Marcell Ozuna climb the wall, seemingly prepared to rob Jesus Aguilar of a home run, but the ball actually bounced off the lower half of the wall and ended up being a two-run double. By the time there was one out in the fourth inning, every Brewer (except the scuffling Eric Sogard and the pitcher, Suter) had a base knock -- and catcher Manny Pina had two extra-base hits (six total in his last 10 games).

Video: STL@MIL: Pina crushes a solo homer to left-center

The Brewers forced Martinez out after four as his ERA ballooned to 3.24 with seven runs allowed (five earned). Milwaukee had five extra-base hits, including a leadoff homer in the fourth by Pina, but "boom" nights don't happen without being opportunistic of a few gift runs, and the Cardinals provided six of those.

Lorenzo Cain hit a grounder to Matt Carpenter at third with one out in the fourth. Carpenter couldn't make the backhanded stop and was charged with an error. Cain scored on Travis Shaw's double, and Shaw advanced home on a pair of wild pitches -- scoring on a ball that slipped out of Martinez's hand and ended up halfway up the third-base line.

Video: STL@MIL: Shaw plates Cain with opposite-field double

"I don't know if his cleat got stuck. I'm not sure," Counsell said of the wild pitch. "It wasn't an injury or anything. I thought his cleat might have gotten stuck. That's as far as I saw."

Video: STL@MIL: Shaw scores on Martinez's wacky wild pitch

Eric Thames extended the Brewers' lead with a bases-clearing triple -- his first of 2018 -- in the seventh inning, all unearned runs after an error by second baseman Jedd Gyorko earlier in the frame. Thames scored on another error by Gyorko, the sixth unearned run of the game charged to the Cardinals.

But Suter didn't need all of the insurance his offense provided him. After Carpenter drilled an 86.4-mph fastball down the middle of the plate to center for a home run on the first pitch of the game, Suter settled in by getting soft contact, and retired the next 12 Cardinals he faced.

"Not that I just laid it in there, but it kind of fired me up," Suter said. "It was like, 'OK, they're coming out swinging. I have to locate better and come out with that much more conviction on my early pitches.' After that, I was able to get some early outs and keep them off the bases."

Suter picked up his team-high eighth win of the season, exiting after seven innings of two-run, two-hit ball, while striking out five.

Video: STL@MIL: Suter holds Cards to 2 runs over 7 innings

On matching a career high with seven innings pitched for the second straight start, Suter said: "The efficiency was there and just being able to fight through any kind of fatigue and being able to make pitches late. It's something I trained for in the offseason, so to see it be able to come to fruition the last couple starts feels good."

Taylor Williams and Dan Jennings both struggled finishing the game in relief of Suter. Williams stranded the bases loaded in the eighth, and Jennings allowed three hits and a run in the ninth.

Cain (right hamstring) was replaced by Domingo Santana after the fourth inning for precautionary reasons, but Counsell said he expects him to be in the lineup tomorrow. Cain was 2-for-3 with two runs and a RBI.

Video: STL@MIL: Cain drives in Thames to pad Brewers' lead

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Aguilar's home run?: Aguilar nearly had a home run in the first inning -- or at least that's what Ozuna thought. Aguilar hit a fly ball to deep left-center, and Ozuna attempted to scale the wall as if to rob a home run, but the ball caromed off the base of the wall and went for a two-run double for the Brewers, pushing them ahead for good.

"I kind of hit it good, until I saw Ozuna jump," Aguilar said. "But I thought I got lucky on that play."

Probably more important, though, was the Brewers' success against Martinez in that first inning. Entering the game as a team with a .192 average (10-for-52) with one RBI over two games against Martinez this season, Milwaukee went 3-for-6 with two RBIs in the first frame alone.

"[Martinez is] a familiar foe, for sure," Counsell said. "We just took advantage of an off-night for him. It was good that we did. Some guys had good at-bats, we kept the pressure on him and were able to get him out after four innings."

Video: STL@MIL: Counsell discusses Suter, bats in 11-3 win

Thames' triple: Like Aguilar's near home run in the first, Thames almost connected for his third home run in his last two games at Miller Park in the seventh, but instead settled for a bases-clearing triple after Tommy Pham kept the ball in the ballpark with a leaping effort at the center-field wall. Thames' three RBIs gave the Brewers at least nine runs for the third time in their last seven games.

