ST. LOUIS — In the midst of playing 18 games in 17 days, Milwaukee’s rotation began to enter the danger zone. Both Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff have been injured in the past week and a doubleheader is looming in Chicago on Monday.
Fortunately for the crew, it was Corbin Burnes’ turn on Sunday. Goodness, merciful, great fireballs.
Burnes struckout 11 — including the 500th of his career — and gave up just two hits in seven innings in an 8-0 win at Busch Stadium, bringing the Brewers to a four-game set split.
Those 11 strikeouts were a season-high for the defending National League-winning Cy Young Award-winner, equivalent to his April 25 tally against the Giants.
“It’s a great achievement if we need it tomorrow,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. “Seven innings and then against the team we will be in competition with all year, so it’s a great performance and well timed.”
None of the first 10 batters against Burnes reached base and none of the first 12 hit a basehit. The Cardinals were so desperate for a new baserunner that they got help in the sixth inning when Tommy Edman struckout — and reached 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 always want to be.”
That was Edman’s third strikeout of the game. His second, in the fourth inning, was Burnes’ milestone. He is 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. Curve ball was good. Change was really good. We didn’t get any swings on it, but for the most part we made pitches when we wanted to and kept some traffic off the bases.”
Hoby Milner and Brent Suter followed Burnes to complete the shutout. Despite the best efforts of a dominant Milwaukee staff, St. Louis’s Paul Goldschmidt extended his hit streak to 20 games with a single in the ninth inning 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 score with an RBI double in the second.
“I’m looking for one of [Narváez and Cain] come in and keep the line moving,” said Peterson of his homer after Narváez’s walk and Cain’s single. “When those guys set the tone in that inning, it felt like… [it] started to get contagious and boys started eating it.
Cain’s three-hit game was his first of the season.
Narváez had three hits and a walk and just finished a homerun for the cycle.
Despite Sunday appearing to predict a pitching duel, Mikolas struggled for St. Louis, giving up 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 wins over the weekend. Milwaukee won 4-3 on Thursday and lost 4-2 on Friday, then lost 8-3 on Saturday before retaliating on Sunday.
The distribution of those scores allowed the Brewers to find some peace of mind for their most influential relievers amid one of their most stressful parts of the schedule. Brad Boxberger and Josh Hader only appeared in Thursday night’s win, and St. Louis native Devin Williams didn’t pitch in his homecoming.
“We have eight games in seven days” [this] week,” Counsell said, “and we’ve played ten in a row, so rest helps all these guys.
“We’ve got our big relievers all fresh and ready to go into a series, and they’re going to have to pitch. Tomorrow is a day when you will probably see everyone.’
Burnes’ third win of the season was his team’s 30th. Milwaukee had delivered two or fewer runs in three of its starts in May and Sunday’s total was the highest they’ve put behind their ace so far this season. The quality start was Burnes’ eighth in 10 attempts so far in 2022, and he has completed at least six innings in each start except his first.
“That’s my goal every time,” Burnes said. “My goal is to throw nine innings every time I go out. The fact that I gave seven today is good, but I still would have liked to give nine. That’s the goal every time I climb the hill.”