By Jenifer Langosch and Adam McCalvy
MLB.com |@LangoschMLB |
ST. LOUIS -- In a three-pitch span at Busch Stadium on Thursday night, the Cardinals used back-to-back blasts from Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Piscotty to flip a three-run deficit into a one-run lead and spark a 7-3 victory over the Brewers. The win also helped the Cards maintain their four-game National League Central lead over the pursuing Pirates, who won their sixth straight game earlier in the day.
St. Louis, riding a five-game winning streak of its own, has a magic number of six to capture its third straight division title.
"This team has been very good, I think, in getting right back into a game," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose team is now 41 games above .500. "But the offense is stepping up. You look at [Wednesday's 10-run output] and you look at tonight. The long ball is nice to have, and I know it's in our arsenal."
The Cardinals scored six unanswered times off Brewers starter Taylor Jungmann, who had been staked to a three-run, first-inning lead. That evaporated rapidly in the fourth. After a leadoff walk and a single, Jungmann served up a game-tying homer to Peralta. Two pitches later, Piscotty also went deep.
"It takes some weight off your shoulders, that's for dang sure," Piscotty said of Peralta's blast. "That was a huge home run. Absolutely huge. We get down early and really are just trying to get one run and he comes through with a homer to get all three right there. It was a shot in the arm and takes the pressure off the offense."
Piscotty added a two-run single in the fifth to chase Jungmann from the game, and the rookie tallied his fourth RBI of the night with two-out, seventh-inning single.
Cardinals starter Michael Wacha wasn't much sharper, as he walked three and allowed six singles over his five-inning start. He needed 90 pitches to get through it. Hernan Perez's two-run double off Wacha highlighted the Brewers' three-run first, but Milwaukee lost for the 13th time in 16 games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Jhacked: Peralta had been homerless since Aug. 1 (a span of 165 at-bats) before taking Jungmann deep with a game-tying blast in the fourth. In fact, the shortstop had tallied only five extra-base hits in that 45-game stretch. Before that drought, Peralta had been averaging a home run every 25 at-bats.
"I have been waiting for that one for a long time," Peralta said. "With two guys on base, it was a good feeling. Today was a special home run." More >
Home run derby: Two pitches later, Piscotty connected with another fastball to perpetuate Jungmann's trouble keeping the baseball on the grassy side of the walls. In his first 16 Major League starts, Jungmann surrendered three home runs and pitched to a 2.42 ERA. In his last four starts, Jungmann has surrendered seven homers while allowing six, four, five and six earned runs -- a total of 21 earned runs in his last 19 2/3 innings. The September funk has pushed his ERA for the season up to 3.64.
"I think it's a little bit of a correction, because I think it was three [home runs] in his first 100 innings or something like that," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "That's a pretty tough pace to hold up."
Penmanship: The Cardinals' bullpen, left to cover the final four innings, answered with four scoreless frames. After Steve Cishek and Kevin Siegrist posted 1-2-3 innings, Jonathan Broxton allowed the Brewers' first two batters to reach in the eighth before striking out the side. Matt Belisle threw a scoreless ninth. The collective effort lowered the bullpen's season ERA to 2.64.
"These guys have been nails all year," Wacha said. "So they made light work of it and did exactly what they're supposed to do. It was a lot of fun to see."
Back in the swing: Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, sidelined by a concussion since taking a foul tip off his mask on Sept. 8 in Miami, returned to action as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning on Thursday and smacked a single. He won't appear behind the plate in the Brewers' remaining games, but he could see action at first base in addition to at-bats off the bench. More >
"Anytime I'm giving up home runs, it tells me one thing: I'm not getting the ball down. It's a long season; everybody has little nicks and things like that. Stuff like that's not going to hold you out of the game. I feel fine. My arm feels good. I've just got to keep working." -- Jungmann, who is up to 175 2/3 innings between the Minors and Majors this season -- a reasonable total, the Brewers say, of 22 innings atop a career high set last year
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Brewers righty-hander Yhonathan Barrios, acquired from the Pirates in the Aramis Ramirez trade, became the 10th Milwaukee player to make his Major League debut this season when he pitched the bottom of the eighth inning. Another of those rookies, Yadiel Rivera, made his first Major League start and singled in the second inning for his first hit.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: Milwaukee's run of rookies continues Friday night when Ariel Pena takes the mound for his fifth Major League appearance and fourth start. He's already matched up against Carlos Martinez and the Cardinals once, allowing one run over five innings at Miller Park on Sept. 15, and he has held opponents to a .197 average.
Cardinals: Martinez will take the mound seeking his 15th win when the Cardinals face the Brewers in a 7:15 p.m. CT game at Busch Stadium on Friday. Martinez has a 1.35 career ERA against Milwaukee and has allowed just one run in 15 innings versus the Brewers this year.