ST. LOUIS — In the midst of playing 18 games in 17 days, Milwaukee’s rotation had begun to enter the danger zone. Both Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff have gone down with injuries in the past week, and a doubleheader looms Monday in Chicago.
Fortunately for the Crew, Sunday was Corbin Burnes’ turn. Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire.
Burnes got 11 strikeouts — including the 500th of his career — and allowed only two hits over seven innings in an 8-0 victory at Busch Stadium, lifting the Brewers to a split of the four-game set.
Those 11 strikeouts tied a season high for the defending National League Cy Young Award winner, matching his total April 25 against the Giants.
“It’s a big time performance when we need it going into tomorrow,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Seven innings and then against the team that we’re going to be in competition with all year long, so it’s a great performance and well timed.”
None of the first 10 hitters against Burnes reached base, and none of the first 12 recorded a hit. So desperate were the Cardinals for another baserunner that they had relief in the sixth inning when Tommy Edman struck out — and reached base on a wild pitch.
“We had the best stuff today,” Burnes said. “We had a good game plan and we went out and executed. … That’s kind of where we want to be all the time.”
That was Edman’s third strikeout of the game. His second, in the fourth inning, was Burnes’ milestone. He’s the 20th player in franchise history to cross that threshold, joining three of his current teammates — Peralta, Woodruff and Josh Hader.
“The cutter was there,” Burnes explained. “Slider was really good today. Curveball was good. Change was really good. We didn’t get any swings on it, but for the most part, we executed pitches when we wanted to and kept some traffic off the bases.”
Hoby Milner and Brent Suter followed Burnes to finish off the shutout. Despite the best efforts of a dominant Milwaukee staff, St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a ninth-inning single against Suter.
Jace Peterson’s three-run homer in the fifth inning against Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas extended Milwaukee’s lead to 4-0 and put the game comfortably out of reach.
Lorenzo Cain and Rowdy Tellez also homered for the Brewers.
Omar Narváez opened the scoring with an RBI double in the second.
“I’m looking to get one of [Narváez and Cain] in and keep the line moving,” Peterson said of his homer following Narváez’s walk and Cain’s single. “When those guys set the tone in that inning, it felt like [it] started getting contagious and guys started feeding off of it.”
Cain’s three-hit game was his first of the season.
Narváez had three hits and a walk, finishing just a home run shy of the cycle.
Despite Sunday seeming to portend a pitchers’ duel, Mikolas scuffled for St. Louis, allowing a season-high six runs in 5 2/3 innings and increasing his ERA from 1.96 to 2.67 in the process.
The two teams traded similar victories over the course of the weekend. Milwaukee won 4-3 on Thursday and lost 4-2 on Friday, then went down 8-3 on Saturday before storming back with a vengeance Sunday.
The distribution of those scores allowed the Brewers to find some rest for their highest-leverage relievers in the midst of one of their highest-stress stretches of the schedule. Brad Boxberger and Josh Hader appeared only in Thursday night’s victory, and St. Louis-area native Devin Williams did not pitch in his homecoming.
“We’ve got eight games in seven days [this] week,” Counsell said, “and we’ve played 10 in a row, so rest helps all these guys.
“We’ve got our big relievers all going into a series fresh and ready to go, and they’re going to have to pitch. Tomorrow’s a day where you’re probably likely to see everybody.”
Burnes’ third win of the season was his team’s 30th. Milwaukee had provided two or fewer runs of support in three of his starts in May, and Sunday’s total was the greatest they’ve put up behind their ace thus far this season. The quality start was Burnes’ eighth in 10 attempts thus far in 2022, and he has completed at least six innings in every start other than his first.
“That’s my goal every time,” Burnes said. “My goal every time I go out is to throw nine innings. The fact that I gave seven today is good, but I still would’ve liked to go nine. That’s the goal every time I take the mound.”