MILWAUKEE -- They avoided being shut out for the eighth time this season. If Brewers hitters were seeking positives in their performance against the Indians' Carlos Carrasco on Wednesday, that was the extent of it.
Carrasco was as dominant as he was efficient in a complete-game five-hitter, logging 14 strikeouts in Cleveland's 6-2 win over the Brewers at Miller Park. The Brewers settled for a two-game series split with their old American League Central rivals before hitting the road for Colorado, Arizona and Minnesota with a 21-16 record.
The Brewers are two games into a streak of 15 in a row against 2017 postseason teams.
"[Bench coach] Pat Murphy always says there are no Western Illinois on the schedule," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who once played for Murphy at Notre Dame. "I don't mean to knock Western Illinois, [but] there's no softballs on a Major League schedule.
"... You take the series as they come, and you move on. The Indians are a really good baseball team, and we faced their two best pitchers and we got a split. The Rockies have been hot, and the Diamondbacks have been one of the better teams in baseball. It's a challenging road trip for sure."
A day after the Brewers beat Corey Kluber with a pair of home runs, including pitcher Brent Suter's unlikely solo shot off the batter's eye, Carrasco struck out 10 different batters and had at least one strikeout in each of his first seven innings before retiring the Brewers in order without a whiff during a six-pitch eighth. He singled home a run in the top of the ninth inning, then returned to the mound and completed the game on his 117th pitch.
Carrasco finished nine of his strikeouts with his nasty slider, including eight swinging strikeouts on that pitch. Four of those came during one particularly dominant stretch in the third and fourth innings, when Carrasco struck out six straight batters.
"For the first three innings, I didn't find myself," Carrasco said. "I went back to the dugout and talked to [catcher] Roberto [Perez] and the pitching coach. … When I went out for the fourth, we got everything working."
Milwaukee's scoring average slipped to 3.68 runs per game, 28th in the Major Leagues and better only than the Marlins among National League clubs.
Brewers starter Junior Guerra set a season high for a Milwaukee pitcher with nine strikeouts, but he was burned by a four-batter sequence in the fourth inning. Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, Yonder Alonso and Tyler Naquin started the frame with successive hits -- three for extra-bases, including Naquin's three-run home run off a hanging split-fingered fastball for a 4-0 Indians lead.
That flurry represented the only damage against Guerra, who surrendered two other hits plus two walks in five innings en route to losing his third straight start.
"They got a little rally going, and he hung a split with guys on base," Counsell said. "He throws that pitch with nobody on base, and maybe that's a one-run inning and we're right in the game. Naquin got him with some guys on base. But Junior threw the ball well. It's one bad pitch that cost him."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
He's back: Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" signalled the return to action of All-Star Brewers closer Corey Knebel, who was reinstated from the disabled list Wednesday morning and took the mound for the start of the seventh inning with his team in a 4-0 hole. Francisco Lindor greeted Knebel with a 424-foot home run, but Knebel bounced back to induce three straight groundouts while topping out at 97.3 mph.
"Everything still felt good," Knebel said. "Lindor is a good hitter, so he's going to hit those mistakes. If I'm going to give them up, I'd rather it be like that [with the bases empty]. Everything felt good. Hamstring felt good. It was a big plus."
The Brewers have history as a free-swinging, power-hitting team, but Carrasco was only the 19th opponent in 50 seasons of franchise history to strike out at least 14 Brewers batters in a game. The record against Milwaukee is 17 strikeouts, shared by D-backs teammates Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2002.
HE SAID IT
"I'm going to get Western Illinois mail, aren't I ..." -- Counsell, expressing instant regret after mentioning the Leathernecks in his postgame press conference.
The Brewers begin a tough, 10-game road trip to Colorado, Arizona and Minnesota on Thursday in Denver, where Jhoulys Chacin starts against his former team at 7:40 p.m. CT. The Brewers are 6-2 in Chacin's starts, including four straight wins. Right-hander German Marquez pitches for the Rockies.