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Crew 'pen struggles in extra-inning loss

Brewers relievers blow three late leads to Cardinals
Special to MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers currently aren't sure who will pitch the ninth inning on a given night. The one thing that is certain is that they are missing their All-Star closer.

The Brewers' bullpen blew three late leads in a frustrating 5-3 loss in 11 innings to the Cardinals on Tuesday night. It was the second straight blown save and third since Corey Knebel (hamstring) went on the disabled list last Friday.

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ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers currently aren't sure who will pitch the ninth inning on a given night. The one thing that is certain is that they are missing their All-Star closer.

The Brewers' bullpen blew three late leads in a frustrating 5-3 loss in 11 innings to the Cardinals on Tuesday night. It was the second straight blown save and third since Corey Knebel (hamstring) went on the disabled list last Friday.

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"The ninth inning is certainly harder," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "The other team is going to pull out all the stops, strategically and personnel-wise, and the last three outs are the hardest outs, there's no question about it. We know that. We know those are a hard three outs to get.

"I think, as much as anything, we've asked so much from the bullpen that we have to rest guys, so that's going to put us in some funky spots from day to day a little bit. We have the guys to close games, but we've got to make sure that they're in a good position to do it."

Matt Carpenter's third career walk-off home run against J.J. Hoover (0-1) finally ended the four-hour, two-minute contest and made Dominic Leone (1-2) the winner.

Video: MIL@STL: Carpenter cranks a walk-off homer in 11th

"It just leaked maybe a little bit over the middle," Hoover said. "I think he was kind of sitting on it too. I like to go to my curveball back door to lefties and have had a lot of success with it, but I think it might have just leaked over a little bit and he was able to get out and pull it."

Hoover was one strike away from ending the game in the Brewers' favor in the 10th, but walked Yairo Munoz, which sparked a two-out rally culminating in a Greg Garcia RBI single to tie it at 3.

"The biggest mistake of the night was walking Munoz," Hoover said. "Other than that, it was a lot of weak contact until Carpenter's [homer]."

After a dominant eighth inning, reliever Taylor Williams started the ninth but gave up a leadoff walk to Tommy Pham, who eventually scored on a pair of Jacob Barnes wild pitches to tie it, 2-2.

"Taylor Williams, I sent him out there for the ninth because he had a great eighth inning," Counsell said. "I thought if there was any trouble, I like Jacob shorter in that inning because he's been worked pretty hard and I thought a shorter stint would be good for him. He just threw a couple bad pitches to start the inning and they tied it up there."

Aside from Knebel's absence, workload is becoming an issue.

Milwaukee relievers have already thrown 9 2/3 innings in the last two games. They've combined for 21 innings in the last five games.

"We had some guys that were down today," Counsell said. "We've covered a lot of innings in the bullpen, so we're having to put guys in different places right now, and we've had an injury in the back of the bullpen, so we're putting guys in different places."

Brewers starter Brent Suter was unhittable through 4 2/3 innings. Mixing a variety of off-speed pitches with a mid-80's fastball, the lefty kept the Cardinals batters off balance.

Video: MIL@STL: Suter gets DeJong looking in the 1st

It took the Brewers just two batters to do something they couldn't manage in 8 1/3 innings against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez six days ago … score a run.

Eric Thames took care of that with one mighty swing of the bat, drilling a 0-1 changeup 411 feet into the right-field bleachers to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead.

"When Eric gave us that run in the first inning, it was a good boost," Suter said. "We had that lead for, it felt, a lot of the game. It was a great swing by him."

Video: MIL@STL: Thames opens the scoring with a solo homer

Domingo Santana and Orlando Arcia each gave the Brewers one-run leads with RBI singles in the ninth and 10th, respectively.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Jeffress bests Ozuna, again: For the second straight night, Counsell summoned righty Jeremy Jeffress to face Marcell Ozuna, the Cardinals' best hitter, in a key spot. And for the second straight night, Jeffress struck Ozuna out to strand a deciding run. On Tuesday, that moment came in the seventh, when Jeffress caught Ozuna looking with two on and the game tied at 1. Ozuna also stranded the winning run at second with a groundout in the ninth.

Munoz walks, part two: While Hoover's walk of Munoz in the 10th jump-started the Cardinals' rally, another Munoz walk in the sixth weighed heavily on the outcome as well. This time, Munoz drew the free pass from Oliver Drake with the bases loaded, tying the game at 1-1 and giving Munoz his first career RBI.

QUOTABLE
"They're a scrappy team. They're a very well-balanced team and they fight to the very end, so we felt like we were one strike away like eight times and they just did a good job of battling." -- Suter, on the Cardinals

WHAT'S NEXT
Junior Guerra will be recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings in his lone outing, to start on Wednesday. The game, which starts at 12:15 p.m. CT, will be broadcast exclusively on Facebook Watch.

Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Louis and covered the Brewers on Tuesday.

Milwaukee Brewers