MILWAUKEE -- With Friday's news of a setback for right-hander Zach Davies just as left-hander Brent Suter hit the disabled list, starting pitching is at a premium for the Brewers while GM David Stearns weighs adding reinforcements.In other words, Milwaukee needs performances from the likes of rookie right-hander Freddy Peralta.
MILWAUKEE -- With Friday's news of a setback for right-hander Zach Davies just as left-hander Brent Suter hit the disabled list, starting pitching is at a premium for the Brewers while GM David Stearns weighs adding reinforcements.
In other words, Milwaukee needs performances from the likes of rookie right-hander Freddy Peralta. And despite another shaky beginning and some bullpen trouble behind him in a 5-4 win over the Braves at Miller Park, Peralta delivered.
"It's the best, man. It's what we preach, what we talk about -- guys stepping up," said Suter, who is sidelined by a forearm strain. "It's awesome to watch, and I'm so proud of Freddy. We're deep. We've got a lot of guys who buy right into our clubhouse."
Said reliever Dan Jennings, who played a pivotal role in Peralta's wake: "They just keep bringing guys up when we need [them], and they keep producing. It's such a unique thing. I don't think everybody has that."
That depth was on display all night. Tyler Saladino hit a two-run home run and Jesus Aguilar followed four batters later with a three-run blast off Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz in the third, and Peralta pitched six quality innings for his second victory in as many starts in front of the home fans before Jennings authored a brilliant escape in the seventh. Only Aguilar was on the Opening Day roster, and he was the third-string first baseman.
Now they are all central players for a Brewers team that improved to 5-0 on the homestand, moved a season-high 18 games over .500 at 53-35 and once again denied Atlanta a spot in the National League's 50-win club, of which Milwaukee remains the lone member.
"When you get on a little streak like this it's going to take everybody on your pitching staff, but our starters are certainly doing a heck of a job," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Freddy is one of those guys, man. He keeps delivering."
Peralta's start conjured bad memories of six days earlier in Cincinnati, where he fell into a 3-0 hole before recording his first out, and needed 43 pitches to navigate the opening inning. This time, a walk, an Ozzie Albies double and second baseman Brad Miller's error mishandling the throw back to the infield gave the Braves a 1-0 advantage after Peralta had recorded an out, and he needed 30 pitches to get through the frame.
But Peralta found smooth sailing from there, giving Milwaukee six innings of three-hit, one-run ball. He walked three but tallied six strikeouts, giving the 22-year-old 46 strikeouts in his 33 2/3 innings.
"[In Cincinnati] it was because I was a little bit excited in the first inning and I was feeling really good. Today, I was too fast," Peralta said. "After that, everything was really good."
The Brewers rewarded him by doing what they do best: Hitting dingers. Foltynewicz did not allow a baserunner in the first two innings, but Manny Pina singled off shortstop Dansby Swanson's glove leading off the third and Saladino followed with his first home run off the disabled list for a 2-1 lead.
Four batters later, Aguilar smashed a 433-foot, three-run shot that left his bat at 108 mph, according to Statcast™. It was the 20th of his breakthrough season, and he joined Colorado's Nolan Arenado (22 home runs) and Washington's Bryce Harper (21 and the Dodgers' Player Page for Max Muncy (20) at the 20-homer plateau in the NL.
"Every game, it's usually I get in that mess and I get out of it," said Foltynewicz, a strong All-Star candidate. "Not this time around."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Jennings' jam: The Braves climbed back into the game with three runs in the seventh off Milwaukee reliever Jacob Barnes, and Jennings took over with runners at second and third, no outs and the Brewers trying to hold a one-run lead. He retired all three men he faced, finishing with a groundout from the dangerous Albies. Jennings has inherited 23 runners this season, and only five have scored.
Asked whether it was his most satisfying outing in a Brewers uniform, Jennings said, "Oh, for sure. That's just a big win in general. To get [five] consecutive wins this close to the All-Star break, you just want to keep the momentum going."
Jeffress' jam: An inning later, the trouble was partly of Jeffress' own making, as he walked Kurt Suzuki following a one-out single to put the tying runner in scoring position. Jeffress got out of trouble by getting the ground ball he was looking for from Johan Camargo to the shortstop Saladino, who started a slick double play. Forty-two appearances into his season, Jeffress has a 1.05 ERA.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Eric Thames turned back the clock to his days as an everyday outfielder to help end Peralta's long first inning with a diving catch in the right-field corner to rob Suzuki with a runner aboard. The Brewers have been playing Thames in the outfield in part because Lorenzo Cain remains on the DL, and in part because they want both Aguilar's and Thames' bats in the lineup.
"That was awesome, man," Peralta said. "When I saw the contact, I just looked and I knew it was almost on the line but he would catch it. I don't know why, but when I saw him sliding and everything, I was like, 'Oh my God.'"
HE SAID IT
"[Peralta] is such a happy kid that I don't think the moments affect him too much. Playing behind him and you watch him go about it, he trusts his stuff and he's not afraid to go right after guys. It's a sneaky confidence that you feel when you're out there." -- Saladino
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Braves had nothing to lose when they challenged a critical out at second base in the ninth inning, after Manny Pina threw out Swanson trying to steal. It was Pina's second caught-stealing of the game.
Did the Brewers catch a break on the play?
"I don't know. Maybe," Counsell said. "But at this point, I think we can agree it's hard to figure out what they're going to do."
Back from Triple-A Colorado Springs after a short stay there, right-hander Aaron Wilkerson will make his first Brewers start this season on Saturday at 3:10 p.m. CT in place of injured lefty Brent Suter. Wilkerson made two starts for Milwaukee late last season, but his only big league action in 2018 came Sunday at Cincinnati, where he surrendered five runs in his first inning of work before settling in to deliver two more scoreless frames. Veteran Anibal Sanchez will start for Atlanta.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.