Contreras, Crew connect in comeback win over Cardinals

Catcher homers, Brewers hit four consecutive doubles to get closer to clinching division

September 20th, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- William Contreras, the 25-year-old catcher enjoying a breakout season at the plate and behind it, didn’t like what he saw in the Brewers’ approaches against Adam Wainwright on Monday night as the Cardinals' veteran turned back the clock for his 200th career win. In a quiet clubhouse afterward, Contreras wasn’t afraid to say it. 

“I feel like we just weren't connected today,” he said. “We were kind of out of it. That's part of baseball. You can’t have it every day.”

A day later, the Brewers could not have looked more connected in a 7-3 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. 

Contreras started a comeback with a solo home run in the third inning before the Brewers strung together four consecutive doubles to open a four-run fourth inning. Relievers started the game and ended it as the Brewers continued to prioritize rest for their prized starting pitchers. And along the way, shortstop Willy Adames played part-time pitching coach when rookie Abner Uribe needed a firm hand to navigate his part of a victory that pushed the Brewers closer to clinching a division title. 

  • Games remaining (11): at STL (2), at MIA (3), vs. STL (3), vs. CHC (3)
  • Standings update: The Brewers (85-66) hold a six-game lead over the Cubs (79-72) for first place in the National League Central. Milwaukee is the third-best division leader in the NL, meaning it would host a best-of-three NL Wild Card Series against the final Wild Card entrant starting on Oct. 3.
  • Magic number: The Brewers' magic number over the Cubs to clinch the NL Central is six.

“Whenever you’re getting close to the goal, or one step of the goal, you just want to get there," Adames said. "But we’ve been good at handling ourselves on the field and controlling our emotions, just to keep things easy and small. But we are really excited about it.” 

Milwaukee had to play from behind on Tuesday after the opener, Trevor Megill, surrendered a pair of runs in a 31-pitch first inning. But Colin Rea followed with 4 2/3 innings while holding the Cardinals to one run and departed with the lead thanks to Contreras’ 17th home run of the season in the third inning and the Brewers’ string of doubles in the fourth.

Adames led off that inning with a double and Josh Donaldson, Tyrone Taylor and Sal Frelick followed the lead to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead on the way to a 5-2 lead before the inning ended. The last time an MLB team strung together four consecutive doubles, it was at the Brewers’ expense; the Red Sox did it July 31, 2022.

According to Elias, the Brewers had never doubled in four consecutive plate appearances before Tuesday. And the Cardinals had not allowed an opponent to do it since at least 1961.

“It was just a good team win,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who reached 700 regular-season victories as skipper. "I think Colin Rea deserves a lot of credit here. He stepped up and gave us another really good effort.”

And give credit to Uribe, the 23-year-old right-hander with a triple-digit fastball who has ascended to a high-leverage role since his callup in July, but was fuming after Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh inning turning an 0-2 count into a walk. When Uribe uncorked a very wild pitch in the wake of that walk, Adames ran over from shortstop to deliver stern words.

“He wanted to make sure I had confidence,” Uribe said.

Adames told Uribe to trust the pitches Contreras was calling and throw them with conviction. And that’s what Uribe did, retiring the next three hitters in order to send the Brewers’ lead to the eighth.

“Sometimes it’s good for the players to hear it from other players, just to calm things down,” Adames said. “I think he had too much energy, so I just went in there like, ‘Hey, calm down, man. You’re better than that.’ I always love to see how much energy he has. … To be honest, he’s surprised me with how well he’s handled himself. He’s acting like he’s been here before.”

Even then, emotions were high. When Cardinals left fielder Richie Palacios turned and smiled after Uribe dotted the inside corner with a sinker, the gesture rubbed Uribe the wrong way. After Palacios grounded out, a few words were exchanged, and second baseman Andruw Monasterio made sure Uribe found his way to the Brewers’ dugout.

“Look, Abner is an emotional pitcher,” Counsell said. “He uses it to his advantage, but there’s a fine line, of course.”

Said Uribe: “That’s definitely something I’m still working on. I’m working to control my emotions.”

In those instances, encouraging words from well-connected teammates can help.

“For a lot of guys, especially for me, what [Adames and Contreras] do is huge,” Uribe said. “They definitely don’t want to see you get down, they definitely don’t want to see you go negative. They’re being positive and [helping you] build confidence in yourself, and that’s huge for us as a team.”