The walls have been slowly closing in around the Milwaukee Brewers this month, and they certainly won't feel any more comfortable in their surroundings following Friday's painful 7-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Brewers seized control of the game early, jumping out to a 6-0 lead in the second inning against returning Cardinals starter Joe Kelly, but the resilient Redbirds started pecking away with two runs in the fourth on Matt Adams' two-run homer. In the sixth, they plated four more runs. Kolten Wong led off the inning with a solo blast, while Jhonny Peralta added another two-run shot to even things up. Then in the ninth, Matt Holliday delivered the knockout punch with a solo home run off All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez.
It's the type of win the Cardinals have become known for. At a time when they could be reeling – following the loss of Yadier Molina – they come off the deck fighting again until the final out.
''Just to be able to keep coming and coming and the intensity, the grit, the fight, that to me is just something you just don't have every once in a while,'' Matheny said. ''I couldn't be any more proud.''
As always, it's a team effort. Sure, the offense gets the credit for htting the long balls and scoring the runs, but don't overlook the six scoreless quality innings of relief the Cardinals received from Nick Greenwood, Seth Maness, All-Star Pat Neshek and closer Trevor Rosenthal. The comeback wouldn't have been possible, and the Cardinals wouldn't be poised to draw even in the NL Central standings on Saturday without their stellar work.
REDS RALLY LATE AGAINST PIRATES ALL-STAR: It was a night of comebacks in the NL Central. The Cincinnati Reds overcame a four-run fifth-inning deficit by scoring two in the seventh and three more in the eighth inning to pull off a 6-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
All of the eighth-inning damage came with two outs and against All-Star reliever Tony Watson, who suffered through his first multi-run outing since Aug. 3, 2013. That's a span of 64 outings. Devin Mesoraco started the rally with a solo homer. The Reds followed up with four straight singles, including the tying and go-ahead knocks by Ramon Santiago and pinch-hitter Brayan Pena, respectively.
''This is a huge victory for us,'' Pena said. ''This is the kind of victory that shows what we can do. When we got behind, everybody kept pushing each other.''
Cincinnati is 7-2 on its current 11-game homestand, and they're within striking distance at 1 1/2 games back in the Central.
The only bit of bad news: Starter Mat Latos was slowed down a bit after tweaking his back running to first base. He was able to pitch through the pain, but the Reds will hope it's not something that lingers beyond the All-Star break.
ALL-STAR SNUB GARRETT RICHARDS WINS SEVENTH STRAIGHT DECISION:
Angels right-hander Garrett Richards pitched like a man on a mission after being left off the original All-Star roster and then falling short in the final fan vote. The 26-year-old right-hander allowed five hits over seven innings to pick us his seventh win – and 11th overall – as the Angels topped the scuffling Rangers, 3-0.
There's always a chance Richards will be a last minute addition due to injury or otherwise, but it's not quite the same as having your name called on the selection show. It sounds like Richards plans on holding to his frustration, which could be bad news for the AL West.
''It's some motivation for the whole year,'' Richards said of not making the All-Star team. ''I'll probably end up carrying that with me the whole year.''
''He's an All-Star in our mind; no doubt about it,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''He's having an incredible first half, and hopefully he'll pick it right up after the break.''
Another guy having an incredible year is Mike Trout, but that goes without saying. He hit his 22nd home run in the fourth, which proved to be all Richards and the Angels bullpen needed.
PHILLIES ROLL WITH ROLLINS TO FIFTH STRAIGHT WIN: It's official, the Philadelphia Phillies are hot. The four-game sweep in Milwaukee this week wasn't just a product of the Brewers being down on their luck, because Philadelphia followed it up with a convincing 6-2 victory over the division-leading Washington Nationals on Friday.
Jimmy Rollins and Dominic Brown did the heavy lifting offensively. Rollins muscled up for two home runs – his 10th and 11th on the season – and drove in three, while Brown doubled home a pair off a red-hot Jordan Zimmermann. Washington's right-hander entered with a 1.26 ERA since June 1, but he gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings here before leaving with a right biceps cramp.
A.J. Burnett picked up his sixth win for Philly with 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball.
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