Cardinals stunned late, maintain lead

Cardinals stunned late, maintain lead

ST. LOUIS -- Three outs away from moving closer to a National League Central title, the Cardinals took a punch to the gut when Milwaukee's Jason Rogers crushed a ninth-inning, go-ahead grand slam. Khris Davis then capped the seven-run inning with his second blast of the day, a three-run shot, sending the Brewers out of town Sunday with an 8-4 win and a series split at Busch Stadium.

Closer Trevor Rosenthal, seeking his single-season franchise-record 48th save, did not retire any of the four batters he faced after entering a 3-1 game. A leadoff single, followed by a hit batter and walk filled the bases for Rogers, who delivered the team's fourth pinch-hit home run. Rosenthal, who had allowed just one home run in his first 66 2/3 innings, served up go-ahead ninth-inning blasts twice in this series.

"That's a tough way to lose that one," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's a shame. I know we had high hopes of finishing the regular season here at home differently. That's a tough way to end it. I'm going to say how good Trevor has been all season -- as good as just about anybody in a long time. Just one of those days. It's unfortunate timing for it. That hurts."

Matheny on tough loss

With the Pirates' loss to the Cubs on Sunday night, the Cardinals' magic number for a division title fell to four and their NL Central lead over Pittsburgh remains three games. The Pirates host the Cardinals in a huge three-game series beginning Monday at PNC Park.

"This series was going to meaningful no matter what," the Cards' Matt Carpenter said. "It just looks like it's getting a little more. We have an opportunity to go in there and send a message. We're going to go there and try to win a division."

The Brewers were 0-85 when trailing after eight innings. The Cardinals, conversely, were 86-0 when taking a lead into the ninth.

"Playing within the division, it's always good to beat the guys at the end," Rogers said. "Maybe try to ruin their season or whatever."

The Cardinals had taken the lead in the seventh with back-to-back homers by Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty off Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress. It was the Cards' second set of back-to-back homers in four days, and Piscotty was a part of both. Carpenter, who had never hit more than 11 home runs in a season, leads the team with 27.

Cards go back-to-back in 7th

Rosenthal's third blown save cost starter John Lackey the opportunity to become the fourth Cardinals pitcher to win 10 games at Busch Stadium III in a season. Lackey's only costly mistake was a second-inning homer to Davis. His starting opposition, Tyler Cravy, pitched three scoreless innings by working around one hit and three walks.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In a pinch: Rogers delivered the fifth pinch-hit grand slam in Brewers history, and the first since Matt Mieske's against the Twins two decades ago on Sept. 3, 1995. The only other go-ahead, pinch-hit grand slam in the ninth inning belonged to Joe Lahoud, in 1973. Rogers pumped his fist as he rounded first base after the first grand slam of his Major League career. More >

Rogers on his clutch grand slam

Back-to-back: Carpenter and Piscotty did their seventh-inning damage against a pitcher not accustomed to allowing home runs. Sunday marked Jeffress' 149th appearance in the Major Leagues, and the first time he was touched for multiple homers. He entered the day having allowed only three home runs in his first 69 appearances as a setup man this season. The Cardinals have hit back-to-back blasts three times this season.

"I wouldn't know the last homer he gave up," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who was informed it was back on May 31. "It surprises you. He's been so good in that area."

Home sweet home: With a strikeout of Hernan Perez to strand the bases loaded in the sixth (dropping Perez to 0-for-14 lifetime with the bases loaded) and a pair of flyouts to leave a runner in scoring position in the seventh, Lackey assured himself another quality start at Busch Stadium. He went at least six innings deep and allowed no more than three earned runs in every one of his 17 home starts. That translated to a 1.92 ERA.

Lackey's one-run outing

"Probably ever," Lackey said, when asked if this was his most consistent season since 2007, when he finished third in the American League Cy Young vote. "I felt good. I threw the ball well. I kept them in the game." More >

Second-half power show: Davis put the Brewers on the board with a solo home run in the second and added insurance with a three-run shot in the ninth, tying and passing Ryan Braun for the team lead with 26 home runs. Twenty of those have come since the All-Star break; only Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez (25) has cleared the fences more frequently in the second half. Richie Sexson holds the Brewers' record for homers after the break, with 27 in 2001.

Davis' two-homer day

QUOTABLE
"This game's a lot of fun when stuff like this happens. Obviously, we haven't had enough of these moments this year. When they do occur, you have to embrace them." -- Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, talking about a victory he viewed as a bystander. He was shut down Sunday over concerns about further aggravating a back injury that will require surgery after the season. More >

"I felt good. It just seemed like I was trying to get in a groove and couldn't quite get there. I was falling behind and they did a good job of taking advantage of some free passes and then getting into a count to hit. Rogers did a good job of hitting that mistake." -- Rosenthal, after blowing his first save of the second half

Lackey, Rosenthal on 8-4 loss

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With their 37th sellout of the season, the Cardinals drew 3,520,889 fans over their 81 home dates. It was the fourth-highest season attendance total in franchise history and represented an average attendance of 43,468 per game, second highest in the Majors behind only the Dodgers.

Cravy pitched three scoreless innings before Counsell went to the bullpen, leaving Cravy at 0-8 with a 5.75 ERA. If he doesn't log a win in the Brewers' remaining six games, Cravy will become the 18th pitcher since 1901 with eight or more losses in a season and no wins.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Cardinals lost their challenge in the fifth after requesting a second look on Carpenter's slide into third base. The call on the field -- that Carpenter had been tagged out by third baseman Perez -- was confirmed after a 45-second review.

Segura gets the out at third

WHAT'S NEXT
Brewers: After their final off-day Monday, the Brewers open their final road series in San Diego on Tuesday at 9:10 p.m. CT with right-hander Jorge Lopez making his Major League debut. Lopez, 22 and a former second-round Draft pick, was the Brewers' Minor League pitcher of the year.

Cardinals: The Cardinals will kick off their final road trip with a huge series against the Pirates beginning Monday. Lance Lynn (12-10, 3.16 ERA) draws the start against J.A. Happ (10-8, 3.88 ERA) as the NL Central's top two teams vie for a division title. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.