Brewers continue tightrope act, fend off rival Cards
Shorthanded and down three runs for the second consecutive night, the Milwaukee Brewers again found a way to scratch out an extra-innings win over their division rivals.
Without Ryan Braun, Jean Segura and Aramis Ramirez due to injuries and Jonathan Lucroy getting the night off after catching six consecutive games, the Brewers got another quality start, the bullpen extended the game and the offense provided just enough timely hitting.
Lyle Overbay delivered the go-ahead run with an RBI single to score Khris Davis in the 11th inning to lift the Brewers to a 5-4 victory, clinching their first series win in St. Louis since September of 2012.
"I’m happy with the way we’ve played and won these games," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I know you guys hammer me on (not beating the Cardinals), but I’m just glad we’re in tight games with a great team and we’ve come out ahead.
"We are thinking about short on the bench and the bullpen being worked a lot, but you get wins like this and it is worth it."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Milwaukee’s 20 wins are the second-most recorded by a team prior to May 1. Only the 2003 New York Yankees have won 21 games before the end of April, something the Brewers can accomplish Wednesday.
The fact the Brewers will have played playoff teams from a year ago in 19 of their 28 games after Wednesday makes their start to the season even more remarkable.
Milwaukee is now 11-1 on the road, winning series in Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Three of those four teams made the postseason in 2013.
"The road (record) is remarkable," Roenicke said. "And the teams we’ve played on the road makes it more remarkable. Doing that on the road is pretty amazing."
Just like Monday night, there was a time Tuesday when things looked bleak. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina connected for a three-run home run against Kyle Lohse in the first inning, putting Milwaukee’s makeshift lineup into an early 3-0 hole.
Despite being without their two, three, four and five hitters, the Brewers found a way to scrap three runs together off Cardinals starter Lance Lynn in the fourth inning.
Overbay got the Brewers on the board with an RBI single, while a pair of walks eventually loaded the bases for Lohse with two outs. After fouling off a pair of pitches with two strikes, Lohse dumped a single into left that scored two runs to tie the game at 3.
Carlos Gomez gave the Brewers a 4-3 lead with a solo home run in the seventh, but Allen Craig tied the game in the bottom of the inning with an RBI triple off Brewers left-hander Will Smith.
Despite Smith giving up his first run of the season, Milwaukee’s bullpen again allowed the offense time to get the decisive run on the board. After Jim Henderson worked a scoreless eighth, Tyler Thornburg allowed just one baserunner and struck out four in two scoreless innings of relief.
Davis — now 5-of-7 in extra-inning at-bats this season — led off the 11th with a double to the corner in left. After two failed bunt attempts, Overbay singled back up the middle to give the Brewers the lead.
"For the most part, we’ve done the little things and have got timely hitting," Overbay said. "We’ve had excellent pitching, there’s no doubt about it, but when our big dogs are down we have to get timely hitting. We did that tonight."
Overbay is 10-for-19 (.526 batting average) with four RBI and an eight-game hitting streak since returning from the paternity list on April 20.
"If it continues we might have to think about No. 6," Overbay, who has five children, said. "I found it kind of the day I came back. Maybe it was the couple of days off to relax me. It’s all worked out. Whatever it takes."
The bottom of the 11th was taken care of by Francisco Rodriguez, as the closer joined Kaz Sasaki (2001 Mariners) as the only pitchers to record 13 saves before May 1.
Roenicke again had to turn to Smith, Henderson, Thornburg and Rodriguez, continuing to put Milwaukee’s main relievers on an unsustainable pace.
"We can’t keep this up," Roenicke said of the bullpen’s workload. "To think we can keep up this winning too — we’re playing great. I hope it continues. We’ll enjoy it as long as we can, but it is not going to last the whole season. Again we’re doing things right. We get behind and battle back."
Injury update: While Braun sat out for the third straight game, Segura did pinch hit in the ninth inning despite not taking batting practice on the field Tuesday.
Segura tried to bunt for a hit on the first pitch he saw and was thrown out at first base. He’ll have to be cleared by the training staff in order to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Cardinals.
"I think he felt like he needed to get out there to see how he is," Roenicke said. "Going into tomorrow, I’ll talk to the trainers tomorrow and figure it out."
Roenicke indicated after the game that Ramirez was not available to pinch hit Tuesday after being hit by a pitch and suffering a bruised left elbow Monday night.
"His elbow is really big and he doesn’t have all the range of motion in it," Roenicke said prior to Tuesday’s game. "I’m hoping that goes down a bit. Being a day game (Wednesday), I don’t know."
Roenicke would not indicate one way or the other if Braun (oblique) was an option to pinch hit Tuesday, and when the right fielder can return to the field is still unknown.
Outfielder Logan Schafer made his second straight start for Class A Brevard County on a rehab assignment, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored in the Manatees’ 20-0 victory over Clearwater. Schafer went 1-for-2 with an RBI double on Monday and is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday.
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