MILWAUKEE -- Rookie right-hander Freddy Peralta tamed the first inning. Then he tamed six more innings with the sort of performance the Brewers will need if they are going to navigate a pennant race without adding any more pitching.Peralta worked seven scoreless innings, drove in a run with his first
MILWAUKEE -- Rookie right-hander Freddy Peralta tamed the first inning. Then he tamed six more innings with the sort of performance the Brewers will need if they are going to navigate a pennant race without adding any more pitching.
Peralta worked seven scoreless innings, drove in a run with his first Major League hit and aided another two-run rally with a well-executed bunt in the Brewers' 4-0 win over the Reds on Wednesday afternoon at Miller Park.
"This game was really good for me. I need a mirror [image] the next couple starts," said Peralta, the 22-year-old prospect who has already crossed into uncharted territory for innings in a season. "That's what I'm going to do. I feel really good."
Peralta led the Brewers to a series victory that kept them three games behind the National League Central-leading Cubs. It also ensured Milwaukee would retain control of the second NL Wild Card spot, a half-game ahead of the Rockies, 1 1/2 ahead of the Phillies and a half-game behind the Cardinals for the top spot.
Peralta took the mound with a 9.00 ERA in the first innings of his first dozen starts, but went 1-2-3 against the Reds on 10 pitches before Christian Yelich led off the bottom of the frame against Cincinnati starter Robert Stephenson with his 21st home run.
Peralta did most of the heavy lifting the rest of the way, holding the Reds scoreless on three singles over seven innings, with two walks and seven strikeouts. As a bonus, Peralta lined a two-out RBI single off Stephenson in the fourth for his first big league hit after going 0-for-22 with 11 strikeouts to start his career at the plate.
"I was waiting for this day," said Peralta, breaking into a wide smile while describing the ribbing he'd heard from teammates. "'You can't hit! When are you going to your first hit?' I said, 'I will, this year. No, maybe next year.'
"Today, I got it. I feel free now."
Peralta joked that he was prouder of his hit than his mound work, but teammates were just as impressed with the latter. Peralta is eighth among Major Leaguers who have logged at least 50 innings with a .166 opponents' average -- and that includes relievers. Among starters with at least 50 innings, Peralta's 30.4 percent strikeout rate ranks ninth. His 10-pitch opening inning set the tone.
"It was certainly different," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "And I think it kind of let him exhale. It just put him into a rhythm. He was obviously in a good rhythm all day."
"Any time he's throwing strikes for us, he's been dominant," Yelich said. "That's probably his key. He never really gives up many hits. He's so deceptive and his ball moves so much, when it's in the zone he's really tough. You saw that early today. When he's like that, we have a great chance to win."
Yelich and Lorenzo Cain added well-placed RBI singles in the sixth after Peralta's bunt and Jeremy Jeffress recorded the final four outs for his sixth save as the Brewers secured a 2-1 series victory over the Reds. The teams will meet again for three games next week in Cincinnati.
"This is a series you feel like you should win," Counsell said. "[Tuesday] night was a rough game. ... To capitalize like this going into an off-day is a nice way to sit."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Yelich turns 21: With his 21st homer, Yelich tied his career high from 2016 with 33 games left on the Brewers' schedule. Milwaukee officials expected a power boost from Yelich, in part because he traded home games at cavernous Marlins Park for lefty-friendly Miller Park, and in part because he is right in his prime at 26 years old. He reached safely five times, including four hits, and leads the Brewers with a .314 batting average.
Asked what it meant to match a personal milestone, Yelich said, "Not a whole lot. I'm really just trying to go out there and have productive at-bats and hit the ball hard. It's not really been a focus or anything I've changed or tried to do more this year. It's just worked out that way."
Gennett again: Stop us if you've heard this one before: Taylor Williams pitching for the Brewers, two outs, Scooter Gennett due to bat, and left-hander Dan Jennings warming in the bullpen. That was the scenario Tuesday night before Gennett connected against Jennings for a tiebreaking home run in the ninth inning of the Reds' 9-7 win. A day later, the bases were loaded but the scenario was otherwise the same, with one exception: Jeffress was available to pitch. Counsell went to his best right-hander to retire Gennett on a flyout to left field, and Jeffress then pitched a perfect ninth inning to seal the victory.
"He threw the ball great today. He was outstanding," Counsell said. "That's a tough spot to come in, obviously, with a good hitter having one of the better years in the National League. That's a tough spot, but he's been so good all year that it's kind of an easy call that you have to go with him."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
It was a tough day for first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who stranded seven men on base while going 0-for-5 with a pair of double-play groundouts. He even endured a wardrobe malfunction in the fourth inning. Aguilar was looking down at his broken belt and was nearly struck by Peralta's pickoff throw.
The play didn't hurt the Brewers, and Aguilar borrowed a belt from teammate Orlando Arcia while clubhouse officials mended his in time to return it to him for the rest of the game. Aguilar said he's used that same belt for the past two years.
So it's a lucky belt?
"Not today," he deadpanned.
HE SAID IT
"He's taken a lot of right turns back to the dugout so far in his hitting career. I think was his first time on base. So it was a big spot." -- Counsell, on Peralta's hit
The Brewers could have another late-inning relief option back in action as soon as Friday for the start of a three-game series against the Pirates at Miller Park. Joakim Soria, sidelined since Aug. 9 by a groin injury, threw live batting practice to hitters on Tuesday and is expected to come off the 10-day disabled list at some point during the weekend set. Left-hander Wade Miley is scheduled to start Friday's 7:10 p.m. CT series opener opposite Pittsburgh's Joe Musgrove.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.