St. LOUIS. After a solid game last night, Brewers shortstop Taylor Rodgers got his first chance to shine in games for his new club. On Sunday, the results left much to be desired.
Rodgers gave up a pair of home runs, including a mammoth 443-foot 3-run homer off Albert Pujols, as Milwaukee gave up an early lead and fell 6-3 at Busch Stadium, losing the series and helping the Cardinals extend their lead in the National League Central to 1 1/2 games.
“He just made a few mistakes. And you know, some good hitters take good swings on some mistakes,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
Rodgers appeared in the previous three games after coming to Milwaukee from San Diego at the trade deadline as part of the package for All-Star Josh Hader, throwing three innings of one-hit ball.
That included a scoreless frame in the Brewers’ 3-2, 10-inning victory Saturday night that featured a key strikeout by Puhols.
But Puhols snagged the first pitch he saw from Rodgers on Sunday for his second homer of the game. It was Puhols’ 63rd career multi-homer game, tying him with Willie Mays for fifth all-time.
“He’s a guy that, especially against lefties, if he’s going to get a pitch to hit, he’s going to be ready to hit it,” outfielder Andrew McCutchen said. “He got his pitches coming across the plate today and he did some damage. That’s what he’s done throughout his career.”
Dylan Carlson homered off Rodgers to break a 2-2 tie in the eighth. Puhols hit a solo homer in the second and Tyler O’Neal added another in the sixth.
One positive the Brewers can take is the start of Aaron Ashby, who has re-opened his team with six strong innings. Ashby allowed a pair of runs on just three hits while striking out five.
After striking out eight batters in his last two starts, Ashby has given up just two free passes, neither of which hurt him.
Ashby worked well with first-time Major League catcher Mario Feliciano.
“He was just around the zone a lot, even his misses were around the zone,” Counsell said. “I also thought Mario did a good job. They really had a high tempo that sometimes when Ash throws well, just kept him at that tempo, and I thought Mario did a good job with that.”
Ashby said getting to know Feliciano, his Little League batsman, helped.
“A little throwback to last year and my time in the Little League,” Ashby said. “There is just such comfort. He knows what I want to do, I know what he wants to do, and then we just work with each other.”
Hunter Renfro’s 405-foot blast to center field gave the Brewers a 2-0 lead in the second inning. It was Renfroe’s 20th of the season and first since July 31.
Renfroe joined Rowdy Tellez, who hit a solo homer in the ninth, and Willie Adams as Brewers with at least 20 home runs this season. The Braves and Yankees are the only teams in baseball to have three players hit the 20-homer mark this season.
But the Brewers couldn’t get anything going against Myles Mikolas, who struck out six in eight innings. Mikolas retired 20 of the last 22 hitters he faced after Renfroe’s homer.
“Everybody was locating, making big offers when they needed to, efficiently, quickly,” McCutchen said. “I think it was both sides. I think Ashby did the same thing. He gave up a pair of homers on pitches he didn’t put where he wanted to put them, and that’s what happened. I think both guys did exceptionally well.”
All three games in the series have been mostly close games throughout the season with little margin for error between the NL Central’s top two teams.
The Cardinals currently hold an 8-7 season series lead over the Brewers, and nine of those games have been decided by two runs or less.
The rivals meet four more times this season: two games in St. Louis in mid-September and two games in Milwaukee in late September. These games could be the deciding factor between playing postseason baseball or watching from home, as there are no more tiebreaker games and the winner of the head-to-head series will be declared the division champion if they finish the season with identical records.
“There’s a lot of games left and a lot of baseball left,” Counsell said. “So, you know, today was disappointing, but you have to get back to it tomorrow.”