Over the past two weeks, the Milwaukee Brewers have asked a lot of Mike Fiers.
After agreeing to start on three days’ rest May 27 against the San Francisco Giants, Fiers had his next outing bumped to Monday because scheduled starter Matt Garza had to pitch five innings in Sunday’s 17-inning win.
Fiers delivered the strong outing the Brewers needed, holding the St. Louis Cardinals scoreless for six innings in Milwaukee’s 1-0 victory at Busch Stadium.
"It is twice in a row where we’ve really needed something from Mike and he delivered," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "That means something to everybody in there, for sure.
"He should be proud of what he did tonight for everybody. He kind of got us back on track and a little normalized."
Fiers’ night started with a shaky first inning. It took the right-hander 24 pitches to work around a leadoff single by Kolten Wong and a one-out walk issued to Matt Holiday.
After working out of trouble in the first, Fiers settled in and allowed just two hits over the next four innings.
"My bullpen wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be," Fiers said. "Going into that first inning, I definitely felt a little sluggish. I didn’t have a feel right off the bat, but I was trying to make pitches and get through that tough time so that later on in the game I could get back my stuff and the good feel and it would make it a little easier for me."
Clinging to a 1-0 lead, Fiers quickly retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the sixth before he walked Jhonny Peralta. Yadier Molina then followed with an infield single on a pitch that almost hit home plate to put the tying run in scoring position.
Fiers bounced back to get Jason Heyward to foul out to catcher Jonathan Lucroy to end the inning.
"It was the kind of game we needed from Mike, as much as anything," Counsell said. "He did a heck of a job. He really did. He pitched through some jams, but he was himself tonight. A lot of fly balls. I thought he did a great job getting through that sixth inning."
Despite originally being slated to start Tuesday, Fiers was pitching on normal rest. He was bumped to Monday after Garza was needed out of the bullpen in Sunday’s marathon, 17-inning victory.
The Brewers’ bullpen had to cover 22 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend, leaving at least two relievers down Monday.
Add in that rookie Tyler Cravy is set to make his first big-league start Tuesday, and it was imperative Fiers had a good night against the Cardinals.
"I think as pitchers it makes us stronger, because we’re not out there saying, ‘Oh, we can give up this many runs, or we’ve got that cushion,’ " Fiers said. "There’s two ways of taking it. You can feel pressured on it, or you can make yourself better by making better, quality pitches.
"I think I did that today in certain situations where we needed that big pitch. I was able to make it today (as opposed) to in games past where that one pitch hurt us. I was able to get out of those innings."
While the workload was less, Milwaukee’s bullpen got the job done in relief of Fiers.
After Jonathan Broxton got a huge double play to work out of the seventh inning, Neal Cotts allowed a leadoff single before striking out Matt Carpenter for the first out in the eighth. Jeremy Jeffress then came on to allow a single to Matt Holliday, which sent the tying run to third base with just one out. Jeffress kept the game tied by fanning Peralta and Molina to end the eighth.
The Cardinals threatened again in the ninth, but Francisco Rodriguez got Wong to ground out to first base to end the game with the tying run on second base.
"Our back-to-back wins are huge," Fiers said. "Fighting through 17 innings, and then coming out here and using four, five pitchers, it’s just a good team win, man. We need to keep it up, and hopefully do it again (Tuesday)."