Tellez led off the ninth inning with a game-tying home run and Adames delivered the winning single in the 10th for a 4-3 victory over the Rays, a two-game series sweep and a four-game season series sweep of this rare American League opponent -- just in time to propel Milwaukee into a series against a more familiar foe at Busch Stadium.
“I feel like if we carry this momentum, it’s going to be a great series for us there in St. Louis,” Adames said. “But it’s going to be tough. We know we have to compete at the highest level.”
The Brewers temporarily pulled to within half a game of the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central standings and will watch the scores of the Cards-Rockies game at Coors Field on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.
When the teams last met in Milwaukee in June, they began and ended a four-game series tied atop the division. Nearly two months later, they find themselves in a similar spot.
“It’s going to be an interesting [race],” Adames said. “Obviously, we are going to play some really good teams this last month and a half and we know we have to be better. That’s what we’re trying to do now.”
That’s what they did on Wednesday to come from behind to beat the Rays.
“It's good to play good baseball,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
Quiet for most of the day, especially after Randy Arozarena homered off Brandon Woodruff for a 3-2 Rays lead at the seventh-inning stretch, American Family Field came alive in the game’s closing moments. Tellez homered to straightaway center field off Rays left-hander Colin Poche for a 3-all tie in the bottom of the ninth inning and then contributed on defense in the top of the 10th, gobbling up Taylor Walls’ fielder’s choice grounder and throwing to third to retire the Rays’ free baserunner.
In the 10th, Rays reliever intentionally walked Christian Yelich to face Adames, the former Ray, who grounded the second pitch into left field for a winning single.
“It's a gut feel, a little bit,” Counsell said, “but I think it's one of those things when you go into the inning thinking that they're probably going to walk Christian. I always think that does something for the hitter, a little bit. It means they want to face you, and I just think that gives you a little bit of ‘extra.’”
Was that the case for Adames?
“Yes. At least for me,” Adames said. “I always get excited. I don’t know, it kind of pumps me up, like, ‘Let’s go. I gotta do it now.’ It’s just something I feel. I agree with Couns. I think it gives us a little extra.”
Next stop, St. Louis.
The Brewers went into August with a four-game lead over the Cardinals in the National League Central standings, but Milwaukee lost five of six games to start the month while St. Louis surged to the top of the division. This weekend offers an opportunity to reclaim some of that ground.
“We’d be lying if we said we weren’t looking at it,” Brewers veteran Andrew McCutchen said this week. “Everyone looks at it. You can’t help but see it. I’m a big baseball fan so I’m always watching baseball, always following what’s going on. I see [the Cards’ surge], of course. I also understand we have to take care of business, take care of whatever is in front of us.”
So far, the teams’ head-to-head meetings have been about as even as it gets:
Season series: 6-6
In St. Louis: 2-2
In Milwaukee: 4-4
Runs scored: Cardinals 48, Brewers 44
Hits: Brewers 92, Cardinals 88
Home runs: Brewers 15, Cardinals 13
Strikeouts by batters: Cardinals 95, Brewers 93
“Honestly, I’d love to play them 100-whatever times,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said when the teams last met. “That’s a good team over there. I like the way the rosters match up.”
Both teams feature some new faces in the wake of last week’s Trade Deadline. The Brewers dealt away closer Josh Hader and added relievers Taylor Rogers and Matt Bush, the latter of whom came up big in the ninth inning on Tuesday night against the Rays when Rogers and Williams were down for the day. The Cardinals’ biggest Deadline addition was left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery from the Yankees, who is scheduled to start Friday’s series opener opposite Milwaukee left-hander Eric Lauer.
“We've got seven games [left] against them?” Counsell said. “It's head to head with the team you're battling with, so it's going to be a fun weekend.”
The head-to-head results are more critical than ever, since there is no more Game 163 if teams finish the 162-game schedule with the same record. If the Brewers and Cardinals tie in the standings, the team that wins the season series wins the NL Central.
“[Wednesday’s comeback] shows we have fight in us,” Tellez said. “It was a stretch there where we weren’t playing too well. I think we got a little comfortable, and the Cardinals just really put the pressure on us.
“We need to step it up. These two wins against another team [the Rays] that’s competing for a position in the playoffs were big for us.”