Lefty arm stumps Brewers in loss to Cards

May 28th, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- For the Brewers to get their offense in gear on Saturday at Busch Stadium, they needed to make one simple adjustment: start facing a right-hander.

By the time Cardinals starter Matthew Liberatore departed the game after five solid innings, the hole was a little too deep in what would become an 8-3 Brewers loss. Liberatore recorded six strikeouts, and the only two runners the Crew advanced past first base against him moved up on Cards fielding errors.

“We didn’t put enough together. Nothing really happened enough,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Not good enough. No big rallies, not stringing together a bunch of good at-bats.

“[Liberatore] pitched well, we didn’t do enough offensively.”

Keston Hiura’s 412-foot home run -- his second homer in two days and fifth of the season -- got the Brewers on the board, but could only reduce an eight-run lead to seven.

“I'm just trying to capitalize on the pitches where I can drive,” Hiura said. “Just building off that, pretty much.”

Victor Caratini’s two-run homer in the ninth against T.J. McFarland provided the final margin.

Milwaukee entered play Saturday with a .215 batting average (26th in MLB) and a .649 OPS (23rd in MLB) against lefties. Those prior results bore out, as they managed only two hits -- both singles -- against St. Louis’ rookie left-hander.

“I’m not going up there thinking, ‘Oh, shoot, the lefties,’” Hiura explained. “It’s more so being able to compete, hit mistakes and do your best up there.”

By contrast, starter Adrian Houser was touched up to the tune of eight runs (five earned) in four innings, recording one walk and one strikeout. He allowed two homers, each of which carried a milestone.

Nolan Gorman’s swing in the first was the first homer of his career and the longest at Busch Stadium this season. Paul Goldschmidt’s, in the third, extended his career-long hitting streak to 19 games.

“Just wasn’t able to hit a lot of spots,” Houser said. “Didn’t have the really good command today and they put some good swings on some mistakes that I made. That’s what they’re supposed to do.”

Houser’s outing was short-circuited in part by a fielding error by Luis Urías with two out in the fourth. Moved over to shortstop to cover for the injured Willy Adames, Urías couldn’t handle a grounder off the bat of his counterpart, Tommy Edman. Gorman doubled in two runs as the next hitter, and Goldschmidt followed with an RBI single to account for three unearned runs.

A short start from Houser could compound coming issues for the Brewers, who are unsure whether Brandon Woodruff will be able to make his next start after exiting Friday with right ankle soreness. Already facing a doubleheader on Monday at Wrigley Field, each additional inning in need of coverage is its own challenge.

Hoby Milner, Shawn Kelley and Miguel Sánchez provided four innings of scoreless relief work behind Houser.

Slugging, however, can patch many holes, and the Brewers had opportunities of their own to change the complexion of Saturday’s contest. Despite their struggles against Liberatore, Milwaukee managed to open the top of the fourth with two on and no one out following a walk to Tyrone Taylor and the first of Gorman’s two errors, which allowed Mike Brosseau to reach.

Hiura and Lorenzo Cain struck out to follow them, and Mark Mathias -- making his first appearance in the Majors since Sept. 5, 2020 -- grounded out to third to extinguish the rally.

Another Gorman error in the fifth allowed Christian Yelich to reach and moved Caratini to third base with two out, but Taylor’s deep fly ball was hauled in on the warning track by Cardinals left fielder Corey Dickerson.

Milwaukee had won its prior two games against lefty starters, taking down the Nationals and Patrick Corbin on May 21 and the Padres and Blake Snell on May 24. The combined eight earned runs scored against those two hurlers were perhaps signs of an offense starting to sort out its biggest challenge, and it will be on Brewers hitters to make sure that Saturday doesn’t represent a significant step back.

“We do this every year, we pick out something,” Counsell said about his team’s approach against lefties. “It's every year. It's just the nature of baseball.

“We're a good team. We're going to lose some games, there's going to be something that we can figure out that we're not good enough against.”