Video: STL@MIL: Thames clears the bases with a triple

SOUND SMART
After his first-inning double, Aguilar has multiple RBIs in each of his last four starts, one game shy of Jeromy Burnitz's club record in 1999. Aguilar is the 16th Brewer to accomplish the feat, and the first since Adam Lind in 2015.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Aguilar didn't just help the Brewers' effort on offense in the series opener against the Cardinals, but he made a slick diving play on Harrison Bader's liner to end the second inning. With the shift on, Aguilar dove to his right and made the catch, making it six Cardinals in a row retired for Suter.

"I felt like a really good player," Aguilar said. "I just try to go there and give 100 percent, especially with Suter pitching because he has a lot of energy."

Video: STL@MIL: Aguilar lays out to snag Bader's line drive

HE SAID IT
"I hate that, it's really hard for a position player to hit off another position player. I saw 59 [mph], 60, 63, and I was like, 'No way.' It is what it is, that's baseball." -- Aguilar, after grounding into a double play against Cardinals infielder Greg Garcia, who made his first-career pitching appearance in the eighth inning

Video: STL@MIL: Garcia induces double play on 63-mph pitch

UP NEXT
Right-hander Junior Guerra (3-5, 2.89 ERA) will start for the Brewers on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT in the second of their four-game set with the Cardinals at Miller Park. St. Louis has proved no challenge for Guerra this season, as he has thrown 11 1/3 innings of one-run ball over two starts against them, including six shutout innings on May 30. Right-hander Jack Flaherty (3-2, 2.66 ERA) starts for St. Louis.

Stephen Cohn is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen__Cohn.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jesus Aguilar, Lorenzo Cain, Manny Pina, Travis Shaw, Brent Suter, Eric Thames

Sogard looking to take advantage of opportunity

Shortstop in starting lineup for opener vs. Cards; Peralta set to start Tuesday
MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- Orlando Arcia is 4-for-24 with seven strikeouts since June 10, but that's not why he wasn't starting at shortstop on Thursday against the Cardinals.

Eric Sogard, who hadn't started since June 10 in Philadelphia, was in the lineup at short in an effort to pile up the left-handed hitters against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez.

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MILWAUKEE -- Orlando Arcia is 4-for-24 with seven strikeouts since June 10, but that's not why he wasn't starting at shortstop on Thursday against the Cardinals.

Eric Sogard, who hadn't started since June 10 in Philadelphia, was in the lineup at short in an effort to pile up the left-handed hitters against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez.

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"It's a matchup that we've had success when putting lefties in the lineup against him," Counsell said. "We're just looking to have left-handers in the lineup tonight, that's the big thing."

Sogard is 11-for-83 (.133) this season, spending part of the year in Triple-A Colorado Springs. Overall against Martinez, the Brewers' lefties aren't much better: they're hitting .148 (4-for-27) with seven strikeouts in two games this season. The right-handers are a touch higher (.158).

Tyler Saladino, whose grip on the shortstop position in late May caused a demotion for Arcia to work on his hitting, is progressing from a left ankle injury suffered against the Cardinals on May 29. Saladino took ground balls and batting practice and ran the bases at "about 50 percent," according to Counsell.

"We're not 100 percent, don't have a rehab date in sight," Counsell said. "But we're getting on the field."

Milwaukee added shortstop depth when it acquired Brad Miller from Tampa Bay in exchange for Ji-Man Choi on June 10. Miller is currently in Triple-A.

Peralta's Miller Park debut
Rookie right-hander Freddy Peralta has made three starts with the Brewers in 2018 -- all on the road. Peralta, currently in the Major Leagues due to DL stints for Zach Davies, Wade Miley and Jimmy Nelson, was slated to make his Miller Park debut on Sunday in the series finale against the Cardinals, but Wednesday's postponement in Pittsburgh changed those plans.

The Brewers pushed each starter back a day after the cancellation. Counsell announced Peralta will follow suit and make his first start in Milwaukee next Tuesday in the first of a two-game set versus Kansas City.

After striking out 13 in 5 2/3 innings of one-hit ball against the Rockies in his Major League debut on May 13, Peralta made one more start before returning to Triple-A Colorado Springs. With Davies sidelined, Peralta hurled six shutout innings against the Pirates on Tuesday, and will be rewarded with a stay in the rotation -- for now.

