ST. LOUIS -- As familiar as they are with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday fell victim to one of their rival's newest and most important additions.
Left-hander Jordan Montgomery, acquired from the New York Yankees at the trade deadline, threw six shutout innings while counterpart Eric Lauer made two big mistakes that ultimately decided the game in a 3-1 Brewers loss at Busch Stadium.
Lauer matched Montgomery's six innings but surrendered home runs to the Cardinals' two candidates for the National League's MVP award, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, and those blasts proved to be the difference.
The loss left the Brewers 1 ½ games behind the Cardinals for the National League Central lead. Maybe more striking was the fact it was their ninth loss in their last 11 games against Central Division opponents, a run dating to July 5.
"It's obvious — I feel like we win the two games tomorrow and Sunday, we're right there in the hunt, in first place," said rightfielder Hunter Renfroe. "These next two games are big, and we've just got to go up there, not try and do too much but stay within ourselves, play great defense and pitch well."
BOX SCORE: Cardinals 3, Brewers 1
Eric Lauer settles in after Paul Goldschmidt's first-inning home run
After hanging a slider in a 1-2 count that Goldschmidt crushed for a two-run homer three batters into the bottom of the first, Lauer recovered to retire 11 of the next 13 batters he faced, including seven straight leading up to an infield single by Lars Nootbaar in the fifth.
The Cardinals went on to put two runners on against Lauer in the fifth, but Goldschmidt grounded out to keep it a 2-0 game.
Brewers can't figure out Cardinals new acquisition Jordan Montgomery
Milwaukee's offense made solid contact against Montgomery on several occasions in the early innings but was left with nothing to show for it.
The closest the Brewers came to scoring against him was the fifth inning when Victor Caratini doubled and Tyrone Taylor singled to put runners on the corners with one out.
But Christian Yelich and Willy Adames both struck out, and Montgomery went on to toss six scoreless innings on 108 pitches. He allowed four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.
Renfroe accounted for one of the hits off Montgomery — a second-inning single against the shift — and was one of the few Milwaukee players who'd faced Montgomery previously.
"He usually uses his changeup a little more than he was at first, then pretty much the last time through the order there he was using it a lot more," he said. "I don't know why that was; maybe he wasn't feeling it at first. But his fastball was good today; he was locating it inside, and he was getting some calls.
"There was a lot of hard-hit balls on both sides that were caught. You've got to tip your hat to the defense and the defensive alignments."
Cardinals stock up on left-handed pitchers at the MLB trade deadline
The Cardinals bolstered their rotation by adding not only Montgomery at the deadline but also a well-known divisional Brewer killer in José Quintana, another left-hander.
Milwaukee ranks 27th in the majors and 13th in the NL with a cumulative .220 average against southpaws this season and 25th/13th in OPS at .663, numbers that must improve with two more two-game series remaining against the Cardinals after this weekend.
"We definitely noticed them picking those guys up," Renfroe said. "It wasn't like they went and got nobodies; those guys are great pitchers. Obviously we do not hit lefties as well as we hit righties — I think that's kind of out there and everybody knows that.
"But we've got guys that can do it, so we've got to step up and step forward and do it."
Nolan Arenado makes Lauer pay for 'worst pitch'
Lauer (8-4) made it through six innings as well, but not before grooving a changeup that Arenado hit out to up the deficit to 3-0. He allowed five hits, three runs and two walks with five strikeouts over 95 pitches.
“I think the one to Nolan might have been the worst pitch I’ve thrown in my life.” — Eric Lauer on the sixth-inning changeup he left over the plate to Nolan Arenado: pic.twitter.com/ms71cj57GN
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) August 13, 2022
"Making mistakes to good hitters is never a good thing," Lauer said. "I think the one to Nolan might have been the worst pitch I've thrown in my life. It was a changeup, middle-middle, and a good hitter's not going to miss that too many times.
"The one to Goldy just leaked a little too middle. But yeah, two bad pitches got me. It makes me mad — those are two pitches that make me lose sleep at night. Especially the one to Nolan. When it's my worst pitch and I throw it right down the middle to a good hitter, you're going to lose sleep for sure."
One run in the seventh is all the Brewers offense can muster
The Brewers finally got on the board in the seventh inning when Luis Urías greeted Andre Pallante by tripling off the wall in left and scored on a Caratini single.
But then, almost on cue, Taylor hit into a 6-4-3 double play to short-circuit what began as a promising inning.
"Several lineouts. Sometimes, that's the way it goes," manager Craig Counsell said. "There were some innings where we got the leadoff hitter on and we didn't do much after that. That's unfortunately the way it went tonight."
Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley allowed a couple singles in the final two innings before ultimately earning his 12th save. His pitch count of 29 probably leaves him unavailable to pitch Saturday.
"Their big guy pitched two innings," Counsell said. "But they've got other guys that are good."
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Montgomery stifles Brewers; Goldschmidt, Arenado homers lead Cardinals