MILWAUKEE — There’s something about Adrian Houser facing the St. Louis Cardinals.
In 11 games (eight starts) vs. the Cardinals, prior to Saturday, Houser posted an impressive 4-2 record with a 2.33 ERA. His dominance against St. Louis took on a whole new level last season.
In 2021, Houser went 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals. Through 25 innings, he held them to just one earned run.
His stuff continued to work well in his home debut and first matchup of ’22 against St. Louis. But, it wasn’t enough to push the Brewers past the Cardinals, as they were defeated 2-1 at American Family Field.
“I think the sinker obviously works better against right-handed hitters,” said Houser on his success against St. Louis. “I think the way we’ve been able to mix up pitches, going in and out with the sinker to keep them off balance. I think we’ve had a good approach against them over the last year.”
Following a leadoff single from Dylan Carlson, Houser settled down and retired the next six batters with the use of his sinker. He jammed Paul Goldschmidt on a 94 mph offering in his first at-bat of the game. Then, he used his sinker to force Tyler O’Neill to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
“That’s what you’re going to see every time he pitches, especially against this lineup,” manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s his pitch. It’s a really good pitch. It was kind of a vintage Adrian night. When you think about Adrian Houser, this is how he pitches.”
Houser used his sinker on 54 percent of his pitches, topping out at 95.8 mph, but shied away from it on the Cardinals’ lone run scored against him.
After two consecutive walks to O’Neill and Nolan Arenado, Houser found himself in trouble in the fourth inning.
“I just got out of sync a little bit with my mechanics,” said Houser on the walks. “I was rushing a little bit. I wasn’t keeping my hands close to my body or staying inside myself. Things went a little haywire there.”
With two runners on, Paul DeJong — a .214 career hitter against Houser — stepped to the plate. Houser made use of his sinker on five of his first six pitches thrown in the at-bat. On the seventh, Houser threw a curveball to the outer part of the zone.
Over his past three seasons (2019-2021), DeJong batted .148 against offspeed pitches (33-for-223). But today, DeJong got the better of Houser and his curveball, staying back and belting a double into left field to bring home O’Neill.
“Maybe just a little bit lower, but it wasn’t a terrible pitch,” Houser explained.
Following the run, Houser stayed composed and struck out Harrison Bader on a curveball to end the inning, the same pitch he tried to get past DeJong. Then, struck out the side in the fifth.
It marked the first time since July 20, 2019, that Houser had struck out the side in a game. His four consecutive strikeouts were his most as a starter, having done so once in ’19 as a reliever.
Houser went back out for the sixth inning, but a two-out walk to Corey Dickerson with a looming DeJong on deck ended his night at 5 2/3 innings, having allowed just one run on four hits with four strikeouts against three walks.
His efforts weren’t enough on a night the Brewers’ offense could not muster up run support against Steven Matz.
In both of Houser’s starts this season, he has gotten no run support. Milwaukee was shut out on Monday in his first start and only scored on a Victor Caratini home run in the eighth, following his exit.
At one point, the Brewers were retired 11 straight times.
“We’re not scoring a lot of runs,” Counsell said. “We just have to get the right pitch, we have to put a good swing on it, we’ve got to find some holes and that’s gonna get [us] out of this. It’s cliché, but that’s how it works. When we get pitches to hit, we have to do something with them.”
Saturday’s start marked a positive step for Houser, who got into a high pitch count and tossed just 3 2/3 innings in his season debut against the Orioles.
However, the six-year veteran wasn’t fully pleased with his performance.
“It was alright,” Houser remarked. “I just can’t have those walks and I wanted to finish that sixth inning.”