Wacha keeps Yelich, Brewers' offense in check

April 17th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- The Cardinals have shown flashes of what they could be this season, but have struggled, at times, to put it all together.

Wednesday afternoon, they showed how dangerous they can be when they do, as Michael Wacha struck out seven over six innings, Marcell Ozuna's fifth homer in four games paced an offense that collected 15 hits and closer Jordan Hicks slammed the door in the ninth as the Cardinals avoided a sweep with a 6-3 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park.

"It was a real professional day across the board," manager Mike Shildt said. "It was a pro game. Guys went out and executed. I love this team. It was just a well-played baseball game."

Wacha's performance was especially helpful after Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty worked just 3 2/3 and 2 2/3 innings, respectively, in the in the first two games of the series, putting pressure on a bullpen that came into the series with the National League's fourth-highest workload.

The right-hander retired 14 of his first 16 batters including five in a row to start the game. In the fifth, Orlando Arcia reached on a two-out single, which led to the only blemish on Wacha's day: a two-run home run by Brewers relief pitcher Aaron Wilkerson.

"I didn’t miss over the plate too many times and whenever I did they either fouled them off, or not too much damage,” Wacha said. “I felt like I was making a lot better pitches. Me and [catcher Matt Wieters] got in a good sequence there for a while. Just attacking guys. And the defense played well behind us. They were making plays all day."

Wacha allowed five hits and a walk on the day and remained perfect for his career against the Brewers. With the win, the right-hander improved to 6-0 with a 3.84 ERA in 13 career appearances (12 starts) against the Brewers and 3-0 with a 3.24 ERA in seven career appearances (six starts) at Miller Park.

"It set the tone for the game and it lined up our bullpen," Shildt said. "It was really good for him to go out there and demonstrate what our starters are capable of and they're capable of going on a run like that, really for the rest of the season."

Wacha also did something few Cardinals pitchers have been able to accomplish this season: he kept Milwaukee's Christian Yelich in check.

Yelich had hit eight home runs in seven games against St. Louis this season, including three in the series opener Monday night and another on Tuesday in Game 2.

He popped out to third baseman Matt Carpenter in the opening inning then looked at a fastball for strike three in the fourth before Wacha walked him to lead off the sixth.

"We had a good game plan going in on how we wanted to attack him," said Wacha. "I felt we kept him off balance for the most part. Walked him there to lead off an inning, which I wasn’t trying to do. It was important to get those outs after him too. Really good player. You got to make pitches.”

With Wacha keeping the Brewers' offense in check, St. Louis' lineup gave him plenty of breathing room by getting an early jump on Milwaukee starter Corbin Burnes.

Marcell Ozuna struck first, putting the Cardinals on the board with a solo shot to lead off the second inning. It was Ozuna's third home run of the series, fifth over his last four games and eighth of the season.

Over his last 15 games, Ozuna is 17-for-58 with eight home runs and 14 RBIs.

"His last week has been pretty special," Shildt said.

The Cardinals now head into an off-day Thursday on a high note, having won seven of their last 10 games.

"Those guys over there are really good -- Yelich, especially," Ozuna said. "We got a win against a good team."