MILWAUKEE — With each of Milwaukee's top two closer options unavailable, Matt Bush stepped in and showcased the depth of the Brewers' bullpen as they adapt to life without four-time All-Star Josh Hader.
Bush, acquired from the Texas Rangers last week, struck out two batters and retired the side in order in the ninth inning to close out the Brewers' 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
“That's as good of an inning as we've seen this year,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
Milwaukee won for just the second time in eight games to move to within one game of the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals, who fell 16-5 to the Colorado Rockies.
The Brewers have gone 2-5 and have fallen out of first place in the division standings since trading Hader to the San Diego Padres last week.
“We’d be lying if we said we weren’t looking at it,” Milwaukee's Andrew McCutchen said. “Everyone looks at it. You can’t help but see it even when you’re not looking for it. I’m a big baseball fan, so I’m always watching baseball. I’m always following what’s going on. I see that, of course. But I also understand we’ve just got to take care of business. Whatever’s ahead of us, in front of us, take care of that. Be where your feet are.”
McCutchen and Kolten Wong each drove in two runs. Tyrone Taylor made a leaping catch to rob Tampa Bay’s David Peralta of a homer.
Bush picked up his second save of the season, with his other coming April 23 as a member of the Rangers. His last save before this season was back in 2017.
The Brewers opted for Bush because Devin Williams had pitched four of the last six days and Taylor Rogers had undergone a cortisone shot in his left knee Sunday.
Rogers was one of the players the Brewers acquired in the Hader trade. Counsell said he hoped Rogers would be available Wednesday.
Milwaukee’s Freddy Peralta (4-2) struck out four while allowing two runs, two hits and no walks over five innings in his second start since coming off the injured list. Peralta, who threw 65 pitches Tuesday, had missed nearly 2½ months with a shoulder injury.
Tampa Bay managed just four hits, though Yandy Díaz broke out of an 0-for-21 slump by hitting a two-run homer.
“They pitched well,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Another day of us not swinging the bats maybe to our capabilities.”
The Rays also got a tough break.
Peralta led off the top of the second with a drive to right center, but Taylor timed his jump correctly and reached his glove over the wall to make the catch and prevent a game-tying homer. Taylor said he hadn’t reached over the wall to prevent a homer like that since he was in the Single-A Florida State League.
“That was the coolest thing I’ve done on defense,” Taylor said. “I’ve made some pretty cool catches in the minor leagues and stuff, but this is the big leagues. It’s like something you dream of as a kid, playing baseball in your backyard.”
McCutchen hit an RBI ground-rule double in the first inning and broke a 2-all tie with a run-scoring single in the fifth. Wong followed with a two-run double into the left-field corner to make it 5-2.
Tampa Bay’s Jose Siri hit a one-out RBI double to right in the seventh, but got thrown out attempting to stretch it to a triple. Adames took the throw from right fielder Hunter Renfroe and fired to third in time to retire Siri.
“You can't make those mistakes,” Cash said.
Tampa Bay's Ryan Yarbrough (0-7) struck out five but allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Rays: OF Manuel Margot started a rehabilitation assignment Tuesday with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Rays. Margot went on the injured list June 21 with a right patellar tendon strain.
Brewers: Rogers said the knee issue had been bothering him for a couple of months and coincided with the start of his struggles that got him removed as San Diego's closer before the trade to Milwaukee. “I didn't want it to be public because I didn't want it to be like an excuse for struggles,” Rogers said. “Everybody goes through things through the season.” ... Counsell said C Omar Narváez will probably remain on the injured list beyond the minimum of 10 days. Narváez went on the injured list Thursday with a strained left quadriceps.
LHP Jeffrey Springs (4-3, 2.50 ERA) starts for the Rays and RHP Brandon Woodruff (9-3, 3.49) pitches for the Brewers as this two-game series concludes Wednesday afternoon.