For the second straight night at Busch Stadium, a Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher held the St. Louis Cardinals hitless into the sixth inning. And for the second straight night, all the Crew had to show for it was a loss.
The Cardinals exploded for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to break open a tie game and beat the Brewers 5-1 Wednesday night to maintain their one-game lead in the National League Central Division. It was the fifth straight win for St. Louis, while the Brewers fell to 2-3 on their current road trip.
For the Brewers, it marks the first time they’ve lost a series on the road since dropping two of three at Colorado July 26-28. They had not lost for seven consecutive road series, one off the franchise record set in 1982.
Marco Estrada was brilliant on Wednesday and when he left in the seventh inning, he did so after allowing just two hits over 6.2 innings and with a 1-0 lead.
Brandon Kintzler came in with two outs and runners at first and second, but the young reliever who has taken control of the setup role in the Milwaukee pen couldn’t hold the lead. Daniel Descalso served his second pitch down the third-base line for an opposite-field single, scoring Matt Holliday from second base to tie the game.
The run was charged to Estrada, giving him a no-decision. He issued three walks and struck out six batters and is 2-0 with a 2.39 ERA in six starts and 37.2 innings since coming back from the disabled list on Aug. 7.
In fairness to the Cardinals, Estrada’s no-hitter should have been gone much earlier than it was. Matt Carpenter broke it up with two outs in the sixth, banging a liner off Estrada’s heel that caromed over to Aramis Ramirez at third base. Ramirez’s throw to first pulled Juan Francisco off the bag and was late in any case.
In the bottom of the second, Estrada walked Carlos Beltran to start the inning and Matt Adams appeared to have lined an extra-base hit off the wall in the right-field corner. But first-base umpire Chris Guccione threw up his hands to indicate a foul ball. Replays showed the ball hit the yellow line on the wall, but after a lengthy discussion the umpiring crew left the call as it was. Adams eventually drew a walk, but Jean Segura helped save the inning with a tremendous diving stop on David Freese’s grounder up the middle and Scooter Gennett’s turn was just as good, turning an RBI single into a 6-4-3 double play.
The Brewers had taken a 1-0 lead in the second with an unearned run off St. Louis starter Lance Lynn. Carlos Gomez singled to center and went to second on a walk to Gennett. After Francisco struck out—he was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and is in the midst of a frigid 7-for-50 stretch that includes 27 strikeouts—the runners broke on a double steal.
Catcher Tony Cruz—in the Cardinals’ lineup because Yadier Molina was away with his brother, St. Louis assistant hitting coach Bengie Molina, due to what was called a “family situation”—threw to second to try and catch Gennett, but the throw skipped into center field, allowing Gomez to score.
Lynn also took a tough no-decision, working six innings and allowing just the unearned run on five hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts.
The Cardinals took control in the bottom of the eighth. After getting the first out of the inning, Kintzler loaded the bases on singles by Carpenter and Holliday sandwiched around a walk to Jon Jay and the Brewers brought in left-hander Michael Gonzalez to turn around the switch-hitting Beltran.
Beltran hit a ball to left field deep enough to score Carpenter and give St. Louis a 2-1 lead.
Then things got weird. Jay and Holliday broke on a double-steal attempt, but Holliday stopped and tried to return to first. Jonathan Lucroy fired the ball to first, but Sean Halton—who entered the game with Gonzalez as part of a double switch—wasn’t covering and the ball skipped into right field, allowing Jay to score.
Then Matt Adams crushed his 12th homer of the year to right-center field—no question this one was fair—to give the Cards a 5-1 advantage.
Former Brewer John Axford, who was traded to St. Louis at the waiver deadline on Aug. 31, worked the ninth inning in a non-save situation, striking out a pair to preserve the win for Trevor Rosenthal (2-3), who worked a scoreless eighth.
Kintzler (3-2) took the loss, allowing three runs on three hits and a walk while recording just two outs, but all three of those runs scored after he left the game. Gonzalez has now allowed 18 of 38 inherited runners to score and his ERA has ballooned to 4.56 since July 21, when it was 2.88. Since then, Gonzalez has a 9.00 ERA in 20 appearances covering 13 innings.
The Brewers and Cardinals close out the three-game series on Thursday night, with Tyler Thornburg (1-1) scheduled to start for Milwaukee against Joe Kelly (8-3) for St. Louis. Game time is 7:15 p.m. Central Time on Fox Sports Wisconsin.
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