Video: MIL@COL: Peralta strikes out 13 over 5 2/3 in debut

Counsell said Davies (right shoulder) is making progress after pitching 1 2/3 innings (31 pitches) and allowing two runs and three hits in his first rehab outing in Triple-A on Tuesday. Davies will make at least three rehab starts before returning.

"Everything went well," Counsell said. "He's just back here [in Milwaukee] between starts. He'll increase it, 50-60 pitches next time out, and just keep going. All positive signs and now he just has to build himself back up."

Brewers honoring Davey Nelson
The Brewers are honoring the late Davey Nelson this weekend at Miller Park. Nelson, who passed away on April 22 at the age of 73, was a former Major League All-Star infielder, Brewers coach and FOX Sports Wisconsin analyst, as well as a friend to everyone in the organization.

"Honestly, that guy was the most humbling, gracious guy I've ever met," said Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress. "He was like a dad to me. Every time he saw me out of the clubhouse we would stop and talk for a little bit."

Brewers players and coaches will wear a "Nellie" memorial patch on their jersey sleeve during the four-game series against the Cardinals, and the FOX Sports Wisconsin stage in Miller Park's right-field corner will permanently be renamed "Nellie's Corner" on Saturday. A private celebration of Nelson's life will also take place on Saturday prior to the game.

"I'm glad we're doing that," Counsell said. "Davey impacted everybody here. When you came across him, you had a better day."

Counsell actually credits Nelson to improving his baserunning skills, saying Nelson encouraged him to start stealing bases during his playing career with the Brewers.

Several Brewers players will also be participating in the 10th Annual Davey Nelson Celebrity Golf Classic in Kohler, Wis., on Monday -- a Brewers' off-day.

"He always did this tournament to benefit the community," Jeffress said, "and that's what we're here for: to have fun playing baseball, but to also benefit people who are less fortunate and can't do the stuff that we can. He was a great guy to everybody, and this will be phenomenal this weekend."

Stephen Cohn is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen__Cohn.

Milwaukee Brewers, Orlando Arcia, Freddy Peralta, Tyler Saladino, Eric Sogard

Braun back with Crew after thumb cryotherapy

Brewers outfielder occasionally receives treatment to relieve nerve pain
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun is back with the Brewers after he underwent cryotherapy on his troublesome right thumb in Los Angeles on Wednesday, a procedure he's occasionally undergone since 2014 to relieve nerve pain. He didn't miss any action, as the Brewers' finale with the Pirates was postponed by rain.

Manager Craig Counsell believed it was the fifth time Braun has required the procedure, and the first time this year. Counsell says he will take it day to day with his 34-year-old left fielder.

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MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun is back with the Brewers after he underwent cryotherapy on his troublesome right thumb in Los Angeles on Wednesday, a procedure he's occasionally undergone since 2014 to relieve nerve pain. He didn't miss any action, as the Brewers' finale with the Pirates was postponed by rain.

Manager Craig Counsell believed it was the fifth time Braun has required the procedure, and the first time this year. Counsell says he will take it day to day with his 34-year-old left fielder.

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"He's back, and he's doing fine," Counsell said. "He'll kind of take it easy today, hopefully, but he's available if we need him."

Braun, who is slashing just .236/.290/.429 this season despite a high percentage of high contact, developed discomfort in recent days that was not abating with on-site treatment.

Eric Thames was in the starting lineup in left field on Thursday in the series opener against the Cardinals.

On when Braun can be expected back in the lineup, Counsell said, "It's just one of those things where if he feels good, but we'll just make sure today."

Braun first experienced severe pain at the base of his thumb in 2014, the year he returned from a PED suspension and endured a drastic drop in power production, with just 19 home runs in 580 plate appearances. That worked out to one homer every 30.5 plate appearances, after he hit one every 20.4 plate appearances in the previous six seasons. Cryotherapy helped significantly beginning in 2015.

In the procedure, a specialist injects a needle into the base of Braun's thumb to freeze the nerve.

Dr. Vernon Williams, who performed Braun's first cryotherapy, told the Brewers that the procedure can be repeated safely as long as it is not done more frequently than every three to four months, perhaps throughout the remainder of Braun's playing career if symptoms persist.

Stephen Cohn is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan Braun

The most pressing question facing Brewers

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

In a bunched-up National League Central, a crossroads is coming.

Ahead sits a crucial six-week stretch that will push the season past its halfway point and bring it to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Buyers and sellers will be defined. Pretenders and contenders will separate. And in a division where four teams still have a legitimate chance to earn a postseason berth, key decisions will surface.

