Brewers’ Wilkerson stymies Cardinals
ST. LOUIS — Less than 24 hours after Andrew Romine became the 10th player in big league history to play all nine positions in a game, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Hernan Perez wanted to become the 11th.
Perez went so far as to hatch a plan with Eric Sogard that had the two switch positions for the second inning. Perez moved from third to shortstop and Sogard went from short to third.
Then Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell played the role of party pooper.
“The crusher of dreams,” Counsell joked. “I wanted to win the game.”
And win the Brewers did win, as rookie Aaron Wilkerson took a perfect game into the sixth inning while Brett Phillips and Jesus Aguilar each homered in a 6-1 verdict over the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium.
Milwaukee finished its season 86-76, the best record of any team that didn’t qualify for the postseason. The Brewers were picked last in the National League Central by some pundits, but they stayed in playoff contention until squandering a six-run lead in a 7-6 loss to St. Louis on Saturday, presenting the Colorado Rockies with the NL’s second wild card.
With nothing at stake for the season finale except personal goals and contractual obligations, the versatile Perez was hoping to do something unique. He has played every position but pitcher and catcher while establishing himself as a key part of the team the past three years.
“He was doing squats in front of the coaches’ office,” Counsell said with a grin. “He was doing squats in front of my office.”
But Perez never got a chance to strap on the gear or even pitch to a hitter. Wilkerson took care of the pitching part pretty well.
Making his second big league start, Wilkerson (1-0) mowed down the first 17 men he faced. Then pinch hitter Jose Martinez poked a pretty good curve into right field for a single that ended a potential date with history.
Although he lost the shutout on Randal Grichuk’s solo homer in the seventh, Wilkerson still constructed a great outing. He gave just two hits and a run, walking none and fanning five in 86 pitches across seven innings.
“I just stayed with the game plan,” Wilkerson said. “This gives me something good to build on going into spring training.”
Wilkerson never threw a stressful pitch. Milwaukee touched Jack Flaherty (0-2) for four runs in the first on Aguilar’s sacrifice fly and Phillips’ three-run homer to right-center, his fourth of the year.
Flaherty delivered four more scoreless innings, but the rocky first was enough to nail him with the defeat. He allowed five hits and the four runs in his five innings, issuing two walks and whiffing five.
Aguilar capped the scoring in the eighth with a two-run homer to left-center against reliever Sandy Alcantara, his 16th of the year.
While the Brewers surpassed low expectations by plenty, St. Louis (83-79) failed to meet its playoff standards, missing the postseason for a second straight year after making 12 of the previous 15 postseasons.
Not since 2007, when St. Louis last finished under .500, has a Cardinals team won fewer games. The past two years are also the first time St. Louis has failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 2007-08.
“There were a lot of bright spots, but there are also a lot of things we need to work on,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.
The Cardinals lost seven of their last nine games after crawling within 1 1/2 games of the NL’s second wild card spot on Sept. 23. They were held to three runs or fewer six times in that stretch.
A crowd of 44,787 was announced on Sunday, giving St. Louis a final attendance figure of 3,447,937. That is the fifth highest in franchise history and the most of any team in baseball except for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
NOTES: St. Louis 3B Aledmys Diaz (strained left hamstring) left the game after the second inning when he was injured trying to beat out an infield hit. ... Milwaukee LF Eric Thames (foot) was in the lineup Sunday after leaving Saturday’s game in the eighth inning after fouling a pitch off it. Brewers manager Craig Counsell wasn’t sure if Thames would play in the season finale. Thames went 1-for-3 with a walk and scored twice. ... Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright disclosed Sunday that he will have arthroscopic elbow surgery on Tuesday. Wainwright pitched just two innings over the last six weeks of the season, finishing 12-5 with a 5.11 ERA.