MILWAUKEE -- At the risk of resurrecting the old battle over whether pitchers' wins matter, Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson recorded one on Tuesday that at least merited notice.
In his 11th career start and 12th appearance against St. Louis, Nelson pitched six quality innings, aided by one highlight-worthy defensive play and three innings of scoreless relief in the Brewers' 3-2 victory at Miller Park. The result for Nelson was a good old-fashioned "W" -- the first of his career against the Cardinals.
"Does he have a bad record against them?" Brewers manager Craig Counsell asked of Nelson, who entered the night 0-8 lifetime against St. Louis with a 7.01 ERA.
"I think he's a little bit of a different pitcher right now," Counsell said.
Indeed, Nelson is in the middle of his best season, with a 9-5 record and 3.37 ERA. In 22 outings he has 13 quality starts of at least six innings and three earned runs or fewer, matching his career high in 30-plus starts each of the past two years.
Brewers hitters spotted Nelson a lead by scoring three times in the first inning against St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez, and Nelson made it hold. He surrendered six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts. The only Cardinals runs scored via two-out singles, one from Yadier Molina in the fourth inning and another from Tommy Pham in the fifth.
Teammates also aided Nelson with defense. Kolten Wong led off the third inning with a single and tried to score on Randal Grichuk's double to left-center field, but the Brewers stopped Wong at home. Ryan Braun relayed to shortstop Orlando Arcia, who fired a one-hopper home to catcher Manny Pina for the out.
"That might have been the hardest-hit ball against [Nelson] all night," Counsell said.
Nelson didn't think the Brewers had a chance to get Wong. Neither did Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, or Pina for that matter.
"I thought we had no chance," said Pina. "As soon as [Arcia] turned his head to the home plate, he threw the ball and we made the play."
"I wasn't even backing up home, because I thought we had no shot. I was backing up third," said Nelson. "That really took me by surprise. Manny did a good job of holding on to the ball right there. That was impressive. That definitely helped in a one-run game. It was huge."
Nelson's gem came a day after the Brewers acquired a reliever, Jeremy Jeffress, at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. They did not trade for a starter, despite weeks of rumors in the run-up to Monday about A's right-hander Sonny Gray and other pitchers available on the market.
Although waiver trades are still in play in August, it appears the Brewers will try to win with the starting pitchers already in place. They hope Matt Garza will come off the 10-day disabled list for Thursday's series finale, and are likely to call up a starter from the Minor Leagues for one of the games during the next series, against Tampa Bay.
Did Nelson track Trade Deadline news on Monday?
"Not at all," he said. "If they added a starter, then great. If they didn't, we're happy with the guys we've got in here. All of the guys in here have gotten us to this point. We really believe there is a lot of good baseball we can play."