In a bunched-up National League Central, a crossroads is coming.

Ahead sits a crucial six-week stretch that will push the season past its halfway point and bring it to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Buyers and sellers will be defined. Pretenders and contenders will separate. And in a division where four teams still have a legitimate chance to earn a postseason berth, key decisions will surface.

Here is a look at a few of them, as MLB.com has identified one pressing question that each NL Central club will seek to answer before the end of next month:

BREWERS
The question: Could Jimmy Nelson be the boost Milwaukee's rotation needs?

After watching the Brewers swing a deal for Christian Yelich in January, most everyone expected the club to follow up by adding a front-line starter. That splash never came, and it leaves Milwaukee in a spot where it again must assess whether its starting depth is sufficient.

Thus far, it's been Jhoulys Chacin and Junior Guerra anchoring a rotation that has been around league average in most statistical categories. Getting Zach Davies off the disabled list should provide a boost, and the Brewers see potential in rookie Freddy Peralta. But they still lack an ace.

Nelson isn't exactly that, but if he can avoid another setback in his recovery from shoulder surgery, Milwaukee may be more content to stand pat with what it has. Nelson's rehab hit some snags this spring, and he hasn't yet resumed throwing off the mound. The Brewers can use the next few weeks to asses Nelson's progress and better project the potential impact he may have in the second half. If it isn't deemed to be enough, their search for rotation help may again heat up.

CARDINALS
The question: Does St. Louis have enough on offense?

Sound familiar? It should, as this is the same question the Cardinals were trying to address months ago. Marcell Ozuna was supposed to play a big role in answering it, but even as he's come alive this month, the pieces around him haven't exactly fallen into place.

Video: Marcell Ozuna is named the NL Player of the Week

The club ranks in the league's bottom half in runs scored, and the offense leans too heavily on the long ball. Dramatic first-half struggles from Dexter Fowler and Kolten Wong have complicated lineup construction. Injuries to Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong haven't helped, either.

But Molina is back, DeJong is on the mend and others (namely Matt Carpenter and Ozuna) have recently provided production more consistent with their career norms. With middle-of-the-order bats like Manny Machado and Mike Moustakas expected to be dangled as trade options in the coming weeks, St. Louis will have to assess whether it will gamble on this current unit coming around, or if the club is willing to part with prized prospects to acquire another big bat. The latter would be a particularly bold move for a team that is often hesitant to give up long-term assets for a short-term fix. The Cards would be more inclined to do so if they can first close the gap with the Brewers and Cubs.

CUBS
The question: What will Yu do?

Yu Darvish was supposed to be the missing piece the defending division champs needed, but he has spent as much time on the DL as he has the active roster this year. First, it was the flu. Now, it's a right triceps injury.

Yes, Mike Montgomery has done an exceptional job filling in during Darvish's absence. But there's a reason the Cubs committed $126 million to Darvish this offseason. Getting him back -- and the Cubs are optimistic they will before the All-Star break -- would give Chicago even more flexibility in how it can deploy its arms. The Cubs could give Tyler Chatwood time to pause and address his command troubles. They could consider temporarily transitioning to a six-man rotation. Or (and this seems likeliest), they could make one of baseball's best bullpens even more formidable by adding Montgomery to it.

Video: LAD@CHC: Montgomery tosses 6 innings of 1-run ball

For a club with few glaring needs, sliding Darvish back into the rotation may be the biggest move the Cubs make in July. Of course, they'll only get a boost if he's better than his first impression and can stay healthy. Darvish has a 4.95 ERA, three quality starts and a 1.425 WHIP in eight games. The Cubs need better.

PIRATES
The question: Will the Bucs be buyers or sellers?

In dealing away Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole last offseason, the Pirates cast themselves into what most folks thought would be another rebuild. Then they raced out to an 11-4 start to the season, forcing many to reevaluate whether they had undersold Pittsburgh's potential. That answer is still unclear.

The Bucs have been a streaky team so far, and not for the better as of late. A recent 9-19 stretch -- one complicated by a leaky bullpen -- has dropped the Pirates into fourth place in the division. If they're still treading around or below the .500 mark at this time next month, Pittsburgh will likely listen to trade offers on veteran players nearing free agency. That may put Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, David Freese and/or Francisco Cervelli on the move. But if the next six weeks go more like the first few did, general manager Neal Huntington may be inclined to hold onto his assets and even add a complementary piece or two.

