Like Milwaukee needs the warmth of spring, the Brewers needed this win.
Down 3-0 in the eighth with its last run coming on Tuesday, Milwaukee scored three runs in the final two innings and got a 10th inning home run from Jonathan Lucroy to steal a 4-3 win out of St. Louis’ grasp.
Instead of taking a franchise-record for consecutive scoreless innings and their worst record through 11 games into Tuesday’s series opener with San Francisco, the Brewers can return home with a bit of positive momentum after a rough start to the season.
It wouldn’t have mattered how Milwaukee won Sunday, but the Brewers’ late rally when left for dead has the potential to get the train back on the track.
For the majority of the afternoon, the Brewers looked as if they were going to be shut out for the third consecutive game. Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia held Milwaukee scoreless through seven innings, extending its scoreless streak to a franchise-record 32 innings. Garcia also pushed St. Louis’ pitchers consecutive scoreless inning streak to 39 innings.
The game all changed with one swing of the bat. After Jean Segura led off the eighth inning with a single, Ryan Braun snapped out of his mini-funk with an opposite-field home run that not only ended the scoreless streak but injected life into a Brewers team pressing at the time.
Carlos Gomez led off the ninth inning with a single and scored on Yuniesky Betancourt’s double to tie the game. While the Brewers squandered a chance to take the lead in the ninth inning, they had at least broke through to force extra innings.
“We are too good to be held down,” Lucroy said. “We might go through stretches where we aren’t swinging well. 2011 we started slow too and we ended up being in the playoffs that year. We just have to come out every day and keep working hard.”
Lucroy entered Sunday just 1-for-10 on the road trip and scuffling on the season. He got a fastball out over the plate in the 10th inning and didn’t miss it, launching the go-ahead home run to left-center field, his third hit of the day.
“I had a little mechanical issue that I had to figure out,” Lucroy said. “I made a little adjustment and I felt a lot better swinging the bat.”
Of course the bottom of the 10th inning wasn’t going to be easy — not with how things have been going for this club. Having used closer Jim Henderson in the eighth inning to ensure he’d get some work in, Brewres manager Ron Roenicke opted to stick with Brandon Kintzler to start the 10th inning after he had worked a scoreless ninth.
After Kintzler walked David Freese to start the inning and John Jay bunted Freese to second, Roenicke turned to left-hander Michael Gonzalez to face lefty Matt Carpenter. Gonzalez got Carpenter to fly out.
Roenicke then was faced with a choice. He decided to intentionally walk Matt Holliday and turn to right-hander Burke Badenhop to face Shane Robinson with two outs, knowing Carlos Beltran would likely pinch-hit.
Beltran did hit for Robinson, but Badenhop got him to ground out to end the game.
“Holliday, he bothers me,” Roenicke said. “We were at least forcing them to do something. If they wanted to hit Beltran earlier, they could have. Sometime in there we knew we were going to face him and what can you do? You have to pick the guys you think that are going to do it and let them make their moves.”
It’s impossible to tell, but the Brewers had to let out a collective sigh of relief when the final out was finally recorded. While 3-8 is not where they wanted to be two weeks into the season, the Brewers finally scored some runs and at long last have something to build on.
“It was a lot of fun,” Lucroy said. ” . . . It’s going to be a good flight back. It gives us a nice little feeling going into the off day.”