The Milwaukee Brewers’ original preferred script for Wednesday’s series finale may have involved a dominant start by Zack Greinke and timely hitting by Ryan Braun, followed by John Axford shutting down St. Louis in the ninth to convert a save.
In the Cardinals’ version, Matt Holliday might have provided the big hits.
None of those scenarios appear likely to occur.
After removing Axford from the closer’s role and opting to skip Greinke’s turn in the rotation, manager Ron Roenicke will give the ball to rookie Tyler Thornburg to face the Cardinals in a getaway day contest that Holliday and Braun could both miss due to injury.
Greinke started three straight games surrounding the All-Star break - made possible by a first-inning ejection in the first of those outings - but may have been thrown off his game as he allowed 10 runs in eight innings over those three starts.
“We probably put too much on him, thinking he’d be fine, and he wasn’t,” said Roenicke, who hopes to start Greinke again next Tuesday at Philadelphia.
In this contest, his turn will be taken by Thornburg (0-0, 7.36 ERA), who made his major league debut in a spot start against Toronto on June 19, allowing five runs - all coming on four homers - in 5 1-3 innings. The right-hander got sent back to Triple-A Nashville following that contest.
He returned to the big leagues Saturday with two innings of relief against Pittsburgh. He gave up one hit, but it was a home run to former Brewer Casey McGehee.
Axford didn’t surrender any homers in Monday’s series opener, but he did blow his sixth save of the season in Milwaukee’s 3-2 defeat. On Tuesday, Roenicke announced that for the time being Axford will pitch in lower-pressure situations to regain confidence. Francisco Rodriguez, who has 293 career saves, will handle ninth-inning duties.
“It’s certainly what he wants to do,” Roenicke said of Rodriguez. “And he is - he’s a closer. He’s a great closer. I think Frankie’s such a professional that whether I have him setting up or whether I have him closing, he knows how important he is to our team to win.”
Both teams’ No. 3 hitters left the game hurt. Holliday departed with a left thigh contusion after getting hit by a pitch in the first inning, and Braun was removed with a right adductor strain - an injury he said wasn’t serious - in the seventh.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny was similarly optimistic about Holliday, whose 15-game hitting streak remains intact, though both managers could opt to sit their sluggers in a day game after a night game.
“He’s been working with the trainers and they seem to think that he’s come a long way since he left the game, so he’s feeling a lot better,” Matheny said.
Curiously, Milwaukee (43-47) is 5-0 this season when Braun doesn’t play. The Cardinals have won two of the three games Holliday has missed, though they’ve totaled only seven runs in those contests.
St. Louis (47-44) will give the ball to Adam Wainwright (7-9, 4.62). The right-hander is 7-5 with a 2.20 ERA in 22 appearances - 15 starts - against the Brewers, allowing three runs or fewer in each of the last 10.
He made his season debut after recovering from Tommy John surgery April 7 at Milwaukee, and allowed three runs over 5 2-3 innings of a 6-0 defeat.
Wainwright, who has alternated wins and losses in his last four starts, is trying to bounce back after losing his first outing of the second half. He yielded four runs in 6 1-3 innings of Friday’s 5-3 defeat at Cincinnati.
The Cardinals have lost four of five, their worst stretch since a season-high five-game losing streak May 29-June 3.
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