So what has to go right for the Pirates to push themselves into buying consideration? Their inexperienced rotation will need to hold up. The Bucs' young relievers will need to step up. Their lineup will need to show that its early production was no fluke. And Pittsburgh would probably need to leapfrog at least one team ahead of it in the division.

REDS
The question: Will Cincinnati's carousel of outfielders finally prove fruitful?

There was sound logic behind the Reds' decision to enter the season rotating four outfielders through three outfield spots. They believed that such a system would help keep everyone fresh and maximize the varying skill sets offered by Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton and Jesse Winker. Instead, the club has been handcuffed by inconsistent production from all four. Currently, Cincinnati ranks last in the NL in outfielder batting average and slugging percentage.

The biggest conundrum may be what to do with Hamilton. His elite defensive ability will always be an asset, but he's not been on base enough to take advantage of his speed. Hamilton is just a little over a year away from free agency, and if he's not deemed part of the Reds' long-term plan, the club may reach a point where they quit prioritizing his playing time.

Video: CIN@PIT: Hamilton lays out for tremendous catch

The other possibility is that the club could try to deal the center fielder. Duvall could also be on the trade block. What sort of value either might have on the market will be shaped whether either can find his way out of a first-half funk.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals

Brewers bullpen catcher goes sliding

Wednesday night's Brewers-Pirates game was postponed due to rain -- and there was a lot of rain. To the point where there was an actual flood in one of the tunnels at PNC Park. But that didn't stop Brewers bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel from making sure all of his equipment was taken care of -- and even having some fun in the elements.

Peralta shuts down Bucs, Aguilar drives in 3

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PITTSBURGH -- While the armchair general managers implore Brewers GM David Stearns to go shopping for a starting pitcher at next month's non-waiver Trade Deadline, Freddy Peralta returned to a Major League mound Tuesday and delivered the case for filling that need from within.

Peralta began his second stint in the big leagues the same way he began his first: by pitching a gem. In a 3-2 win over the Pirates at PNC Park fueled by Jesus Aguilar's three RBIs, Peralta fired fastballs for 78 of 99 pitches over six scoreless innings and held Pittsburgh to two hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.

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PITTSBURGH -- While the armchair general managers implore Brewers GM David Stearns to go shopping for a starting pitcher at next month's non-waiver Trade Deadline, Freddy Peralta returned to a Major League mound Tuesday and delivered the case for filling that need from within.

Peralta began his second stint in the big leagues the same way he began his first: by pitching a gem. In a 3-2 win over the Pirates at PNC Park fueled by Jesus Aguilar's three RBIs, Peralta fired fastballs for 78 of 99 pitches over six scoreless innings and held Pittsburgh to two hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.

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In his first three big league starts -- a 13-strikeout win at Colorado on Mother's Day followed by a loss at Minnesota six days later and then Tuesday's return in place of the injured Zach Davies -- Peralta has 25 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings.

In his two victories, Peralta has scattered three singles and two walks with 20 strikeouts in 11 2/3 scoreless frames.

And between his stints in the big leagues, Peralta posted a 1.48 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Colorado Springs, including a near-no-hitter on June 5 and an 11-strikeout performance on June 10.

Video: MIL@PIT: Counsell on Peralta's gem in win vs. Pirates

"Man, it's impressive. It makes me think about what I was doing back when I was [22] years old, you know what I'm saying?" said Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress, a former first-round Draft pick who took a more turbulent path to the Majors. "Good for him. He's a great guy, everybody loves him.

"As long as he stays right there, he will be a phenomenal pitcher for years to come."

As Pirates manager Clint Hurdle put it after watching Peralta find success at the top of the strike zone: "He pitched a lot taller than he was, height-wise. Man, he got after it."

While the Brewers' No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline was keeping the Pirates off-balance in Pittsburgh, Davies was making the first start of his latest rehab assignment in the Minors. Davies, coming back from a right rotator cuff injury, will get at least three such starts, so the Brewers will need a fifth starter again on Sunday at home against the Cardinals.

Peralta will get that assignment, Brewers manager Craig Counsell confirmed. It will be Peralta's Miller Park debut, and his calm demeanor is likely to come in handy.

"A 21-year-old that reaches the big leagues," said Counsell, referring to Peralta's age at the time of his May 13 debut, "has already crossed a whole bunch of hurdles. He's been the youngest player on his team, and young for his league. He's established poise."

