Pham-tastic: Cards rookie thumps Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- Rookie outfielder Tommy Pham homered twice -- and nearly made it a hat trick -- while driving in four runs, Jaime Garcia pitched into the seventh inning and the Cardinals made it a bona fide winning streak by beating the Brewers, 5-4, Wednesday night for their third straight victory after losing eight of their previous 10 games.
The Cardinals won for the eighth time in Garcia's last nine starts and increased their lead in the National League Central to four games over the Pirates, who lost to the Cubs in 12 innings shortly after Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth inning to seal his 45th save.
Pham also tripled as part of the best game of his budding big league career. His three hits matched a career high, and his two home runs, four RBIs and 11 total bases set new personal bests. He homered twice off Brewers starter Wily Peralta as the Cardinals built a 5-0 lead by the top of the fourth inning, and narrowly missed hitting his third home run of the game when he flied out to the deepest part of the ballpark in the eighth.
"We're real happy we're able to put a young player in and watch him make the adjustments," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Pham. "He's been doing some work trying to figure out some holes and figure out the league. He has obvious power. He's just an exciting player."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Making his case: Pham has displayed a unique skill set during his short time in the big leagues, but he may find playing time hard to come by when the Cardinals return to full strength. Starting in left field Wednesday, Pham showed why he's an intriguing postseason roster candidate. He put the Cardinals on the board with a two-run home run to dead center field in the second inning and connected to left-center in the fourth. After going 93 at-bats between his first and second home runs, Pham homered in three straight at-bats dating back to Sunday. The streak was snapped in the sixth inning when he tripled against Brewers reliever Tyler Cravy.
"It is better than not contributing, I can tell you that," Pham said. "The first time I got called up I struggled. When I got sent back down I was really disappointed with myself. Now that I'm doing a little bit more, it is just a blessing."
Opportunity knocks: Jonathan Lucroy's lingering concussion has meant a series of starts for backup catcher Martin Maldonado, who made his mark at the plate and in the field Wednesday. In the fourth inning, he followed Elian Herrera's bloop RBI single with a three-run home run as the Brewers shaved a 5-0 deficit to 5-4 in the span of two Garcia pitches. Maldonado later saved a run with some hustle, retrieving a Kyle Lohse wild pitch in the ninth inning just before it bounced into the Brewers' dugout. Lohse wound up escaping the jam.
"[Maldonado] made it a game," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "The bullpen put up five zeros after that. Cravy, [Cesar] Jimenez and Kyle [Lohse] did a nice job, and Maldy helped get them through it. But we didn't have a big scoring opportunity after that inning."
Finding redemption: The last time Jonathan Broxton took the mound at Miller Park, the veteran reliever surrendered a go-ahead home run to Brewers left fielder Khris Davis in St. Louis' 5-4 loss on Aug. 9. Facing his former team for the second time since being traded to the Cardinals on July 31, Broxton worked a perfect eighth inning Wednesday with some help from Pham, whose over-the-shoulder catch ended the frame with the Cardinals' one-run lead intact. Broxton, who had a 5.89 ERA in 40 games with the Brewers, has a 2.50 ERA in 19 outings with St. Louis.
"We're playing the best team in baseball. You have to play a pretty darn good game to beat them. We know that. It doesn't matter to me that it's the Cardinals. When you're playing the best team in baseball, you better play a good game to win the game. We've done some good things the last two nights but not enough to beat a good team." -- Counsell
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina wore the golden sombrero for the first time in his career, striking out four times for the first time in 1,548 regular-season and postseason games. Before Wednesday, Molina had struck out more than twice in a game only three times.
"He had a rough night," Matheny said.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KID
Brewers fans cheered when Hall of Famer Robin Yount's 60th birthday was noted on the Miller Park scoreboard. Dubbed "The Kid" when he broke into the big leagues as an 18-year-old in 1974, Yount played his entire 20-year career in Milwaukee and is universally considered the best player in franchise history.
"It's hard to believe" he is 60, said Counsell, who grew up in Milwaukee. "Robin's had an impact on my life, a lot. Watching him play was a great joy. Always, though, his humility -- more than watching him play -- has always been the greatest thing he's taught me."
Cardinals: John Lackey will pitch the series finale Thursday at 7:10 p.m. CT. The veteran right-hander will be making his team-leading 30th start of the season and his fourth start of 2015 against Milwaukee. Lackey's 2.36 ERA since June 15 ranks fifth among Major League pitchers.
Brewers: Milwaukee hopes to have home run and RBI leader Ryan Braun back in the lineup for Thursday's series finale after Braun missed a start Wednesday with a tight back. He's just 4-for-16 lifetime against Lackey with a double and three singles. Scheduled starter Jimmy Nelson is 0-4 with a 8.72 ERA in five career appearances against the Cardinals, including two starts this season.
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