Moose gets loose as Crew gains on Cards

Brewers get to Waino early, save Hader in rain-shortened win

August 22nd, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- So much for the path to 27 outs. This particular Brewers victory required only 21.

teed off for a three-run home run in a four-run first inning and the Brewers held on long enough for a rain-shortened, 5-3 win over the Cardinals to finish a 2-4 trip on Wednesday at Busch Stadium, where starter Adrian Houser and four relievers kept St. Louis at bay for seven innings before the game was halted in the middle of the eighth and eventually called after a one-hour, six-minute delay.

“We’ll take a win like this any day we can,” Houser said.

The win over longtime nemesis Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals denied St. Louis a three-game sweep and kept the Brewers from falling five games out of first place for the first time all season. Instead, they are 3 1/2 games behind the Cubs, who outlasted the Giants at Wrigley Field in a home run derby Wednesday to power past the Cardinals into first place in the National League Central.

Three takeaways from the Brewers’ waterlogged win:

1. “All that golf finally paid off, Moose!”

That was Christian Yelich’s takeaway, as he passed by Moustakas’ locker, a reference to the swing that produced the game’s decisive hit. Keston Hiura had already snuck an RBI single through the Cardinals’ infield before Moustakas golfed a curveball to the right-field seats for his 31st homer, which gave Milwaukee a 4-0 lead before Wainwright recorded the second out of the game.

“I caught it out front pretty good,” Moustakas said. “He made a really good pitch. I got lucky that I was able to stay back just enough and get the barrel to the ball.”

Moustakas is threatening his career high for home runs -- 38 in 2017, when he set the Royals’ franchise record, and might be getting more credit for his solid season were he not playing in Yelich’s shadow. Moustakas’ .867 OPS would be the fourth-best season in Brewers history for a player who primarily manned third base. Aramis Ramirez’s .901 OPS in 2012 is the club record, followed by Bill Hall’s .899 in '06 and Jeff Cirillo’s .894 in '96.

2. The Brewers didn’t make it easy for Houser

Houser’s 66th pitch induced a routine Harrison Bader bouncer to third with two outs in the fifth. Had Moustakas converted the play, Houser would have been through five scoreless innings with one hit.

But Moustakas bounced the throw for an error. Pinch-hitter Yairo Munoz followed with a cue shot that took a funny hop for first baseman Eric Thames and was ruled a hit, in part because Houser was slow to cover first. When the runners broke for a double steal, catcher Yasmani Grandal threw the ball into center field for a run-scoring error, then Dexter Fowler followed with an RBI single.

So, instead of bidding for the Brewers’ first complete game in more than two years -- Jimmy Nelson threw the last one on June 18, 2017 against the Padres -- Houser recorded only two outs after the initial error and was out of the game at 89 pitches, with one out and the Cardinals within two runs, at 5-3, in the sixth. Still, it was the third straight start in which Houser allowed only one earned run.

“He would have been out there a lot longer if we didn’t kind of have some breakdowns on defense,” Moustakas said.

3. The much-maligned bullpen got it done -- and without Josh Hader

Tuesday was an ugly night for Brewers’ pitching, but Wednesday, the relief corps saved the day. After Yadier Molina’s double off Houser put the tying runner in scoring position in the sixth, Alex Claudio came on to strike out Matt Carpenter and Matt Albers followed to strike out Bader and preserve the lead as the rain approached.

In the seventh, Drew Pomeranz and Junior Guerra combined for a scoreless inning, with Guerra retiring dangerous Paul Goldschmidt, who represented the tying run. Hader had been stirring in that inning, but when the rain turned into a downpour, it meant that the Brewers could rest their relief ace entering a weeklong homestand.

“It worked out in our favor, for sure,” Counsell said. “Had they not made it a rain delay, Josh was going to be the pitcher. So, we were in good shape but Josh was going to have to get six outs. It worked out well.”

It was the opposite feeling in the Cardinals’ clubhouse, where manager Mike Shildt said, “We waited an hour. Didn’t get an opportunity to finish a game that we fought and scratched and clawed and felt like we were in it and had a chance to -- felt really good about winning, quite honestly.”

Did Counsell manage with the pending weather in mind?

“We knew it was going to rain. You don’t know when it’s going to rain,” Counsell said. “As we got into the bottom of the sixth inning, for them, it started to get imminent. You saw the grounds crew -- their offices are right underneath our dugout and we saw them start to sprinkle out -- so we knew it was coming. We did everything we could, and I was kind of avoiding having Josh start throwing and getting a delay. That worked out well. But our guys got big outs. We used four guys to get the last five outs, so that’s kind of how we structured the game.”