Said Peralta: "I felt normal, you know? Always working."

The Brewers' offense came early from first baseman Aguilar, who hit a two-run homer off Pirates starter Jameson Taillon with one out in the first inning and knocked an RBI double off Taillon with one out in the third. Since the date of his first home run of the season on April 21, Aguilar has hit 14 of them to lead all National League hitters.

"I think it's important, especially for Peralta, to give him the lead right away," Aguilar said. "It made it easier on him."

Video: MIL@PIT: Aguilar hammers a 2-run shot to open scoring

The Pirates made it a game in the late innings with a pair of two-out run-scoring hits off Jeffress, including Starling Marte's homer in the eighth, which cut Pittsburgh's deficit to 3-2. But Brewers closer Corey Knebel worked around a two-out walk in the ninth for his seventh save.

"We were fighting out there for a while," Jeffress said. "They definitely got a lot smarter. I think they're the lowest strikeout team in the league. They put good at-bats against everybody."

Video: MIL@PIT: Knebel seals 3-2 win to earn his 7th save

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Jeffress vs. Meadows: The Pirates rallied against Brewers relievers Dan Jennings and Jeffress in the seventh inning after Peralta left the game. Jordy Mercer's RBI double off Jeffress cut Milwaukee's lead to 3-1 and brought pinch-hitter Austin Meadows to the plate with the tying runner in scoring position. Jeffress thought he struck out Meadows on a 1-2 pitch off the inside corner and started walking to the dugout before realizing it was called ball two. Meadows fouled off the next two pitches before swinging over a nasty splitter for an inning-ending whiff.

"They had some really good at-bats in the seventh," Counsell said. "Josh Bell had a good at-bat against Jennings, [Gregory] Polanco had a good at-bat against Jennings, where they just kept spoiling pitches. … I give them some credit in the seventh inning."

Added Jeffress: "You have to go into the next pitch. Do your strengths. Go back at him. You can't worry about it."

Video: MIL@PIT: Jeffress K's Meadows to preserve the lead

Thames tested: Counsell started Christian Yelich in left field and Eric Thames in right because PNC Park's cavernous left field seemed a better fit for the more fleet-footed of the two. It was Thames' first start of the season in right field, and he snapped the Brewers' six-game errorless streak when he dropped a Marte fly ball with two outs in the first inning. Thames recovered after that, however, converting every chance that came his way, including two more deep drives from Marte.

"Look, we need him out there," Counsell said. "With trying to get [Aguilar] and Eric into the lineup at times, it's important that Eric does a nice job out there. Having experiences, to me, is good."

Video: MIL@PIT: Thames ranges back for a grab at the wall

SOUND SMART
After Jeffress stranded 18 of 20 inherited baserunners in the first two months of the season, five of six have scored in June. But even with Marte's home run, Jeffress is still having a sparkling season. It pushed his ERA all the way up to 0.76.

Video: MIL@PIT: Mercer belts an RBI double to left-center

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Never mind the baseball. One Pirates fan let his 24-ounce can of cold beer slip from his grasp on a costly Corey Dickerson popup over the Brewers' dugout in the sixth inning. The spray sent Brewers scattering down below as catcher Manny Pina raised his hand in faux disappointment at the man, who was interviewed on the Pirates' television broadcast an inning later.

"I just got maybe a drop," Counsell said. "I think [bench coach Pat Murphy] got it pretty good and [assistant hitting coach] Jason Lane got it pretty good. I didn't get it too bad. I saw they made a nice production out of it." More >

Video: MIL@PIT: Fan fails to protect drink, foul destroys it

HE SAID IT
"I don't know what he's throwing, but it looks like it's uncomfortable for hitters. I was talking with their left fielder [Dickerson], and he told me he's sneaky and he throws cutters. Really sneaky, is what he said. You see the velo and it's between 93-94 [mph], and he's got everybody late. When he comes in throwing strikes, it's going to be tough for the hitters." -- Aguilar, on Peralta

UP NEXT
Coming off a career-high-tying seven innings against the Phillies and boasting a 5-1 record with a 3.24 ERA over his last six starts, Brent Suter is scheduled to take the mound for Wednesday's 6:05 p.m. CT series finale against the Pirates. He'll pitch opposite Pittsburgh right-hander Chad Kuhl, who is 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA in six career starts against Milwaukee -- all Pirates wins.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jesus Aguilar, Freddy Peralta