MILWAUKEE -- A Brewers sweep of the Cardinals this week would have vaulted them into third place, but Carlos Martinez & Co. shut down that possibility with authority.
Martinez finished his difficult month of May with an eight-inning gem while Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday fueled the Cardinals' offense in a 6-0 win over the Brewers on Monday at Miller Park. By turning back a Brewers team which had won five of its last six games, the Cardinals won for the 29th time in their last 39 games in Milwaukee.
"With the way our offense is this year and the way we feel we can swing the bat, if they can go out and give us those kinds of outings, we feel like we can win every night," said Carpenter, who aided with a four-hit afternoon.
The Brewers absorbed their first loss with Junior Guerra on the mound, despite the right-hander's quality start. Dragged down by some defensive lapses, Guerra was charged with four runs (three earned) on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings in his matchup with Martinez, who entered the day 0-5 with a 6.84 ERA in May but blanked the Brewers for eight innings on five singles.
"He can get you off-balance, and just called an unpredictable-type game at times," said the Brewers' Alex Presley, who manned left field while Ryan Braun remained sidelined by a stiff neck. "With his stuff, it's a tough combo."
Martinez, who reached 100 mph on his 82nd pitch, said he felt like Monday showcased his "best combination [of pitches] so far" this year.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Cards take advantage: Four Cardinals hits and some subpar Brewers defense conspired to produce the game's first three runs in the third inning. An error charged to third baseman Hernan Perez preceded Holliday's RBI single off a leaping Perez's glove and Matt Adams' RBI double over left fielder Presley's head. The Cardinals made it 3-0 when Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy couldn't snare a splitter in the dirt, allowing Brandon Moss to take first base on a swinging strikeout while Holliday scored an unearned run.
"They were kind of woulda-coulda-shoulda plays, but certainly not routine plays," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "The way Martinez was pitching, we pretty much needed to make every play today." More >
Saber-Mattrics: The three Matts in the Cardinals' lineup -- Carpenter, Holliday and Adams -- combined to go 9-for-13 with five runs scored and four RBIs in the win. Carpenter tallied a season-high four hits, including a pair of doubles, to snap an 0-for-8 skid. He also flaunted some aggressiveness, scoring from second on a seventh-inning wild pitch. Holliday enjoyed his third straight multi-hit game, clobbered a pitch 466 feet off Jhan Marinez for a homer in the seventh and drove in three.
"If he gets on base every time, we have a great chance to score, especially with doubles to lead off innings," Holliday said of Carpenter. "Those are key opportunities for us and makes it a lot easier for guys hitting behind him. He had a great game and really does set the tone for our offense." More >
Nice grab: The Brewers did produce one defensive gem in the fifth, when center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis made a leaping catch of a deep drive by Adams before banging into the wall. The grab helped Guerra produce his third quality start, and his fifth outing of at least six innings in six tries.
Back on track: Martinez snapped a personal five-game losing streak with his first quality start this month. He induced a season-most three double plays to help him maneuver around two errors by his infielders and the five singles he allowed. Martinez also mixed in eight strikeouts, matching his season high. Martinez kept the Brewers hitless in four chances with a runner in scoring position, with three of those outs coming via strikeouts.
"That was phenomenal," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's who he can be. He can be as dominating, I think, as anybody in the game when he puts it all together. He had a good rhythm and everything he needed. He used his breaking ball, saw some curveballs. Changeup was good. Slider was tough to pick up. And [he] had a plus-plus fastball." More >
"Nothing can be perfect. It's part of it; you play to win the game. Things aren't going to go perfect all the time." -- Guerra, on the Brewers' sloppy third inning
"It feels like batting practice, but doing it in a game. So it feels good." -- Holliday, on hitting the fifth longest home run, according to Statcast™, in the Majors this season
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Brewers fell to 14-29 on Memorial Day, with losses in six of their last seven games on the holiday, including four in a row.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals:Mike Leake will look to close a terrific month of May when he starts for the Cardinals in Tuesday's 7:10 pm CT game at Miller Park. Leake has posted a 2.18 ERA in five May starts, four of which the Cardinals have turned into wins. He's allowed four runs over his last 28 innings.
Brewers:Wily Peralta will take the mound as the Brewers look to even the series. Peralta has pitched more effectively over his last two starts after seeing his ERA jump to a league-worst 7.30 on May 14. He is 4-9 with a 5.00 ERA in his career against the Cardinals.