LOS ANGELES -- The Brewers are back in a good place. By the time they take the field next, they could be in a better place.
Stout relief behind Freddy Peralta's bend-but-don't-break start and Eric Thames' three-run home run sent the Brewers to their seventh win in 10 games, a 5-2 victory over the Dodgers on Monday night in the final contest before Tuesday's 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline.
If general manager David Stearns was seeking motivation to make last-minute additions to a roster he already fortified with trades for White Sox closer Joakim Soria on Thursday and Royals slugger Mike Moustakas on Friday, the Brewers have provided it. After losing seven of eight games on the road leading into the All-Star break, Craig Counsell & Co. returned to split a six-game homestand against the Dodgers and Nationals before opening this West Coast road trip with four victories in the last five days.
As a result, Milwaukee reached Deadline day within one game of the first-place Cubs in the National League Central.
"Oh, it's tomorrow? I didn't know that," said Thames, who provided the figurative power in a game delayed 23 minutes between the first and second inning after the stadium lights went out. "I'm sure we all have Twitter and all the texts that come up, like, 'So-and-so just got traded.' Everybody's phone is going to go off at the same time.
"We're all excited. And if nothing happens, we're fine. We have a great group and we're going to keep rolling."
Stearns said he sensed "an opportunity to make another move or two here" after landing Moustakas -- but of course nothing was certain in the fluid final days leading to the Deadline. Adding another bat or bullpen arm isn't out of the question, especially given the inventory of the latter still available. But most of the buzz around the Brewers is whether Stearns will spend prospects for a starting pitcher.
The Brewers have been linked to every available arm, from rentals (Cincinnati's Matt Harvey) to controllable arms with upside (Baltimore's Kevin Gausman) to the most established starter up for grabs, Tampa Bay's Chris Archer.
Stearns has said he likes his in-house options -- Milwaukee's starters are ranked ninth of 30 Major League teams with a 3.85 ERA -- but the depth of that group is debatable with Zach Davies in the midst of another rehab assignment for a shoulder injury that morphed into a back issue, Brent Suter lost for the season to Tommy John surgery and no timetable for 2017 ace Jimmy Nelson's return to competitive pitching.
Chase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin, Junior Guerra, Wade Miley and Peralta are the five current starters, with Brandon Woodruff in reserve at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Peralta, a 22-year-old with a propensity for piling up lots of strikeouts and nearly as many walks on some nights, pitched to form on Monday when he threw 98 pitches in four innings, walked four but got out of trouble with six strikeouts. They included big whiffs of Chris Taylor with the bases loaded to end the third inning and Manny Machado with two men in scoring position to end the fourth.
"They're very disciplined, and they ran up [Peralta's] pitch count because of it," Counsell said. "But in the end, in spots he had to make pitches, he made pitches."
With those situations handled, Peralta departed with a 4-1 lead, and relievers Josh Hader, Soria, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel covered the final five innings.
"That's just a tough baseball game," Counsell said. "That's a good team over there, and we outlasted them pitching-wise."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Second chance: Most of the Brewers' offense came from Thames, who came within a few feet of hitting his first big league grand slam in the first inning only to see his line drive hook just foul. The Brewers had the bases loaded in that inning with no outs and a run already across against Kenta Maeda but couldn't tack on, a missed opportunity for which Thames atoned two innings later, when he connected for a three-run home run and a 4-0 Brewers lead.
"It felt really good after that first pitch I saw in the first inning. I really want that ball back," said Thames. "It went foul by like 10 feet. That's how baseball goes. But it felt good to get the hit to kind of put us a little more distance in front of the Dodgers, because their lineup, they just drop bombs and they rake."
Peralta vs. Machado: The Dodgers stranded 11 men on base in the game, including three in the third inning when Peralta struck out Taylor on three straight fastballs and two more in scoring position in the fourth, when Peralta caught Machado looking at a 95-mph fastball low in the zone. It was Peralta's firmest pitch of the night, and while it looked like he missed his location -- catcher Manny Pina set up high, where Peralta gets many of his strikeouts -- Peralta said it was by design.
"Pina tried to confuse somebody," Peralta said. "He called the pitch outside and down. He put his glove up, but we wanted it down and away. I hit my spot."
SHAW GOES DOWN
The Dodger Stadium crowd audibly groaned when Brewers cleanup hitter Travis Shaw fouled a pitch off the inside of his right knee in the ninth inning and hit the dirt in pain. He finished the at-bat but was replaced at second base by Hernan Perez in the bottom of the inning for defense.
"I got it pretty good," said Shaw, who finished 3-for-4 with an RBI single. "But I've done it before. I should be good [on Tuesday]."
Said Counsell: "We all saw it. It made what was left of the crowd go, 'Oooh,' twice, showing it on the scoreboard. It was painful looking but I think it caught large muscle, so he's just going to be sore."
HE SAID IT
"We want to win this series, too. We're getting to the point now where we're starting to get to where every game is important. We're still in second place, so we're still looking up at somebody, and we need to win every game that we can." -- Shaw, when reminded that by winning Monday the Brewers ensured at least a .500 road trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles
Slugger Jesus Aguilar is expected back in the lineup when the series continues Tuesday night at 9:10 p.m. CT. He'll face Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler, while left-hander Wade Miley starts for Milwaukee on a familiar mound. A former Arizona D-back, Miley has a 2.41 ERA in six career starts at Dodger Stadium.