MILWAUKEE — Already guilty of the being the team that was the opponent when the Cincinnati Reds awoke and started a winning streak that has brought them into the playoff race, the Cardinals could leave Milwaukee guilty of being the spark for another rival's offense.
A few hours after Adam Wainwright threw a complete-game victory to right the Cardinals after a difficult Tuesday night, the Brewers thundered their way to a series victory.
Ryan Braun hit his 350th career homer in the first inning and No. 9 hitter Jacob Nottingham added a two-run homer later as Milwaukee won the second game, 6-0, on Wednesday at Miller Park. The Cardinals edged Milwaukee, 4-2, in Game 1.
The Brewers took three of five in the series, nuzzling up to the Cardinals in the standings. The Reds leaped into second place in the National League Central with their five-game winning streak and the Cardinals' loss.
All three teams, however, have losing records.
The Cardinals struggled in Game 2 against the different looks the Brewers threw at them in a game carved up between four pitches. Lefty Brent Suter gave the Cardinals their early chances with a walk sprinkled into the first two innings and the leadoff hitter on base in the second and third inning. The Cardinals do much with any of the opportunities.
A groundout and a flyout got Rangel Ravelo as far as third base in the second inning but no farther as the inning ended.
Into the game came righthander Freddy Peralta, and he struck out the side in order in the fifth inning to bring the game to St. Louis native Devin Williams. The rookie with one of the game's best changeups retired the Cardinals in order, sweeping through the middle of the order without much resistance. He struck out two.
Johan Oviedo pitched into the sixth inning despite allowing four runs in the first inning. Oviedo started in trouble when he hit the first batter of the game with the first pitch. He walked the next batter, and then Braun hit his three-run homer for a lead the Brewers would never have threatened. Oviedo hit three batters, but also got a key double play and did his best to minimize the damage while maximizing the rest the bullpen would get for the doubleheader.
The Cardinals start a five-game, four-day series in Pittsburgh on Thursday. They'll have another doubleheader -- their third of the week -- on Friday.
With Cardinals in a bind, pushed the brink of trouble, Wainwright rushes to the rescue, again
Each time the Cardinals have found themselves on the precipice of disaster this season -- returning from 17 days of quarantine, a bullpen threadbare from reach use, a losing streak -- Adam Wainwright has been the pitcher next up in the rotation.
And he has pulled them back from the brink.
Wainwright pitched his second complete game of the season and breezed through the Brewers lineup in the late innings to carry the Cardinals to a 4-2 victory Wednesday in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Miller Park. Milwaukee got a two-run homer in the first inning -- and that was it.
Only three more Brewers reached base after that. Only one of them got as far as second base, and that was a result of a walk where Wainwright may have had strike 3 on the Brewers' No. 9 hitter. That put two on with two out for the hitter with too much success against the Cardinals.
Christian Yelich came to the plate, and Wainwright was able to get the former MVP to skip into a grounder.
"There was no way I'm loading the bases right there," Wainwright said. "I'm not pitching around him. You've just got to make your pitches."
Wainwright did that relentlessly, even after the home run in the first inning by Keston Hiura. Wainwright got ahead on the next three batters 0-2. And he struck out all three. He had a better feel for his cutter in the game, and that widened the number of pitches that the Brewers had to take into account. Wainwright struck out nine, including the final two batters he faced.
The key Yelich groundout was the first of seven consecutive Brewers retired by Wainwright to complete the seven-inning game.
"Actions speak louder than words," manager Mike Shildt said. "He goes out there after a rough night and just bears down. He went out there and dominated, in complete control, in command of the strike zone. Weighs yet again to what it means to be an ace, in all caps."
The Cardinals' offense answered the Brewers in nibbles, and then took the lead with opportunity and power.
Tyler O'Neill's homer -- apparently using Dexter Fowler's bat -- cut the Brewers' lead in half in the second inning. O'Neill's sacrifice fly on an 0-2 tied the game, 2-2. In the fifth, Harrison Bader reached first on an error because his speed had the infielder rush the throw. Bader wheeled around second and took third on a groundball to the third baseman. That extra 90 feet then led to Tommy Edman's tie-breaking double.
Brad Miller's homer in the seventh -- his second extra-base hit of the game -- widened the lead for the Cardinals.
Wainwright cinched it with a perfect bottom of the seventh.
