Breakdown of key moments in Crew's clutch W

August 29th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers’ postseason hopes aren’t dead yet.

In the sort of crisp game Milwaukee had struggled to put together of late, homered on a three-RBI afternoon and logged a two-inning save in Wednesday’s 4-1 win over the Cardinals at Miller Park.

By avoiding a sweep, the third-place Brewers climbed within 5 1/2 games of the National League Central-leading Cardinals, and moved within 3 1/2 games of the Cubs for the second NL Wild Card spot, with another huge series between Milwaukee and Chicago on tap this weekend at Wrigley Field.

“We’re going into September now. The last month, all of these games really matter, and some quality opponents, too,” Hiura said. “These games definitely are important and we definitely have to focus a little bit more.”

Asked whether Wednesday approached must-win territory, Hader said, "We have to win every game, I think. Every game, from here on out, if we want to make a playoff push, is important."

Here are the four players who contributed most to Wednesday’s win:

1) Hiura

The man can hit, a fact on display in a number of different ways Wednesday. Against Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty -- who’d held opponents to one run in 32 August innings entering this start -- Hiura began the day by delivering a run scoring groundout with the Cardinals’ infield playing back in the first inning after Kolten Wong’s error on a grounder. Hiura added a homer off Flaherty in the fourth inning for a 3-0 lead and an RBI double in the eighth for insurance.

Hiura has 35 home runs in 126 games this season between the big leagues and Triple-A San Antonio.

“The first-inning at-bat -- just playing with a lead is important, I think,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Look, what he’s done this quick, this soon, the consistency it’s been, it’s special. He’s hitting fourth. He’s hitting behind Yelich. There’s a lot that goes into that, and he’s handled it all with this even keel manner that really bodes well for a lot of success.”

Lyles, who pitched six no-hit innings in his previous start on the homestand, worked with a plus curveball and struck out nine while allowing one run on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. He’s 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA (nine earned runs in 32 1/3 innings) in six starts since a trade from Pittsburgh, where he’d logged a 9.57 ERA in his final nine starts for the Pirates.

Lyles played the role of stopper on Wednesday as the Brewers halted a three-game losing skid, even if that wasn’t necessarily on Lyles’ mind when he took the mound.

“Obviously, these are huge games for us right now,” Lyles said. “From one [o’clock] until now, I didn’t even think about the last two days. I’m on a Major League mound facing Major League hitters. I’ve got way too much to worry about rather than being that quote-unquote stopper. Yeah, it’s nice afterwards to think about that stuff.”

Lyles found trouble in the sixth, when Wong led off with a homer, Paul Goldschmidt singled and stole second, and Paul DeJong walked with one out. Guerra entered to face Yadier Molina, who’d homered three times in the previous two days and was 7-for-9 in the series when he stepped to the plate.

Guerra fell behind in the count 2-0 before burying a fastball down and in to induce an inning-ending double play. Guerra returned to pitch a scoreless seventh, bridging the gap to Hader.

“That was the pitch of the game, I felt like, to Yadi, who’s the hottest guy in baseball,” Lyles said.

4) Hader

This was a different Hader, who has thrown four-seam fastballs 85 percent of the time this season, according to Statcast. In getting the final six outs of Wednesday’s win against the top seven batters in the Cardinals’ order, Hader threw more sliders -- nine of them in 30 pitches. He got three swinging strikes, one called strike and three foul balls with the pitch.

Most importantly, Hader recorded the save. He had blown three straight save opportunities and four of five in August entering the day.

“It felt good, just being able to come back and attack the zone, and locate the fastball and the slider. I felt like the slider was a big pitch for me today,” Hader said. “A lot of teams are sitting on the fastball. So, that's one way to get them off of it a little bit.”

Hader and the Brewers have a day off on Thursday before their next big test at Wrigley Field, where they have lost five in a row.

“Obviously, your goal is to win series,” Counsell said. “That’s what we’re going to need to do the rest of the way. But it’s a nice win today and we go in with a good start and a rested bullpen. That’s a good thing.”