MILWAUKEE -- Once again, the Cardinals' bullpen did yeoman's work after a short outing by one of the their starters.
And again, despite a late comeback effort from the offense, the eight-run deficit was too much for St. Louis to overcome in an 8-4 loss to the Brewers on Tuesday night at Miller Park. The Cards have lost five of their six games against the Crew this season, and eight of nine dating back to last year.
One bright spot was Marcell Ozuna's two-run homer in the sixth inning, his seventh home run of the season, all coming in the last nine games. It was also Ozuna's fourth homer in the past three days.
But the Cardinals were in a big hole early after a short start from Jack Flaherty, who lasted only 2 2/3 innings. He worked around a one-out single by Christian Yelich in the first and stranded two baserunners in the second before Lorenzo Cain led off the third with a home run, sparking a five-run inning for Milwaukee.
"The slider wasn’t as consistent as he would like," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said of Flaherty. "I think that is what got him a fair amount. He was getting after it, competing. They just put good swings on it. It was a long inning and he couldn’t figure out a way to get off the field.”
That left it to the Cardinals' relief corps, which entered Tuesday fourth in the National League with 61 2/3 innings, holding opponents to a .177 batting average (best in the NL) and ranking third in the NL with a 3.50 ERA.
"We have the ability to cover [those innings], and we've demonstrated the ability to cover them," Shildt said before the game. "It's just not a sustainable model. We know we're going to need the ability [for starters] to get into the sixth or seventh."
Fortunately, Shildt had some fresh arms at his disposal after the team recalled right-handers Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley from Triple-A Memphis earlier in the day. Gallegos took over for Flaherty in the third, walking Cain to load the bases before striking out Yelich to get out of the inning without further damage.
Gallegos worked around a one-out walk in the fourth with two strikeouts, then struck out two in the fifth before giving up a single to Cain to put two runners on. Shildt summoned Helsley for his big league debut with Yelich, the reigning NL MVP who has been a nightmare for Cardinals pitchers all season, waiting to step into the box.
"I knew I was going to get him," Helsley said. "I thought I was going to get Cain, too, before that, but I just told myself to attack him with my best stuff and give yourself the best chance you've got."
Helsley got ahead against Yelich 0-2 before his next two pitches missed the strike zone to even the count. After Yelich fouled off an inside fastball, Helsley left a cutter over the plate that Yelich crushed to right-center field for his ninth homer of the season -- and eighth against the Cardinals.
"I just wanted to go right at him and attack from the start," Helsley said. "I feel like I did that. I hung one pitch and he took advantage of it."
Helsley struck out Ryan Braun to get out of the inning, then blanked the Brewers over the next two innings, finishing with four strikeouts and reaching 101 mph with his fastball.
"He came in in a tough spot," Shildt said. "He competed well in the at-bat [against Yelich] and didn’t back down from it. He responded fantastic. Ryan obviously has a bright future.”