The second game of the doubleheader is set to begin at 6:55 p.m. St. Louis time. With Shildt suspended by MLB, the game will be managed by bench coach Oliver Marmol and pitching coach Mike Maddux, who will run the pitching. This is the lineup:
1. Edman, 2B
2. DeJong, SS
3. Goldschmidt, 1B
4. B. Miller, 3B
5. O'Neill, LF
6. Ravelo, RF
7. Carpenter, DH
8. Bader, CF
9. Wieters, C
Starting pitcher: Johan Oviedo, RHP (0-2, 4.66 ERA)
Molina clears exams, back at catcher for Game 1; Shildt suspended one game, Cardinals make flurry of roster moves
The need for fresh pitching and an injury to an infielder prompted a flurry of roster moves for the Cardinals.
The only move with Yadier Molina, however, was down in the lineup.
Molina went through a series of exams on his left hand and wrist, and manager Mike Shildt said that none of them revealed a fracture. Molina had his hand whacked by Ryan Braun's bat during a seminal moment in Tuesday night's Brewers romp. Molina remained in the game to catch two more innings before leaving and having X-rays taken of the left hand and wrist at the ballpark.
More detailed scans -- including a CT scan -- were taken Wednesday, and he will be in the lineup for Game 1.
Notably, he's batting ninth, which speaks to how the Cardinals feel about his ability to grip a bat and limiting time at the plate while not limiting his innings behind it.
Rookie Justin Williams joins the roster as the 29th man for the doubleheader against the Brewers. He will make his Cardinals' debut* by starting in right field for Game 1.
* He appeared in one game, one at-bat for Tampa Bay in 2018.
Kolten Wong felt a pain in his left rib cage, and that sent him for an MRI. The scan showed no structural damage, so he's been wrapped up for Wednesday's games and is going to try and take swings in the cage. He feels he can contribute defensively and running but swinging a bat has been a test. He's hoping to be able to start Game 2 if the wrapping alleviates pain.
There were a host of moves for the Cardinals before the game as a result:
- Johan Oviedo was added to the active roster after passing his rapid test for COVID-19. He will start Game 2.
- To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Oviedo, the Cardinals designated lefty Rob Kaminsky for assignment. He remains with the team on the field here at Miller Park, and clearly the club hopes to pass him through waivers and keep control of him. They've been pleased with how he pitched. Other teams have a chance at him, but he would not be eligible for the postseason roster at this point.
- Max Schrock was added to the active roster because of Wong's uncertain availability.
- Junior Fernandez was added as a fresh arm for the bullpen.
- Nabil Crismatt, a quietly key contributor in Tuesday's blowout loss, was optioned to the alternate-site camp. He'll likely remain with the team on the taxi squad though for this road trip.
- Lane Thomas was optioned to Springfield, Mo., camp and replaced by Williams as the extra outfielder. Thomas has struggled despite getting ample playing time recently and the Cardinals moving other outfielders to make room for him.
Shildt spoke with the commissioner's office about the incident during Tuesday's game that prompted him to rush toward the Brewers' dugout and attempt to engage with Brewers manager Craig Counsell or another member of the team. Counsell remained behind a wall of his players as Shildt came to the top step of the Brewers' dugout and shouted into it after hearing an insult flung from it.
Shildt had been on the field to talk to and tend to Molina after he was stung by the bat.
Some action from MLB is expected, and Shildt was ejected from the game.
UPDATE: Shildt has been suspended for one game by the commissioner's office for his actions. He will serve the suspension during Game 2.
Dexter Fowler worked out at Busch Stadium and increased his baseball activities. The Cardinals are optimistic that their right field will be able to join them in the near future, before the end of the regular season. The stomach ailment that put him on medication and removed him from the team has eased, and he's been feeling stronger, better, and less fatigued.
Here are the lineups for Game 1 of the doubleheader:
1. Edman, 2B
2. DeJong, SS
3. Goldschmidt, 1B
4. B. Miller, DH
5. Carpenter, 3B
6. O'Neill, LF
7. WILLIAMS, RF *Cardinals debut
8. Bader, CF
9. Molina, C
Starting pitcher: Adam Wainwright RHP (4-1, 2.91 ERA)
1. Garcia, CF
2. Yelich, LF
3. Hiura, 2B
4. Vogelbach, DH
5. Gyorko, 1B
6. Gamel, RF
7. Peterson, 3B
8. Arcia, SS
9. Narvaez, C
Starting pitcher: Brandon Woodruff RHP (2-3, 3.40 ERA)
Check back throughout the afternoon here at Cardinal Beat and STLtoday.com for ongoing coverage from Miller Park. That will include any news, notes, quotes, anecdotes, or the inevitable shenanigans that will happen when these two teams stuff five games into 50 hours.