ST. LOUIS — Zach Davies appeared refreshed Monday in his return from the 10-day injured list. The rest of the Brewers, not so much.
Cardinals right-handers Dakota Hudson and Giovanny Gallegos pitched within four outs of a combined no-hitter before Yasmani Grandal doubled down the right-field line with two outs in the eighth inning of Milwaukee’s 3-0 loss at Busch Stadium, the second stop on what has become a taxing road trip.
Grandal’s double was the only hit in the third loss in the first four games of a six-game jaunt that so far has lowered the Brewers’ winning percentage while raising their collective blood pressure. There was an epic 15-14 win in 14 innings on Saturday and a 16-8 loss on a steamy Sunday afternoon in which the Nationals had a 13-run lead by the third inning. Then came Monday, when the Brewers faced the prospect of being no-hit for the first time since Justin Verlander blanked them in June 2007 in Detroit.
Grandal got the hit to avert that indignity, but Milwaukee fell three games behind National League Central-leading St. Louis with the loss, which marked the first time since August 2017 the Brewers were limited to one hit.
“No excuses. You tip your hat to what [Hudson] did tonight,” Brewers third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “He did a phenomenal job. He commanded the zone great and kept us all off-balance and did a great job.”
Added Grandal: “Even times where he missed location, it was just diving at some point where it was going to be a strike so you had to swing at it. I guess I could see some hangover from the three-game series in Washington. That took a toll on us, for sure.”
Davies did his part after a pregame rainstorm rolled through, holding the Cardinals to a single through four scoreless innings before a leadoff walk in the fifth sparked a two-run rally replete with small ball. Yadier Molina’s hit-and-run single pushed Matt Carpenter to third base for Kolten Wong’s run-scoring fielder’s choice. A sacrifice bunt pushed Wong into scoring position for Dexter Fowler’s bloop RBI single. Davies’ promising return from a 17-day absence with back spasms was suddenly cut short at 75 pitches.
It was a surmountable margin, had the Brewers been able to hit Hudson. But the 24-year-old rookie, who’d allowed 10 runs (nine earned) in eight innings over a pair of starts against Milwaukee this season, carved through a weary lineup for 6⅔ innings while allowing no hits and almost no hard contact. The Brewers’ only hard-hit ball (95-plus mph) against Hudson was Trent Grisham’s 96.5 mph groundout to shortstop in the sixth.
“I really didn’t have an idea until I came off the field and guys were giving me hugs,” Hudson said. “Usually I get a handshake, so I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’”
Taking out Hudson not a difficult decision, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said.
"He did his job," Shildt explained. "We saw the tea leaves and the way the game was going."
Hudson yielded to Gallegos after walking Eric Thames in an eight-pitch battle with two outs in the seventh that pushed Hudson’s pitch count to 111. Gallegos, the hardest pitcher to hit in the NL (.157 average against entering the night), saw the eighth inning extended by shortstop Paul DeJong’s error, and Grandal made the most of the extra out by roping a double to the right-field corner.
That prompted a call for left-hander Andrew Miller, whose outing began with an intentional walk to Christian Yelich even though it meant bringing Moustakas to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Moustakas grounded out to deep second base to end Milwaukee’s only threat.
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The Cardinals threw their eighth shutout of the season and their major league-leading fourth in August. It was their third in the last seven games.
Yelich walked three times in the game. It was clear that the Cardinals were not going to let him be the one to beat them.
“I walked away [from the mound] honestly thinking we’ll pitch around him,” said Shildt, who then reconsidered. “I walked back [to the dugout thinking], ‘This guy walks. He’s not chasing. Let’s just do it. Be done with it.’ Moustakas is a good hitter, but we didn’t want Yelich to be the guy that we allowed to take the hack at that.”
Added Brewers manager Craig Counsell: “I mean, that’s Christian. You’ve got Christian Yelich. That’s what happens from time to time. It’s maybe not analytically the best play, but when he’s hitting a ton of homers against a team, you understand it.”
“He’s the MVP, man. It’s a pretty intelligent decision.” Moustakas said. “I wouldn’t want to pitch to that guy. That’s just how baseball is; when you’re hitting behind Yeli, you know he’s going to get walked more times than not in those situations. You just have to be prepared for it. I got a good pitch to hit and just missed it. No shift, that ball might get through and we’re talking about something different. That’s how baseball goes, man.”
The Brewers (25) and Cardinals (21) have combined for 46 home runs in the first 11 games of their season series. St. Louis' single-season record for homers against the Brewers is 24 (2003 and 2018). The Brewers have already matched their single-season high against St. Louis set in 2017.
Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (right lat) is throwing bullpen sessions but there is no timetable yet for when he will face hitters. ... Right-hander Brandon Woodruff (left oblique) is playing catch. "He's exactly where he should be," manager Craig Counsell said.
The Brewers will start lefty Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 3.81 ERA), who is 3-4 with a 3.21 ERA in 10 career starts against St. Louis, on Tuesday. But he is 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals: will send out right-hander Michael Wacha (6-6, 5.44), who is one of three pitchers to have a perfect career winning percentage against Milwaukee with 10 or more starts. He is 6-0 and has held the Brewers to two or fewer runs in each of his last four starts against them.