Crew's 'little funk' hits 5: 'It's on us to win'

September 24th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- Tyrone Taylor connected with an Adam Wainwright cutter, Willy Adames climbed atop the dugout railing and 30,804 fans at American Family Field finally had something to cheer about.

But that good feeling didn’t last on Thursday afternoon.

Taylor’s first-inning grand slam on a two-homer afternoon went to waste, as the Brewers blew a five-run lead and lost, 8-5, to a Cardinals team that looks like it might never lose again. Make it five consecutive losses and seven of nine for the Brewers, who reminded themselves they are still in the driver’s seat in the National League Central with a 7 1/2-game lead and nine to play.

“We’ve all talked. We’ve had team meetings. Done it all,” said veteran center fielder Lorenzo Cain, one of the Brewers’ players with a World Series ring. “We’ve just got to keep going, find a way to bounce back and get out of this little funk that we’re in.”

St. Louis scored once in the fifth inning to make it a 5-1 game, four times in the seventh off Jake Cousins and Brad Boxberger to tie it on Paul Goldschmidt’s two-run home run, and three more times off rookie Aaron Ashby in the eighth and ninth on the way to a 12th consecutive victory and a four-game sweep of a Brewers team that was hoping to clinch the National League Central while the second-place Cardinals looked on.

Instead, Milwaukee’s magic number remained stuck on three for a fifth consecutive day, and what manager Craig Counsell referred to as “a little bump in the road” got a little bigger with the Brewers’ biggest blown lead in a loss all season.

For the Cardinals, their 12-game winning streak is that franchise’s longest since April 1982 -- the year St. Louis triumphed over Milwaukee in a seven-game World Series.

“We’re 91 games in the win column. We’ve been resilient all year,” Counsell said. “Like a good team, we’ve had to go through a bunch of different things. We’ve been resilient enough to kind of conquer them all, and this is the next challenge.”

He added, “Nobody likes going through this, but if we’re really good, we’re going to learn from it, too. We’re going to have a game in the playoffs where we get knocked in the teeth and we don’t like the way we lost. And then we’re going to have to win one the next day.”

Thursday began with promise thanks to Adrian Houser’s scoreless first inning and Taylor’s slam off Wainwright. Before that, Milwaukee hadn’t led a game since the start of the eighth inning on Sunday against the Cubs. In each of the first three games of the current series, the Cardinals jumped out to leads in the top of the first inning.

This time, it was the Brewers striking first, and Taylor struck again in the fourth inning with another home run off Wainwright for a 5-0 lead. 

But he accounted for all of the scoring for what has been a scuffling Brewers offense.

“Maybe we’re pressing. I don’t know,” Cain said. “We just haven’t been swinging the bats well. You usually go through stretches like this. We’ve kind of picked a bad time to go through this stretch, but we’ve got to get out of it.”

After missing chances to add to their 5-1 advantage, the Brewers began to unravel in the seventh, when Cousins’ outing was delayed because the umpiring crew objected to the light color of his glove. With a new, black leather glove in hand, Cousins struck out Yadier Molina but then surrendered a single and two walks and left the game. 

“The umpires noticed it,” Counsell said. “His glove, it wasn’t his normal glove he was using today. It’s a pretty white glove, so they switched it out, and I understand why.”

Enter Boxberger, the Brewers’ most durable reliever, who entered September with a 2.25 ERA and a 1.80 opponents’ average before running into recent roadblocks. He almost got out of the inning with a Tommy Edman fielder’s choice that scored a run and nearly was a double play. Then, Boxberger made a big mistake with an errant pickoff attempt with two outs and two strikes that allowed another run to score before Goldschmidt tied the game with a monster home run. 

“Look, we have leaned on those guys both,” Counsell said. “We were, frankly, in a little bit of a bind today because we’re trying to keep Devin off the injured list.”

That would be setup man Devin Williams, the typical choice to pitch the eighth inning of a 5-5 game. Counsell revealed after the game that Williams was unavailable after injuring one of his calves running in the outfield on Tuesday. The Brewers, Counsell said, want to avoid making it an injured list situation, so they called for rookie left-hander Ashby instead. 

Ashby gave up three runs, two earned, and another Goldschmidt home run while covering the final two innings. 

“This was a game that we have won this year, and unfortunately it didn’t play out that way today,” Counsell said. “It’s on us to win games. It’s on us to take it. We all have to do a little bit better to win a baseball game. That’s what this week told us.”