MILWAUKEE — A June series that pitted the two remaining teams vying for the NL Central title and started with both teams sporting the same record became a showcase of their bullpens.
Call it a draw.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ lockdown trio of reliever Brad Boxberger, setup man Devin Williams, and closer Josh Hader secured a 6-4 victory Thursday and a split of the four-game series at American Family Field. It was the second time in four days that Williams and Hader pitched the final two innings of a game to edge the Cardinals, and in the games bookended between those bullpen outings for the Brewers, the Cardinals won – because their relievers neutralized the Brewers.
During the two games the Cardinals won, their bullpen allowed one hit and no runs over 10 1/3 innings. In the two games the Brewers won, Williams and Hader retired all six batters they faced.
The Cardinals leave Milwaukee as they arrived, tied with the Brewers for first place in the division with the exactly same record, at 40-32.
The Cardinals complicated their bid to win the four-game series with poor pitching to open several innings. Three times in eight innings, the Brewers loaded the bases before the Cardinals’ pitcher could get an out. Twice they did it against starter Dakota Hudson. The right-hander dodged the first threat with a double play, but when the Brewers did it against the fourth inning, Hudson could not repel the threat. Taylor hit a three-run homer off Hudson, and Willy Adames followed an inning later with a solo homer to push the Brewers out to a lead their bullpen would not relinquish.
In the eighth, reliever Drew VerHagen faced three batters and all three of them reached base. Milwaukee added an insurance run with a sacrifice fly.
Hader made sure they didn’t need it, retiring three batters in the ninth for his 21st save.
Hudson pulls off ‘Houdini,’ but magic doesn’t last
In the third inning, consecutive singles and a walk to leadoff hitter Christian Yelich loaded the bases without an out, putting Hudson in bind that only a “Houdini” could solve.