The top of the 10th inning was one out away from adding on to the mountain of frustration the Milwaukee Brewers have accumulated on their current road trip.
After back-to-back singles gave the Brewers runners at the corners with nobody out, a groundout to the drawn-in infield and an out at the plate sandwiched around a walk had Milwaukee on the verge of blowing a golden opportunity to take the lead in extra innings.
When a team is in a funk, they simply need someone to step up and get a big hit. Jeff Bianchi played the part for the Brewers on Saturday night, singling up the middle to plate two, eventually the difference in a 6-4 victory.
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“We finally got a big hit,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “That was nice to see. You get a guy at third base with no outs and all of a sudden the first two guys make outs and you’re like ‘Oh, boy’. And we get a big hit.”
Making just his second start of the season and his first at second base, Bianchi finished 2-for-5 with the two RBI and a run scored. Facing Cardinals reliever Joe Kelly in the 10th, Bianchi jumped on a first-pitch fastball and just snuck it past shortstop Pete Kozma.
“Just going up looking for a pitch to hit, a pitch out over the plate,” Bianchi said of his approach. “I was able to put a good swing on it and it got by Kozma to score a couple of runs. It feels great.
“It was a good pitch. I was looking for a fastball up. I noticed that he throws a fair amount of fastballs, so that’s what I was looking for. He threw one out over the plate and I was able to capitalize on it.”
Two-out hitting has plagued Milwaukee during its current funk, but the Brewers were able to score five runs with two outs Saturday night. Other than Bianchi’s clutch hit, Jean Segura delivered a two-run triple and scored on Ryan Braun’s RBI single with two outs in the third innings.
The Brewers wouldn’t have been in the position to take the lead in extra innings if John Axford hadn’t worked out of a self-created jam in the bottom of the ninth. Summoned for the last out in the eighth inning, Axford struck out Carlos Beltran and then got the first two outs of the ninth inning.
Matt Holliday started the rally with a ground-rule double to right, and Axford loaded the bases with back-to-back walks to Allen Craig and Yadier Molina. With the winning run on third base, Axford struck out Daniel Descalso with a slider to end the inning.
“I’ve been working on mechanics and really trying to hone in and make sure everything is sound and safe each time I’m out there,” Axford said. “Right now I think it’s really my attitude. I’ve been really trying to change things as much as I can. Dig deep and find some extra fury in there to do what I can.”
Then it was Bianchi’s time to step up and shine. Prior to Saturday’s start at second base in favor of the struggling Rickie Weeks, Bianchi had just five at-bats since coming off the disabled list May 2.
“It’s not easy to do, come out and get a couple of hits,” Roenicke said. “My gosh, that was a huge hit that last one.”
And while the 10-game road trip through the National League Central hasn’t gone as they’ve liked, the Brewers can end their time on the road on a positive note with a series win in St. Louis. Kyle Lohse will aim for that Sunday, but he wouldn’t have had the opportunity if the Brewers didn’t scratch their way to victory Saturday night.
“It feels good,” Bianchi said. “We needed this win. Hopefully we can keep rolling with it.”