ST. LOUIS -- The southpaw jinx stymied the Brewers’ bats again.
Left-hander Jordan Montgomery, the Cardinals' Trade Deadline acquisition from the Yankees, pitched six scoreless innings while Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado homered to send the Brewers to a 3-1 loss on Friday at Busch Stadium, increasing Milwaukee's deficit in the National League Central to 1 1/2 games.
“I'd say that he used change a little bit more often than he was at first and pretty much the last time through the order there he was using it a lot more,” said right fielder Hunter Renfroe, who had the most previous at-bats against Montgomery among the Brewers. “I don't know why that was. I don't know if he wasn’t feeling it at first, but his fastball was good today. He was locating it inside, and he was getting some calls.”
The Brewers’ best chance against Montgomery came in the fifth inning after Victor Caratini doubled and moved to third on a Tyrone Taylor single, turning the lineup over to give Christian Yelich and Willy Adames a chance to erase the Cardinals' 2-0 lead with just one out.
But Yelich, after working the count full, swung and missed on a high 93.9 mph fastball from Montgomery, who wriggled out of the jam unscathed by striking out Adames on a changeup. Montgomery (5-3) finished with eight strikeouts and hasn’t given up a run in his first two starts (11 innings) with St. Louis.
“I thought we had pretty good at-bats,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Several lineouts, I thought he pitched well. … I thought he made a great pitch to Christian after Christian battled back and threw a really good fastball up in the zone.”
The Brewers could have had more opportunities against Montgomery, a sinkerballer who thrives on inducing ground-ball outs, but they hit into bad luck early on. Andrew McCutchen, Mike Brousseau and Keston Hiura each lined out to shortstop Paul DeJong while making solid contact in the first two innings.
“Several lineouts, and sometimes that's the way it goes,” Counsell said.
The struggles against left-handers is a season-long pattern for Milwaukee, which entered the game 13th in the National League in batting average (.221), OPS (.666) and RBIs (106) and 14th in slugging (.356) against southpaws. Conversely, the Brewers ranked second in the NL in OPS (.766), RBIs (390) and slugging (.440) and third in OBP (.326) against right-handers.
Perhaps it's no coincidence, then, that the Cardinals' two main additions at the Trade Deadline -- Montgomery and José Quintana -- are both lefties.
“We definitely noticed that they picked those guys up, and I mean, it wasn’t like they went and got somebody that was just a nobody. Those guys are great pitchers,” Renfroe said. “And obviously, I wouldn’t say struggle, but we do not hit lefties as well as righties. I think that's kind of out there, everybody knows that, but you know we have guys that can do it.”
Caratini’s RBI single off Andre Pallante in the seventh scored Luis Urías, who led off the inning with a triple. It was Caratini’s first hit with runners in scoring position since July 23. Caratini had three of the Brewers’ eight hits.
The lack of offense squandered another quality start by Eric Lauer, who gave up three runs in six innings. Lauer (8-4) made just two mistakes, but the Cardinals made him pay both times, as Goldschmidt ripped a 429-foot two-run homer in the first and Arenado sent a fly ball over the left-field wall to lead off the sixth.
It was the first time Lauer surrendered multiple homers in a game since June 22. That also came against the Cardinals.
“I think the one to Nolan might have been the worst pitch I've ever thrown in my life,” Lauer said. “I mean it was a changeup middle-middle, and good hitters are not gonna miss that.”
With teams as evenly matched as the Brewers and Cardinals are, one pitch or hit can make a difference. Heading into this weekend’s series, the teams were 6-6 against each other. The Cardinals held a slight advantage in runs scored (48-44), but the Brewers had more hits (92-88).
The Brewers do figure to get a boost Saturday, as Corbin Burnes is scheduled to start. Burnes has dominated the Cardinals in two starts this season, going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA.
“It's going to be a grind of a series,” Lauer said. “I think both teams, we know what we're fighting for and we know what we got to do to win. It's just a matter of who's gonna go out and execute the most.”