Hader K's 3 on 9 pitches to finish off Brewers' win

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers reliever Josh Hader has been approaching perfect domination ever since he emerged as an elite bullpen ace last season. On Saturday, he finally reached it.

Hader recorded his first immaculate inning, striking out three straight St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth and finishing a 4-2 Milwaukee win. Hader threw nine straight fastballs. Tyler O'Neill fouled off Hader's first pitch, the last time any St. Louis hitter made contact. O'Neill, Dexter Fowler and pinch-hitter Yairo Munoz all went down on three pitches.

"He's throwing at such a high level right now and executing pitches at the top of the zone," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "When he executes those pitches, they're hard to lay off and they're hard to hit. It's challenging. It's just a different fastball than anybody has in the league."

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Hader became the first Brewers pitcher to record an immaculate inning since Mike Fiers on May 7, 2015. He became the first pitcher from any team to throw a three-strikeout/nine-pitch inning to complete a save since the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen on May 18, 2017.

Hader said he didn't realize he had accomplished the feat until catcher Yasmani Grandal told him about it in the clubhouse.

"I didn't even know I had it until a couple of minutes ago," Hader said. "Pretty crazy stuff. It's crazy. Obviously, attacking the zone like that, it's pretty hard to do."

Hader won the Trevor Hoffman Award as the National League's best reliever last season, going 6-1 with 12 saves, a 2.43 ERA and 143 strikeouts in just 81⅓ innings. Somehow, he looks even better early this season. When he set down all six Cardinals he faced in Thursday's season opener, he also threw nothing but fastballs. He has retired nine straight batters to start the campaign on just 30 pitches and not one of them has been a breaking ball.

"Why try and fix something that's not broken?" Hader said nonchalantly. "We're just trying to attack the zone and continue to read the swings."

If Hader isn't impressed with himself, his teammates certainly are.

"No one has ever seen a guy like Josh Hader," said Brewers reliever Alex Wilson, who retired all four batters he faced Saturday in his Milwaukee debut. "I compare it to [Cardinals lefty] Andrew Miller, would be my closest comparison. But [Miller] does a lot more damage with the slider than the fastball. To watch somebody just absolutely blow people away with fastball after fastball, it's really incredible."

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Hader now has 39 career relief outings with at least three strikeouts. That's the most in the majors since the start of the 2017 season. Free agent Craig Kimbrel is second with 31 during that span.

After the game, Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich -- the NL's reigning MVP who has homered in all three games to start the season -- was asked if he or Hader was more locked in at the moment.

"[It's] Josh," Yelich said without hesitation. "I've never seen anything like that. I mean, I've seen an immaculate inning before, from the wrong side. I've never seen one where it's all swing-and-misses on fastballs. There was one foul ball the first pitch, then it was just domination."