Brewers reach fifth win in a row
But it almost always starts with one particular facet of the game.
“No. 1 is starting pitching,” Milwaukee Brewers infielder Craig Counsell said. “Every day, it has been solid. That does so many things for a team.”
Lefthander Manny Parra became the latest to get the job done Sunday, pitching six effective innings as the Brewers pulled away from St. Louis, 8-2, at Busch Stadium for their fifth consecutive victory.
But the winning goes far beyond the last five games. Since April 22, the Brewers are 19-5, the best record in the major leagues. Over that span, they have roared from 4˝ games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central to a perch atop the division, 1˝ games over the second-place Chicago Cubs.
“We’re getting good pitching and great hitting,” said Parra, who held the Cardinals scoreless until a six-run sixth. “Everything seems to be going together.
“It makes it a lot of fun to come to the ballpark.”
Parra has been having lots of fun since the calendar turned from April to May. After going 0-4 with a 6.52 earned run average over four starts in April, he is 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in four outings this month.
What Parra really enjoyed against the Cardinals was getting the opportunity to strike out in the top of the first inning. No, he didn’t like whiffing but he did like batting before he threw his first pitch.
Before Parra went down against St. Louis righthander Todd Wellemeyer, the Brewers had four runs, courtesy of two-out, two-run singles by J.J. Hardy and Jason Kendall.
“That’s a great sign,” Parra said of hitting before throwing a pitch. “That means we’ve got some momentum.”
Thanks to Parra, the Brewers kept that momentum until the sixth. With Milwaukee’s bats silent after that fast start, the Cards pulled within two runs on an RBI single by Nick Stavinoha and a run-scoring groundout by Colby Rasmus.
With two on and two down, the Cardinals—thin in right-handed hitters on the bench—sent left-handed Joe Thurston to pinch-hit for reliever Jason Motte. Brewers manager Ken Macha said he probably would have left Parra in even if a right-handed hitter had come to the plate.
“I felt good about Manny being able to finish that inning,” Macha said.
Sure enough, Parra retired Thurston on a foul popup, keeping the Brewers on top by two. Prince Fielder then settled the issue with a three-run homer in the seventh off right-hander Blaine Boyer, squashing any thoughts the Cardinals had of pulling this one out.
“That (home run) was huge,” said Parra, who allowed five hits and four walks, with three strikeouts. “The momentum could have swung. But by Prince hitting that home run there, it put them right back in a hole and gave us the momentum back.”
Parra, who walked two in the sixth and has been erratic with his control at various periods in nearly every game, said he “figured out something” during Thurston’s at-bat that he planned to take into his next start.
“It was mechanical. For those last two pitches, I really focused on keeping my front shoulder in,” Parra said. “The ball came out more crisp. I wasn’t flying open and letting it go too early.”
Counsell, who had another nice day at the plate (double, single, two walks, two runs, RBI), doubled home a run in the eighth to complete the scoring.
The only downer for the Brewers was a wrist injury suffered by second baseman Rickie Weeks during a first-inning at-bat, the severity of which won’t be known until he is examined by a specialist Monday in Phoenix.
Runs come and go, Counsell said, but you can’t go 19-5 over a 24-game stretch without the starting pitchers holding up their end.
“(Strong starting pitching) keeps the bullpen fresh, keeps you in every game so you’re not down, like they were today, 4-0, right away,” Counsell said after the Brewers assured they would remain unbeaten over their last nine series.
“They’ve done what they do. They’ve just been solid. That’s who they are, really. So far, it’s been good enough.”