ST. LOUIS -- It was a bad road trip for the Brewers against National League contenders Atlanta, Chicago and St. Louis. There's no way around that.Without steady starter Jhoulys Chacin, it could have been worse.Chacin delivered his second scoreless start of the trip by following last week's seven innings against
ST. LOUIS -- It was a bad road trip for the Brewers against National League contenders Atlanta, Chicago and St. Louis. There's no way around that.
Without steady starter Jhoulys Chacin, it could have been worse.
Chacin delivered his second scoreless start of the trip by following last week's seven innings against the Cubs with six more zeros against the Cardinals on Sunday at Busch Stadium. With Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader in need of work, Chacin called it a day at 82 pitches and watched the Brewers' bullpen finish a 2-1 win, putting them back in the second NL Wild Card spot, a half-game ahead of St. Louis.
"Honestly, these guys feel like they own some part of the Brewers, and they don't," Jeffress said. "We showed them today that we're not going nowhere, we're still in second place, we're still going to fight for the race. This win felt great."
Besides reclaiming postseason position with exactly six weeks remaining in the regular season, Milwaukee pulled within 3 1/2 games of the first-place Cubs in the NL Central.
It took a nerve-wracking finish, with Jeffress and Hader both holding their breath on fly balls to the warning track in the final two innings.
"I think anything is possible now for me and the team," Chacin said. "We win on Sunday, a day game, and I finally beat the Cardinals."
He was only half-kidding. The Brewers entered the day with a 4-15 record on Sundays and 18-31 in day games, not to mention 10 straight losses in series finales. And Chacin was 0-7 with a 6.90 ERA in nine career appearances (eight starts) against the Cardinals.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell said he didn't know about Chacin's Cardinals conundrum when the team decided to move the veteran right-hander's start up a day so he'd catch red-hot St. Louis.
"This might have been the biggest game of the season for me," Chacin said. "I didn't think I was going to pitch against the Cardinals again, but I'm glad I got a chance."
Milwaukee went 3-5 on its final three-city trip of the year, with Chacin logging two of the wins. Going back to Aug. 4, the Brewers are 4-8 and Chacin has three of those wins.
Milwaukee's offense was limited to two runs for the third straight day, but Mike Moustakas' two-strike, two-out, two-run double off Cardinals starter John Gant in the third inning was enough for Chacin. Picked up on a two-year, $15.5 million free-agent contract in December, he leads the Brewers in starts (27), innings (151) and victories (13). Among Milwaukee's starters, only Wade Miley has a better ERA than Chacin's 3.58 -- in more than 100 fewer innings.
Since taking a loss and a no-decision in consecutive starts against the Cardinals in early April, Chacin is 13-3 with a 3.28 ERA. That figure is skewed by two outings that saw him allow eight runs.
"He was probably better today than when he was in Chicago," said Counsell, referring to Chacin's seven-inning, 10-strikeout gem at Wrigley Field in his previous start. "There wasn't much good contact."
Chacin only struck out three batters, but the final one came in "an empty the tank inning," as Counsell put it, despite the right-hander's modest pitch count. Chacin punched the inside of his glove after getting Paul DeJong to chase a sinker below the strike zone to end the sixth inning with a pair of runners on base.
"He was locating," said Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt. "He was going to both sides. He had his secondary pitches working. He was working ahead, had a nice tempo and rhythm. We just couldn't break it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Close call: Cardinals pinch-hitter Patrick Wisdom halved the Brewers' lead and recharged the Busch Stadium crowd with his first career homer to start the bottom of the eighth, and Matt Carpenter nearly made it back-to-back homers against Jeffress when he lifted the next pitch for a deep fly ball to center field. Lorenzo Cain caught it on the warning track, and Jeffress, pitching for only the second time in 10 days, retired the next two hitters to preserve the lead.
"The way Cain went after it, he went after it pretty confidently -- although he looked back up into the stands at one point," Counsell said. "That scared me a little bit."
Another close call: Hader, pitching for only the second time in 12 days, struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth before Jedd Gyorko put a charge into a 1-0 fastball and sent it to deep right field. Keon Broxton made the game-ending catch with his back against the wall.
"I was hoping it didn't carry too much," Hader said. "But I had Keon back there, and you know how he is up against the wall. It was definitely nice to see it stay in the ballpark."
Said Counsell: "This is a park where you really have to hit it to get it. I didn't think Gyorko came out of the box like he got it, necessarily. … The thought was with all the right-handers in the [Cardinals] lineup today that J.J. did the hard work with two innings, and then Josh was able to come in, and because he's so fresh, we were going to get big velocity. He had big velocity today, for sure."
Hader's save was his 10th this season, making him the first Brewers lefty to log double-digit saves since Dan Plesac (24) in 1990. Plesac, an analyst for MLB Network, has been a guest color commentator for some Brewers games this season, most recently last week at Wrigley Field.
The Brewers have won seven of 10 games against the Reds this season and match up against Cincinnati starters with ERAs of 6.33 (Homer Bailey), 5.31 (Sal Romano) and 7.94 (Robert Stephenson) in a three-game series beginning Monday at Miller Park. Chase Anderson is 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA in nine career starts against the Reds entering Monday's 7:10 p.m. CT first pitch at Miller Park. He'll be working on seven days' rest.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.