The Milwaukee Brewers' backs were against the wall on Wednesday night, and they played like it.
Led by a lights-out performance by Brandon Woodruff, some strong relief by Devin Williams and a three-run eighth inning that broke the game open, the Brewers got back on track with a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at American Family Field.
Woodruff became the first pitcher in franchise history to record four consecutive 10-strikeout games – notching 10 on the dot – over six innings and Williams put out a major fire in the seventh with 1 strong innings thanks in large part to a dynamite double play turned by Willy Adames and Kolten Wong.
Just as big: The Philadelphia Phillies also lost at the Chicago Cubs, 4-2, leaving the Brewers only a half game out of the third wild-card spot in the National League with seven more games remaining for Milwaukee – all at home.
"It's nice to be home for this long stretch here and tonight was a good team win," said Woodruff. "We'll just keep plugging along and see what happens, but we know we're right in the middle of it, so we know we just need to keep handling business and winning games.
"We're aware of what's going on. We're just trying to continue playing good baseball."
BOX SCORE: Brewers 5, Cardinals 1
With Matt Bush already warming in the sixth manager Craig Counsell pulled Woodruff (13-4), who was masterful in allowing five hits and a walk in six shutout frames as Milwaukee nursed a slim 2-0 lead.
"He was done," Counsell said when asked about keeping Woodruff in for the seventh. "You saw the fastball velocity creep down a little bit, and that’s always a (telling) sign with Woody."
Kolten Wong breaks down the defensive play of the game, the 6-4-3 DP he helped turn in the seventh inning to help beat the Cardinals: pic.twitter.com/mQ10fs94So
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) September 29, 2022
The move backfired quickly as Bush surrendered a leadoff homer to Andrew Knizner – the second hit by Knizner in as many games, matching his season total entering the series, and the second in as many appearances by Bush.
On Sunday, it was a Spencer Steer homer off Bush in the eighth inning that cost the Brewers a four-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cardinals followed up with a double from No. 9 hitter Ben DeLuzio and Bush then walked Brendan Donovan before finally recording his first out.
At that point Counsell made the trek back to the mound and called for Devin Williams, who hadn't pitched in the seventh inning of a game since April 21, 2021.
"That wasn’t even the plan, to be honest," Williams said. "I had already gone throughout my prep because I was planning on coming in the eighth, but the situation called for it. I appreciate Couns giving me that opportunity there."
The Cardinals then pulled Goldschmidt for the left-handed-hitting Lars Nootbaar, and he was intentionally walked to load the bases for Juan Yepez.
Yepez worked a full count before sending a slow roller to Adames.
Willy Adames on the double play, the pitching and the wild-card chase: pic.twitter.com/SsZQTLN0r9
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) September 29, 2022
He awkwardly flipped the ball to a covering Wong at second and he somehow kept his foot on the bag while making a barehanded grab with Nootbaar bearing down on him.
In one motion, Wong was able to lean back while throwing on to first, where Rowdy Tellez completed the play with a nice pick on the short hop as Williams stalked off the mound with a fist pump.
"Yeah, it was tough," Wong said of the play. "I wanted to make sure at least I got one out. The second one, I looked over and saw I had a chance and just threw it. I hoped Rowdy would make the play and he did."
Added Adames: "There’s a lot of things that go through your mind before that play happens. It’s a slow roller, so you might have to go to home plate. It was just a reaction; we got the double play and everybody’s happy."
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) September 29, 2022
It was another white-knuckle inning in the eighth for Williams, who began by hitting Corey Dickerson and then gave up a one-out single to Burleson.
Williams responded by striking out Knizner and DeLuzio.
"Devin was awesome tonight," Counsell said. "We talked a little bit before the game about the urgency of the situation, and frankly that was not the situation I was envisioning, but he did a heck of a job.
"That was a really tough spot to come into."
That set the stage for a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the bottom of the eighth, with Christian Yelich coming off the bench to pinch-hit for Hiura and righty Giovanny Gallegos on the mound.
Yelich fell behind in the count, 0-2, but battled back to draw the walk and force in a run. Then, Victor Caratini followed with a two-run, ground-rule double to left-center that made it a 5-1 game.
Brad Boxberger finished the game out with a 1-2-3 ninth.
"A lot of good at-bats (in the eighth) and that obviously makes the ninth inning a completely different inning," said Counsell.
Woodruff entered Wednesday needing one more 10-strikeout game to put himself into the Milwaukee record book.
And he appeared as though he might set the record a little more than once through the St. Louis order by registering three in the first inning, two in the second and three more in the third.
Woodruff's pace slowed a bit with none in the fourth or the fifth, with the Cardinals logging some tough at-bats against him.
After stranding a pair of singles in the second with consecutive strikeouts of Dylan Carlson and Goldschmidt, he worked around a two-out single and walk in the fifth by getting Carlson to fly out to right.
Woodruff struck out Yepez for the second out of the sixth.
Then, after a Mike Brosseau fielding error at third base and single by Dickerson put two on, Woodruff capped his evening by getting Alec Burleson swinging for No. 10 on his 98th pitch.
"I didn't even know it until I came out and (Bob) Uecker was talking about it on the broadcast," Woodruff said. "It's cool. To do something that nobody else has done is pretty cool.
"I couldn't have done it without our staff, our catchers and how we prepare and my teammates behind me. I'm just trying to go out there and make pitches. I'm not trying to strike people out but thankfully, they're swinging and missing and that's keeping them off base."
Making his performance even more impressive was the slim lead with which he worked.
With old nemesis José Quintana on the mound for St. Louis, the lack of run support wasn't completely surprising – in 20 career appearances coming in (19 starts), he'd gone 9-4 with a 2.95 earned run average against Milwaukee.
The Brewers got to him for a single run in the third when Tyrone Taylor doubled, Andrew McCutchen walked and Hunter Renfroe then singled Taylor in with two outs.
Yelich, mired in a 1-for-26 slump, was given a night out of the starting lineup for a "mental reset."
Quintana departed after five innings, and the Brewers quickly netted another run against the combination of Chris Stratton and Steven Matz as Luis Urías singled with two outs, Tellez walked and Keston Hiura doubled.
Urías came around to score but Tellez was held at third and one batter later Caratini tapped out, leaving Milwaukee's lead 2-0.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Brandon Woodruff, Devin Williams lead Milwaukee Brewers past Cardinals