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.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|July 17, 2012||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left thigh|
|July 08, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Bruised left leg|
|June 06, 2012||Jaime Garcia||15-Day DL||Strained left shoulder|
|June 06, 2012||Jaime Garcia||60-Day DL||Sprained left shoulder|
|May 31, 2012||Skip Schumaker||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|May 31, 2012||Skip Schumaker||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|July 17, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Right thigh strain|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||15-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
|June 02, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left quadricep|
|May 31, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Tight Achilles|
|May 28, 2012||Jonathan Lucroy||15-Day DL||Fractured right hand, out 4-6 weeks|
|May 26, 2012||Cesar Izturis||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Once again, Francisco Rodriguez flirted with trouble in the ninth inning.
For the second game in a row, the Milwaukee Brewers ' new closer managed to pitch out of a jam to nail down a save.
Given a two-run lead to start the ninth, Rodriguez loaded the bases and walked in a run before getting Lance Berkman to fly out and preserve a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.
Rodriguez also had a shaky outing in Tuesday night's win, but he's still 2 for 2 since taking over for deposed closer John Axford .
"Just keep fighting, keep fighting," Rodriguez said. "I'm not going to give in, and I'm going to fight all the way until the end. That's for sure."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke noted that Rodriguez may have been fatigued from his recent heavy workload, but also acknowledged that getting into - then out of - trouble is just part of his style.
"I've seen it so many years, and he just always seems to make the big pitches when he has to," Roenicke said. "And he continues to do it. Certainly, I'd rather we have clean innings. But I always feel confident that Frankie's going to get out of it."
Axford (3-6) claimed the win.
"He was sharp, his command was good," Rodriguez said. "He's going to fight his way back."
The Brewers took two out of three in the series with the Cardinals, who have lost five of six.
"Bottom line is, we're not content in here with just fighting back," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We're content to do our jobs, which is to win games."
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (7-10) got off to a rough start and didn't get much help from his infielders, who committed three errors in the Brewers' four-run first inning - including a pair by shortstop Rafael Furcal .
"You can't really control what goes on behind you or anything else," Wainwright said. "You just have to make your next pitch and trust your defense."
Brewers starter Tyler Thornburg went 4 2-3 innings, giving up two runs on a pair of solo homers. Thornburg was making his second career start after the Brewers decided to push Zack Greinke 's scheduled turn back to next week.
Thornburg had his big league debut against Toronto on June 19, a no-decision, and has made a relief appearance for the Brewers. Coming into Wednesday, he had given up five home runs in 7 1-3 innings.
Ryan Braun was not in the starting lineup for the Brewers after aggravating a nagging groin injury Tuesday night. He is expected to return for a weekend series at Cincinnati after an off day Thursday.
Norichika Aoki led off the game and reached on an error by Furcal, who charged a grounder but dropped it as he tried to get the ball out of his glove and make a throw. Nyjer Morgan then singled and Wainwright hit Aramis Ramirez on the left elbow with a 91-mph breaking ball. Ramirez stayed in the game, and Corey Hart hit a two-run single.
Wainwright then got two quick outs and appeared to be out of the inning when Carlos Gomez hit a grounder to Furcal - but Furcal's throw to first was offline for his second error of the inning, allowing Ramirez to score. Berkman also was charged with an error on the play when he fell and lost the ball, allowing Hart to score and give the Brewers a 4-0 lead.
Wainwright recovered to go seven innings, giving up four runs - only one of which was earned - and four hits with nine strikeouts and no walks.
Home runs bit Thornburg again, as solo shots by David Freese in the second and Allen Craig in the third cut the lead to 4-2.
"There's a difference when you're behind in the count in the minor leagues and when you're behind the count here," Roenicke said. "These guys don't miss a good fastball. And I'm sure when he was at Double-A, Triple-A, he could throw the ball by guys."
Thornburg was taken out of the game with two outs and a runner on first in the fifth, making way for Axford.
Axford lost the closer's job to Rodriguez on Tuesday, in hopes that having Axford pitch in lower-pressure situations might help him sort out his struggles. Axford struck out Berkman to end the inning then gave up one hit in a scoreless sixth.
Axford praised Rodriguez's performance.
"It looks like he's bringing that mojo that we need back - get ourselves into trouble and get ourselves out of it," Axford said. "That's what I had all last year, and hopefully he's bringing that back."
Although Rodriguez has taken over as closer, Roenicke said before the game that Axford ideally would be able to reclaim the job by the end of the season. For now, Axford is getting used to his new role and clearly hasn't lost his sense of humor, noting that he wasn't used to watching the sixth-inning "racing sausage" mascot race from the dugout.
"They actually go a lot faster than you think," Axford said.
Notes: Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal made his big league debut in the eighth, loading the bases but striking out Gomez to end the inning. ... Wainwright's nine strikeouts tied a season high. ... Wednesday's attendance was 37,753.