MILWAUKEE — Daniel Vogelbach is back.
Vogelbach actually returned from a long injury absence a few days ago, but he truly made his presence known Sunday afternoon, coming off the bench to deliver a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning that beat St. Louis, 6-5, at American Family Field.
The Brewers were trailing, 5-1, entering the ninth but rallied for five runs to win it. Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with a double to right-center and scored on a single up the middle by Luke Maile.
After Luis Urías struck out, Jace Peterson yanked a double into the right-field corner to leave men on second and third. When Escobar drew a walk to load the bases, Giovanny Gallegos gave way to St. Louis closer Alex Reyes.
Vogelbach came up as a pinch-hitter and delivered his slam to right that sent the crowd into a frenzy and gave the Brewers the series, two games to one. It also extended their lead in the NL Central to 11 games over Cincinnati, a loser at home to Detroit.
“I enjoy being in those situations, whether I fail or whether I succeed,” said Vogelbach, who returned from a long absence with a hamstring strain Wednesday in San Francisco. “As a competitor, you always want to be in those situations and be the guy that steps up to the plate in that situation.
“I’m just happy that I was able to come through for the guys who grinded all game. It seemed like we were playing from behind the whole time. Obviously, the ball didn’t bounce our way earlier so I was just happy to be able to go up there and try to pull it out.”
With Willy Adames going on the 10-day injured list before the game with a quadriceps strain, banged-up Avisaíl García out of the starting lineup for the third consecutive game with back and leg stiffness, Kolten Wong on paternity leave and Christian Yelich getting a day of rest, the Brewers sent a much different lineup out to play the Cardinals.
García and Yelich would come off the bench in the eighth inning during a key sequence in which a defensive gem seemed to have saved the game for St. Louis. It began with a one-out double by Eduardo Escobar off reliever Genesis Cabrera, followed by walks to García, who was pinch-hitting, and Lorenzo Cain.
Right-hander Giovanny Gallegos took over for the left-handed Cabrera even though a lefty-hitter, Rowdy Tellez, was due up. Gallegos got Tellez to go after a 3-2 breaking ball in the dirt to strike him out, prompting manager Craig Counsell to send Yelich to bat for Pablo Reyes.
Yelich sent a laser beam that appeared headed for the right-fielder corner and a three-run, extra-base hit, but St. Louis first baseman Paul Goldschmidt speared it with a leaping effort, turning cheers to groans among the 33,845 on hand.
“After that line drive gets caught with Yeli, it feels like that was your shot,” Counsell said. “It’s deflating when that ball gets caught. It feels like it should be 5-4 and the ninth inning is going to be a tough inning.
“But the guys did a great job, starting with Jackie, putting together a tough ninth inning. Just having tough at-bats against a good pitcher. That set it up for Vogey’s heroics.”
Corbin Burnes started for the Brewers and battled his way through six innings, allowing three runs, all in the fourth inning with some defensive hiccups playing a role. Burnes allowed six hits and two walks while striking out seven.
Veteran lefty Jon Lester, a trade deadline pickup who has been a nice addition for the Cardinals, made pitches when he had to, limiting the Brewers to six hits and one run over 5 1/3 innings. It was his third consecutive start in which he allowed just one run.
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The Brewers got on the board first with one swing of the bat. With two down in the second, Reyes – getting the start at second in place of Wong – knocked a 1-1 changeup from Lester out to left for his first home run of the season.
Burnes pitched around a leadoff walk and pickoff error by Tellez in the second inning and stranded a runner at second in the third but the Cardinals broke through for three runs in the fourth. And the Brewers gave them plenty of assistance in doing so.
After Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill singled with no outs, Burnes threw four straight balls to Yadier Molina, who was squaring around as if to bunt each time, loading the bases. Edmundo Sosa’s sacrifice fly to right tied the score and the other runners advanced on Bradley’s high, off-target throw toward the plate.
Harrison Bader followed with a slow chopper down the third-base line that Escobar barely touched with his glove, the ball rolling into foul territory beyond the bag as O’Neill and Molina both scored on what later was scored as a two-run double. Bader was called out at second on the play but that was overturned on video replay, leaving St. Louis with a 3-1 lead at the end of the inning.
“I couldn’t really tell,” Burnes said when asked if Bader’s chopper was fair. “I was headed in that direction but with the angle I had, I don’t know if (Escobar) touched it, whether he did or not, whether it was fair or foul.
“That’s one of those innings that again, they don’t hit it very hard, I hurt myself with a walk and a couple of jam shots. A play like that results in them getting 3 runs in an inning. Probably one of the more frustrating innings I’ve had this year just because nothing was hit over really 40 mph so it’s tough.”
The Brewers had a chance to answer in the bottom of the inning after Escobar led off with a single. Omar Narváez forced him at second and Cain flied out to right but Tellez doubled to left-center, putting two runners in scoring position.
After falling behind in the count, 3-0, to Reyes, Lester intentionally walked him to get to the slump-ridden Bradley. That moved paid off when Bradley grounded out to second base for the second consecutive at-bat.
Hunter Strickland took over for Burnes in the sixth and found trouble of his own making. A one-out walk and a pair of two-out walks loaded the bases before he retired Goldschmidt on a foul popup.
St. Louis padded its lead to 5-1 in the seventh at the expense of Jake Cousins. Dylan Carlson drew a leadoff walk and was on second base with one down when O’Neill belted a tape-measure homer to left that sailed through the panel opening and was estimated to carry 455 feet.
Burnes said he was in the clubhouse, watching on TV, when Vogelbach delivered his game-winning blow.
“We were actually watching TV and we have the 15-second delay, so we could hear everyone in the dugout and stadium going nuts before we actually saw it,” Burnes said. “They spoiled it for us down there.
“The whole stadium went crazy and we heard everyone in the dugout, and then we saw it about 10 seconds later on the TV. Good comeback win there. That’s awesome. That’s a testament to the offense. They never give up.
“Things kind of always seemed to go in the opposite direction for us early on and we got hot there in the middle and now it doesn’t matter really what the score is. If we have a chance to hit, the game’s never over.”
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Brewers win on Daniel Vogelbach’s walk-off grand slam vs. Cardinals