MILWAUKEE (AP) - Zach Davies had pinpoint command. He frustrated hitters with four pitches and stayed ahead in counts.
What made Davies’ crisp outing on Wednesday even more impressive was that he shut down the formidable lineup of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Davies had a career-high nine strikeouts over eight shutout innings, and the Milwaukee Brewers averted a three-game sweep with a 3-1 win over their NL Central rivals.
“It’s hard to get much better than that,” manager Craig Counsell said.
Davies (3-3) allowed three hits and retired 13 in a row to finish the longest outing of his young career before yielding to Jeremy Jeffress. The closer gave up a pinch-hit solo homer to Brandon Moss before retiring the final three batters for his 13th save.
It was a memorable afternoon for Davies, who got stronger as the game wore on. He struck out the side in the eighth to draw a standing ovation from an appreciative hometown crowd.
Davies, a 23-year-old right-hander, didn’t allow a runner to reach second. He kept hitters guessing with his fastball, curve, cutter and changeup.
That left the Cardinals frustrated after entering the day second in the National League with 71 homers and a .460 slugging percentage.
“It was just being able to find the bottom of the zone and just being able to command the ball a lot better today; making them put the ball in play early and getting ahead of guys,” Davies said.
The Brewers scratched out two runs in the first off Jaime Garcia (4-5) and added insurance with Martin Maldonado’s solo homer in the sixth.
Garcia allowed five hits, three walks and two runs before departing after five innings.
“It’s just one of those where he just had trouble finding the feel on a consistent basis,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “But still, he only gave up only a couple runs five hits. But he had a lot of traffic and a lot of stress innings.”
Davies was one of the Brewers’ first acquisitions when the organization decided to rebuild at midseason last year, arriving from Baltimore in exchange for outfielder Gerardo Parra. Davies was drafted in the 26th round of the 2011 amateur draft.
He has rebounded after a tough April, when he went 0-3 with an 8.78 ERA in three starts. He had a 3.81 ERA in May in five starts.
Kolten Wong, who struck out twice, said Davies kept the Cardinals off-balance with his changeup.
“Just something that caught us off guard,” Wong said. “He kept us off balance with his fastball coming in and threw that changeup away.”
The Brewers’ first four hitters opened the game with a walk and three straight singles, capped by run-scoring hits for Ryan Braun and Chris Carter.
Milwaukee squandered opportunities for more offense by leaving the bases loaded in the first and third. Maldonado recorded the inning-ending outs each time before atoning in the sixth with his homer off reliever Matt Bowman that landed on the concourse beyond left-center.
Cardinals: Garcia showed no discomfort and stayed in the game after getting hit in his lower left leg by a hard bouncer up the middle from Aaron Hill in the third. The ball deflected into short left for an infield single.
Brewers: LHP Will Smith was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list before the game. The hard-throwing reliever had been sidelined since spring training after spraining a ligament in his right knee while taking off a shoe in the clubhouse during spring training. Smith had been expected to share closing duties with RHP Jeremy Jeffress this season, and manager Craig Counsell said he would use Smith judiciously to start.
Cardinals: Following an off day, St. Louis returns home on Friday to open a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants. Right-handed ace Adam Wainwright (5-3) gets the start. He is 5-0 in his last seven games.
Brewers: RHP Chase Anderson (2-6) opens a four-game series on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park against the Phillies. He is 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA in three career starts against Philadelphia.
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