MILWAUKEE -- Yadier Molina got much more than he bargained for when he squared to sacrifice in the ninth inning of a tie game on Monday. That sacrifice, which was intended to move the potential go-ahead run to third, instead scored the winning run from first and jolted the Cardinals to a 6-5 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park.
With the come-from-behind win, the Cardinals padded their lead for the National League's second Wild Card spot. They are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Pirates, who lost, 8-7, to the Cubs in 13 innings.
The Cardinals, behind starter Carlos Martinez, looked in control early, but the Brewers nearly played spoiler in the series opener. With a four-run seventh that was highlighted by Orlando Arcia's solo homer and Jonathan Villar's game-tying RBI double, the Brewers took a 5-3 lead.
That was quickly wiped away with a two-run blast by Randal Grichuk, who became the third Cardinals player to homer on the night. His game-tying shot in the eighth set the stage for an eventful ninth. Pinch-hitter Greg Garcia led off the ninth with a double, and Stephen Piscotty walked to bring up Molina. Willing to give up an out for 90 feet, Molina laid down a bunt. Reliever Tyler Thornburg fielded and threw to third to retire the lead runner, but Villar's ill-advised attempt to also throw out Molina backfired.
His throw skipped past Scooter Gennett, who was covering first, into right field, allowing Piscotty to race from first to home as the winning run.
"When I throw that short hop, that ball hits and goes straight," Villar said. "Not everybody can catch that ball right there, because that's not an easy throw. That ball bounces hard."
Before all the late-inning, back-and-forth began, Martinez exited in line for what would have been his 13th win on a night when he notched a career-high 13 strikeouts. He gave up only two hits through five innings, though the Brewers scratched across a run in the sixth and final inning of Martinez's night. His pitch count (98) forced him out.
The Brewers took immediate advantage, pouncing on relievers Matt Bowman and Kevin Siegrist for four runs while sending 10 batters to the plate. In doing so, they turned a two-run deficit into a two-run lead. That took Brewers starter Zach Davies, who allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings, off the hook for the loss.Coming off a four-game sweep to the Pirates, Milwaukee has now lost five straight.
"We just didn't do quite enough right," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We have to capitalize on every single opportunity, defensively and offensively. Just a couple things we didn't do quite well enough; a couple of defensive things. ... You have to do a lot of things right against these teams."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Long gone: The Cardinals had no issues extending their home run streak to 18 games, one shy of the franchise record. Jedd Gyorko took care of that with his ninth home run in August, the most by a Cardinals player in a month since Carlos Beltran hit 10 in 2012. Kolten Wong, who had driven in the team's first run on a sacrifice fly, added a solo homer to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead in the seventh. Grichuk then tied the game with his two-run blast off Corey Knebel in the eighth. The Cardinals have homered in 19 straight games at Miller Park.
"I thought that was the right spot," Knebel said. "[Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado] made the call, and I was thinking the same thing in my head. [Grichuk] was on it, he got it."
Seventh heaven: Think the Brewers were glad to see anybody not named Martinez on the mound? Facing Bowman and Siegrist out of the Cardinals' bullpen in the seventh, seven consecutive Milwaukee hitters reached base consecutively to spur a four-run seventh. The Cardinals led, 3-1, entering the frame but the Brewers drew even on Villar's second double of the game and went ahead, 4-3, with Scooter Gennett's second RBI single. Following a Hernan Perez bases-loaded walk, Cardinals reliever Miguel Socolovich came on and prevented any further damage to allow for Grichuk's game-tying homer.
"We did a nice job coming back, especially with how Martinez threw the ball the first six innings," Counsell said. "There's a sliver lining that we're still fighting, for sure, but winning games against these teams, it's not easy."
Baker's dozen: Martinez was unhittable early and blew through the Brewers' order by recording eight of his first nine outs via a strikeout. He finished with a career-high 13 to become the Cardinals' fifth pitcher since 2000 to strike out 13 in a game. The others to have done so include Jaime Garcia (April 14, 2016), Shelby Miller (May 10, 2013), Chris Carpenter (June 13, 2006) and Matt Morris (Sept. 19, 2001). Like Martinez, Garcia and Morris had their prolific strikeout performances against Milwaukee. More >
Ar-see-ya: Arcia's second big league homer came in the seventh to draw the Brewers within one run of the Cardinals. The second batter to hit after Martinez's exit following six innings, Arcia lined a Bowman slider into the Milwaukee bullpen in left-center field. It continued a strong homestand for the rookie shortstop, who hit his first homer on Friday. Entering the homestand that began last Monday, Arcia was caught in a 2-for-34 funk at the plate, but has since gone 8-for-26 with two homers and six RBIs.
"He just made a bad throw. We talked about that situation out there and the possibility for a double play. He just rushed it a little bit probably. The big out was to get the out at third. We just didn't make the play." -- Counsell, on Villar's error in the ninth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Before Martinez, the last time that a Cardinals pitcher struck out 13 or more batters and did not get the win was when Bob Gibson struck out 14 in 1972 in a 3-2 loss to the Giants in St. Louis.
The Brewers set a franchise record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game with 19.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: Pitching on his 35th birthday, Adam Wainwright will try to end a tumultuous August on a positive note Tuesday against the Brewers. He's allowed 25 runs (20 earned) in 24 innings this month. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. CT.
Brewers: Wily Peralta gets the start for Milwaukee in the second game of the series against the Cardinals, with first pitch set for 7:10 p.m. CT. In his four starts since returning to the Majors, Peralta is 1-2 with 3.52 ERA.