MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers picked a prime time to finally put up a couple of runs.
With Milwaukee coming off the wrong end of a no-hitter and two outs shy of losing a second straight shutout, Ryan Braun delivered a tying double and Keston Hiura lifted a game-winning sacrifice fly, giving the Brewers a 2-1 win over the Cardinals in eight innings in the first game of a doubleheader at Miller Park on Monday.
Braun’s hit off Ryan Helsley ended the Brewers’ scoring drought at 21 innings, and Hiura’s hard-hit sacrifice fly two batters later off Austin Gomber represented the first run driven in by a Brewer other than Braun in five days, since Milwaukee’s 19-0 win at Detroit on Wednesday.
Monday’s doubleheader started a stretch of five games in three days and 10 games in the regular season’s final two weeks between teams battling for the National League Central’s second playoff berth.
The Brewers were in position to win Game 1 thanks to their pitching. Josh Lindblom rejoined the rotation and worked five scoreless innings in his finest Major League start, and Devin Williams and Josh Hader each added a scoreless inning of relief in the first of two games scheduled for seven innings apiece.
The Brewers, who hadn’t scored since Braun’s two-run homer in the fourth inning of Saturday’s loss to the Cubs, were similarly stymied through the first seven innings by St. Louis left-hander Kwang Hyun Kim, who narrowly avoided allowing a run in the bottom of the sixth thanks to his up-the-middle defenders. With Jedd Gyorko at second base on a two-out double -- the Brewers’ third hit -- Kim walked Hiura intentionally and induced a ground ball up the middle from Orlando Arcia. It looked like it might have a chance to get through for a tiebreaking single, but second baseman Kolten Wong ranged to his right, past the bag, to scoop up the baseball and flipped it to shortstop Paul DeJong running in the opposite direction. He beat Hiura to the bag to end the threat.
After both teams went down in the seventh inning to force extras, the Cardinals finally broke through against Freddy Peralta with two outs in the eighth when Tommy Edman lined a single to score the automatic runner from second base.
But Milwaukee had an answer, the likes of which it was unable to conjure a day earlier when Mills authored the fourth no-hitter ever at the Brewers’ expense.
“The great thing about this game,” Lindblom said Sunday night, “is that when we wake up tomorrow we have an opportunity to play two games.”
Lindblom was 1-3 with a 6.46 ERA in his first seven Brewers starts before a spate of off-days negated the need for a fifth starter, and he was the odd man out. He pitched twice in relief during the team’s last road trip, then rejoined the rotation Monday just as the Brewers were licking their wounds.
With rising star Corbin Burnes waiting to start Game 2, Lindblom set a solid foundation for the day. He worked around Paul Goldschmidt’s two-out single in the first inning and DeJong’s leadoff single in the second, then faced the minimum in the third, fourth and fifth for his first scoreless start in the Majors. Lindblom made six starts for the Rangers and A’s before taking his career to South Korea for the majority of 2015-19.
He scattered three hits and didn’t walk a batter on Monday while striking out six.