In five of Adam Wainwright’s six seasons as a starting pitcher in the big leagues, the star right-hander has allowed five or fewer earned runs against the Milwaukee Brewers over the course of the entire year.
On Friday, the Brewers tagged Wainwright for seven earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, the biggest offensive outburst they’ve ever had against the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals.
After beating David Price on Wednesday, Milwaukee began an important three-game series in St. Louis by jumping out to a 7-0 lead on Wainwright and hung on for a 7-4 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The Brewers kept their division lead at 2 1/2 games over the Pittsburgh Pirates with the win and now hold a three-game advantage over the third-place Cardinals.
"Impressive," Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "I mean, two of the great pitchers in the game right now — Price on Wednesday and Wainwright today. We have to keep going. We have two more games against these guys. It’s a big series for us and for them. Hopefully we keep playing well."
Even in the unpredictable game of baseball, nobody could have seen Milwaukee’s bats awakening against two All-Star pitchers in the middle of Cy Young caliber years. The Brewers had scored just two runs in their last three games before beating Price and Wainwright in consecutive games.
Ramirez helped the Brewers jump out to a 2-0 lead, launching a solo home run in the second and hitting a two-out RBI double in the third to score Jonathan Lucroy from first base.
All three of Ramirez’s hits Friday came against Wainwright, improving the veteran third baseman’s career batting average to .415 (22 for 53) against one of the best pitchers in baseball. Nobody has more hits against Wainwright than Ramirez, while his three career home runs are tied for the most off the right-hander.
"I can’t explain it, because he’s a great pitcher," Ramirez said of his success against Wainwright. "For some reason I see the ball good out of his hand and recognize good pitches and put it in play hard."
Leading 3-0 in the sixth inning, the Brewers loaded the bases for the third time against Wainwright. Lucroy delivered the knockout blow by clearing the bases with a double into the right-field corner, chasing Wainwright from the game.
Ryan Braun greeted reliever Seth Maness with his second double of the game, as Lucroy scored to put Milwaukee up 7-0.
"I was just trying to have a good at-bat against that guy," Lucroy said. "Everybody knows how tough he is. He just gave me a pitch up in the zone that I was able to get on top of and take it the other way. I was just trying to have a good AB and hit the ball hard somewhere, and it worked out."
By allowing just two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings, Wily Peralta moved into a tie with Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer for the major-league lead in wins at 13. Peralta struggled to a 7.71 ERA against St. Louis in 2013, but the young right-hander is now 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA against the Cardinals this season.
Peralta struggled with his command in the first inning, walking the bases loaded before working out of trouble. He issued just one more free pass over the rest of his outing, allowing just five hits and striking out three.
"Good outing from Wily," manager Ron Roenicke said. "He threw a lot of pitches (in the first inning) and was kind of a little wild. I thought he came back and threw the ball well. He was under control and the slider was better down in the zone. So, good outing. We needed him to do that."
One would assume the confidence gained by beating Price and Wainwright in consecutive games would have a carryover effect on Milwaukee’s offense, but again, baseball is hard to predict.
"I’ve said all year that we are the best team in the league, I think, as far as guys having good ABs and hitting the ball hard," Lucroy said. "You’ve seen that in the past few days, taking advantage of some mistakes by two really good pitchers. We were able to get it done, and hopefully we can come out tomorrow and do the same thing."
Late change: Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett was scratched from Friday night’s lineup after he was hit on the left hand by a pitch while bunting during batting practice.
Gennett is listed as day-to-day with a contusion on the left index finger after X-rays came back negative. Instead of Rickie Weeks, Roenicke started utility man Elian Herrera at second base in Gennett’s place.
Herrera, making his 10th big-league start at second base, went 2 for 4 with a walk and a run scored.
Early exit: It probably wasn’t the way Gerardo Parra envisioned making his debut with the Brewers, but the recently acquired outfielder came into the game in the seventh inning after Khris Davis left with left calf tightness.
There was a slight delay prior to the bottom of the seventh inning, as Davis headed out to play left field to start the frame.
"I guess he hit a ball off his calf (during the Tampa Bay series) and it tightened up on him," Roenicke said. "I don’t know if it was cramping up or what it was doing. We’ll see how he is tomorrow."
Center fielder Carlos Gomez rolled his ankle while chasing a fly ball in the seventh inning, but he stayed in the game.
Shift in rotation: The Brewers were forced to scratch right-hander Jimmy Nelson from Saturday’s start against the Cardinals after a blister on his throwing had popped open during a side throwing session Friday.
Kyle Lohse will be bumped up to start Saturday, while Matt Garza will do the same to pitch the series finale Sunday. Because of Thursday’s off day, Lohse and Garza will both be pitching on normal rest.
The Cardinals also made a change to their listed probable pitchers, as recently acquired right-hander John Lackey will now start Sunday instead of Lance Lynn.
Henderson update: Brewers reliever Jim Henderson’s 30-day minor-league rehab assignment ended Friday, but Milwaukee’s former closer is not ready to return to the team’s bullpen.
Instead, Henderson will stay on the disabled list and will head to Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix to continue to try and strengthen his right shoulder. After recording 28 saves for the Brewers in 2013, Henderson had a 7.14 ERA in 14 appearances before he was placed on the disabled list on May 2.