ST. LOUIS — For the second time in two games, the Milwaukee Brewers took part in a game that ended in a massive celebration.
Except this time, they were the ones making a beeline for the visitor’s dugout.
Brandon Woodruff started but pitched only four innings, and the lesser lights of Milwaukee’s bullpen were no match for a St. Louis Cardinals offense that just can’t be stopped right now.
The result was a 6-2 Brewers loss at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night, the fifth in a row to the Cardinals, who extended a franchise record by winning their 17th consecutive game.
More notable, they clinched the second and final wild-card spot in the National League after a performance led by old reliable Adam Wainwright, who started and won his 20th career game against the Brewers, and three home runs off Milwaukee pitchers.
The Brewers collected nine hits on the night but scored only two runs, on a fourth-inning Luis Urias homer.
The highlight of the opening three innings for Milwaukee was a pair of terrific defensive plays in left by Christian Yelich.
He ended the first inning with a running, diving catch of a sinking liner off the bat of Nolan Arenado.
Then in the third he kept St. Louis off the board by playing Tyler O’Neill’s double into the left-field corner well and making an accurate relay throw to Kolten Wong. Wong made a strong throw to Omar Narvaez for a cutdown on Paul Goldschmidt.
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The Brewers had a runner on in the fourth when Urias hit his 22nd homer of the season, a shot off the “Big Mac Land” sign on the facing of the third deck in left that made it a 2-0 game.
“Luis did a nice job and the homer’s nice,” said manager Craig Counsell, whose team wrapped up the Central Division title in its previous game Sunday with an 8-4 victory over the New York Mets at American Family Field.
“The goal for all these guys is just to have them going good into the last week here. Wicho was a good hitter tonight. “
Urias, as it turns out, wasn’t even in the original starting lineup but got the nod shortly before game time when the Brewers pulled Willy Adames for precautionary reasons with left quadriceps discomfort.
“I would just describe it as day to day,” said Counsell. Counsell said that he was just a little stiff today. There is no injury. He was stiff, and we will be more conservative at this stage. He would have not been removed from the game next Friday in the NLDS, that’s what I can assure you.
“So, we’ll go day to day, literally. Watch how he arrives tomorrow and how it feels. Don’t worry, this won’t have any impact on anything.
“Just being cautious. “
Jace Peterson followed by lining a single off Wainwright and then with two outs Woodruff inside-outed a single to left. Wong was unable to make contact and the Brewers settled for a 2-0 lead.
It didn’t last long.
Dylan Carlson led off the bottom of the frame with a homer into the St. Louis bullpen in right-center, then after a pair of bloop singles Wainwright laid down a picture-perfect sacrifice squeeze bunt to score Harrison Bader and knot the score at 2-2.
With Counsell stating before the game that he would look to conserve innings a bit with some starters, it came as no surprise that it was Jandel Gustave and not Woodruff who took the mound for the fifth.
Woodruff threw 63 pitches and allowed seven hits with three strikeouts.
Gustave (1-1), meanwhile, surrendered the lead two pitches into the fifth as Goldschmidt led off with a double and O’Neill roped a single to right that Avisail Garcia overran — a miscue that led to the ball rolling almost to the warning track.
Goldschmidt scored, O’Neill wound up at third and Arenado scored him with a sacrifice fly to center.
Milwaukee had one last gasp in the sixth with two on and one out only to see Tyrone Taylor drop to 0 for 12 since his two-homer game against the Cardinals last week with a strikeout and Eduardo Escobar ground out.
“He pitched well. He’s a tough customer,” Counsell said of Wainwright, who improved to 17-7 on the season. We know him well. His cutter was a great pitch for him tonight.
“He was very effective tonight — against our left-handers, especially. Luis had a huge hit, and we had some rallies going. But we couldn’t cap them all off. “
Jose Rondon and Arenado hit solo homers off Hoby Milner in the sixth and seventh, respectively, to cap the scoring.