'Huge' win for Brewers over division-nemesis Cards
Comeback victory could be signature early-season moment for Milwaukee
ST. LOUIS -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke isn't about hyperbole. He's more the lava lamp than neon lights.
So as calmly as Roenicke may have been sitting behind the desk in the visiting manager's office at Busch Stadium with the clock about to strike midnight, turning Monday into Tuesday, rest assured that when he declared the Brewers' 5-3, 12-inning come-from-behind victory against the defending National League champion Cardinals as a "huge" win, it showed just how "huge" a win could be.
This wasn't merely a night where the Brewers found themselves facing a 3-0 deficit going in the seventh inning against a Cards team that had beaten Milwaukee in 25 of 37 games since the start of 2012, including taking two of three from the Brew Crew at Miller Park earlier this month.
No, it was bigger than that.
It was "huge."
It was one of those nights that will be fondly recalled come September if the Brewers can build off this best-in-baseball record of 19-7 that they have put together in the opening weeks of the season, and actually claim a postseason berth.
It was a win in a game Yovani Gallardo started against the Cardinals, only the fourth time Milwaukee has won in the 18 times that Gallardo has faced St. Louis.
It was a win in a game that began with right fielder Ryan Braun (strained right oblique muscle) and shortstop Jean Segura (facial cuts and swollen eye) unavailable, and third baseman Aramis Ramirez was lifted with a bruised left elbow after being hit by pitches in both the sixth and seventh innings.
It was a game in which Roenicke was left without any more available players before the Cards even came to bat in the bottom of the eighth after pinch-hitting Rickie Weeks in the top of that inning.
In the top of the seventh, Roenicke had used Lyle Overbay to hit for Gallardo, and he was rewarded when Overbay singled home the first run and scored the game-tying third run in that inning. Roenicke, however, had to unexpectedly insert backup catcher Martin Maldonado at first base in the bottom of the seventh, so Mark Reynolds could move from first to third in place of the ailing Ramirez.
Roenicke lost the chance to keep Overbay in the game, because it wasn't until after reliever Tyler Thornburg came through the bullpen gate that he found out Ramirez was headed to the training room.
Turned out, the Brewers didn't need anybody else.
Khris Davis, who had stranded eight runners, including leaving the bases loaded when he struck out to end the sixth and flied out to end the seventh, provided the answer to the lingering Brewers questions. With one out in the 12th, he tripled home the go-ahead run, and then scored the final run on a Reynolds sacrifice fly.
"We got one," said Roenicke. "We'll do what we can [Tuesday]."
The Brewers got one against a Cardinals team that had earlier this month given Milwaukee its only series loss other than when the team dropped two of three to Atlanta in the season-opening series.
It's a Cards team that won the NL pennant a year ago, was a World Series champion three years ago, and has been to the postseason in 10 of the last 14 seasons. They don't buy headlines like the free-spending Yankees and Dodgers, and they aren't Team Chic like the A's or Rays because of their low-budget, high-success rate.
Nope, they are just the Cardinals, a team that has set the standard for what most any fan base would love to see their own team match. And beating the Cards sends a message that the Brewers just could be putting together a special season after two years of disappointments.
"It was a grind," Roenicke said, "which is why it was so important."
Most of all, it was a win, thanks to a bullpen that added five more scoreless innings to its April resume, lowering its ERA to 2.21, and saw Francisco Rodriguez rack up his best-in-baseball 13th save in his 13th opportunity. And it was a win in a game against St. Louis that was started by Gallarado, even if he wound up with a no-decision.
Gallardo may be 40 games above .500 (82-42) against everybody else in baseball, but his record is 1-11 in 18 starts against the Cardinals, the worst record of any active pitcher against one team. It's a tad worse than Mark Buehrle's 1-10 against the New York Yankees. Gallardo's three-run, six-inning effort Monday did lower his career ERA against the Cards from a worst-in-baseball 6.46 to a second-worst 6.37, a tad better than the 6.39 ERA that Joe Saunders has against Texas.
"No explanation for it," said Milwaukee bench coach Jerry Narron.
But then none was needed, not on this night.
The Brewers had worked overtime, and they got the payoff.
"It definitely was not easy," said Gallardo, "but it was a good one. It shows that the guys in the clubhouse, they want to win."
They got one.
A "huge" one.