ST. LOUIS -- Before Wednesday's game, Brewers manager Craig Counsell talked about the need for the offense to score some runs to take the pressure off a taxed pitching staff.Since the opening weekend of the season, the Brewers had played with a multi-run lead for just two innings. The high-leverage
ST. LOUIS -- Before Wednesday's game, Brewers manager Craig Counsell talked about the need for the offense to score some runs to take the pressure off a taxed pitching staff.
Since the opening weekend of the season, the Brewers had played with a multi-run lead for just two innings. The high-leverage situations, plus the mounting innings on a bullpen missing its closer, had started to take a toll with consecutive blown leads.
While the runs didn't exactly come in droves and the bullpen innings still mounted, the Brewers' offense gave its pitchers a slightly larger, and much-needed, margin for error, and Milwaukee held on to beat the Cardinals, 3-2, in the rubber game of a three-game series Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium.
"We're not clicking on all cylinders by any means, but I think a lot of times, the sign of a team that can keep managing wins during those times bodes well for us," Counsell said.
Hernan Perez and Eric Thames hit solo home runs to give Milwaukee an early 2-0 lead.
Perez's home run to left in the second inning traveled 441 feet, the longest by a Brewers hitter this season. It left his bat at 107.5 mph, making it the hardest-hit ball in his career, according to Statcast™.
"I'm feeling a lot better at the plate, seeing the ball really well right now," Perez said. "I feel like they are going to come."
Thames hit a majestic, towering drive that barely got over the right-field wall, tipping Harrison Bader's glove, in the third.
"I missed it. Got under it, but luckily it was hit during the day and not at night," Thames said. "The outfielder probably would have been running in if it was hit during the nighttime."
The blast gave Thames 16 homers in March/April over the past two seasons, the most homers in the Majors during that span (Bryce Harper is second with 15).
"I'm just trying to have quality at-bats," Thames said. "The first series of the year, I felt I hit the ball hard, just right at guys. It's stuff like that. That's all I care about, just getting a good pitch, putting a good swing on it and getting on base or driving it. Then after the ball leaves my bat, whatever happens happens."
Jonathan Villar's grounder to first scored Orlando Arcia to give the Brewers a 3-0 lead in the fifth.
Junior Guerra (1-0), the Brewers' Opening Day starter last year, showed some of that form early on, retiring nine of 10 Cardinals hitters at one point. The 33-year-old righty struck out four.
Tommy Pham led off the ninth with a home run off Josh Hader to cut the Brewers' lead to one. Matt Albers came in and surrendered back-to-back singles to Marcell Ozuna and Jose Martinez. But he wriggled out of the jam by striking out William Fowler to earn his first save of the season.
"I did like Matt against those two right-handers [Ozuna and Martinez]," Counsell said. "I thought that was a real good matchup for us. They got base hits, but he made some great pitches to Fowler especially. I thought he pitched him especially tough."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Just enough: Bader had the height. He had the jump. He just couldn't come up with the ball. Bader came about as close as one can to robbing a home run without doing so when Thames' fifth big fly of the season somehow eluded him in the third. Thames' towering drive -- hit with a 43-degree launch angle, according to Statcast™, making it the highest over-the-wall home run in the Majors of the young season -- came almost straight down into Bader's glove before landing over the wall to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead.
"I was running back to the dugout," Thames said. "I thought he caught it, just seeing him time it, but it hit off of his glove and went over."
Guerra gets out of it: Three Cardinals hitters reached in the fifth against Guerra, though none scored. Kolten Wong's double-play groundout erased a leadoff walk, and three batters later, Adam Wainwright stepped to the plate following consecutive singles. With a chance to help himself, the reigning National League Silver Slugger Award winner struck out.
"Junior did a heck of a job," Counsell said. "He came out of the chute really pitching well. I thought the split-finger was good right away. His velocity is certainly at a place that's higher than we left last year, I know that. I saw some 94s, and I'm sure there was a couple 95s in there."
"I feel great, we got a win. If I hit a homer and we lose, it doesn't matter." -- Perez, on his home run in the second
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Dan Jennings became the second Brewers reliever to register a hit this year when he singled off Wainwright in the seventh. Jennings' first career hit also marked the first Wainwright has ever allowed to a relief pitcher in his career. Hader registered a hit earlier this year.
"I was nervous as heck to pitch, much less hit," Jennings said. "I think I used [Brent] Suter's helmet and [Manny] Pina's bat. You just piece it together at that point."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Pham's line drive shot in the ninth was originally ruled a double after it caromed off a railing atop the left-field wall and back onto the field. The call was overturned after a 3-minute, 18-second review, which determined the ball had cleared the wall.
Zach Davies will seek to build off a strong outing -- he surrendered one run in six innings in a no-decision vs. the Cubs -- as Milwaukee kicks off a three-game series at Citi Field vs. the Mets on Friday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Davies is 2-0 with a 4.22 ERA in four career starts against the Mets, who will counter with Steven Matz (0-1, 3.00 ERA).
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Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Louis and covered the Brewers on Wednesday.