ST. LOUIS -- On a night when the Cardinals could have climbed to the top of the National League Wild Card standings, they instead played themselves right out of postseason position. With yet another ugly performance in front of the home crowd on Thursday, the Cardinals took a 12-5 punch to the gut from the Brewers, who hadn't scored that many off St. Louis since July 2010.
Behind a three-RBI night from Hernan Perez and three home runs from the bottom half of their order, the Brewers battered a Cardinals team that had won 11 of the first 14 meetings between the two clubs. The loss not only dropped the Cardinals to 30-38 at Busch Stadium this season, but it bumped them out of a tie with the Mets for the second Wild Card spot.
"We're just going to have to continue to figure out how to play good baseball every single night," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It doesn't matter where we are. We have shaken up as many things as we could possibly shake up. We just have to go play good baseball. I don't care where. With this amount of time left, that's all there is to it."
The Brewers, winners in seven of their last eight, jumped on Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia for five runs over the first four innings. Domingo Santana and Orlando Arcia connected for homers on consecutive pitches in the second, and Brewers starter Junior Guerra sparked a two-run third with the first of his two hits on a night in which he improved his record to 8-3.
A six-run sixth in which the Brewers sent 10 batters to the plate against relievers Mike Mayers and Dean Kiekhefer erased the chance for any potential late-inning intrigue. Perez tied his career high with a four-hit night. Arcia turned in a three-hit game. And the top two hitters in Milwaukee's lineup (Jonathan Villar and Keon Broxton) combined to find their way to the basepaths seven times. Every Brewers starter not named Ryan Braun had a hit, and Braun contributed a pair of RBIs.
"This is largely a group that's going to be around next year, and there's competition for playing time. I think that helps," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I don't think that's the only thing going on, but I think that helps. Our effort … has not changed."
The Cardinals, who haven't won a home series since July 18-21, fell to 2-8 in the opening game of a homestand this season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Crew takes control: Santana and Arcia smacked consecutive pitches from Garcia with two outs in the second for the Brewers' seventh back-to-back home runs this season, and a 2-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish. Santana's line-drive shot was impressive, leaving the bat at 110 mph with a 21-degree launch angle and landing a projected 440 feet away from home plate in straightaway center field, according to Statcast™. Arcia's homer was the first of his three hits, continuing a recent hot streak during which the rookie is 18-for-49 (.367) with three homers over his last 15 games.
"From the moment I got called up, I just felt like this is what I was born to do, this was my dream," Arcia said through a translator. "Now it is time to work hard to make sure I stay up here." More >
Where's the relief? Just as it seemed Kolten Wong's two-run, fourth-inning homer might make things interesting, the Cardinals watched it all unravel in the hands of their bullpen. Within a two-inning span, a two-run deficit morphed into nine-run hole. Mayers allowed six of those runs in a one-inning relief appearance. His ERA climbed to 40.50 as a result. Kiekhefer couldn't help him either, as he allowed three inherited runners to score. On the season, 10 of the 12 baserunners Kiekhefer has inherited have scored.
"Today was just one of those games where things went bad and they just kept going in that direction," Matheny said.
Hernan stays hot: If Guerra is the Brewers' biggest surprise this season in the pitching ranks, Perez takes that award for position players. Removed from the roster last winter and re-signed to a Minor League contract, Perez didn't make the Opening Day roster but has developed into one of the team's most versatile and productive players, delivering four hits on Thursday for the second time in three days. He had an RBI double in the third inning and a two-run double in the Brewers' big sixth that pushed the lead to 11-3.
"He earned his playing time," said Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado, who hit a two-run homer in the sixth. "He got taken off the 40-man, got back to the big leagues, and to put up those numbers, it's amazing."
Gone so soon? Garcia became the third straight Cardinals starter to exit without finishing five innings when he was yanked after 3 2/3 frames. Garcia was knocked around for eight hits -- more than he had allowed in two previous home starts against Milwaukee. He's now lost four straight decisions for the second time in his career. As for the Cardinals' rotation, it has managed to collect just five wins in the team's last 19 games.
"It's not the team. Today, it was me," Garcia said. "I didn't get the job done. I didn't come through. The guys scored some runs against a tough pitcher, a good lineup over there. I just didn't get the job done."
"I've been in the dugout the past few days, spikes on, wrists taped, ready to go. That was sweet, man." -- Brewers reliever Michael Blazek, who is still working back from a forearm injury but was available to pinch-run for Guerra in the sixth, scoring his first career run. Instead of sneaking onto the field to dig up home plate after the game, Blazek took home the lineup card from the dugout. He will throw his latest bullpen session on Friday and still hopes to pitch this season.
"To touch first base is the beginning. [People said], 'On the first pitch, hit a homer.' No, I don't need to hit a homer. I want to get a base hit, get to first and start from there." -- Cardinals rookie outfielder Jose Martinez, on collecting his first Major League hit and RBI after 887 Minor League games
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
A well-used challenge by the Brewers sapped some of the Cardinals' offensive momentum in the second. After opening the inning with a single and advancing to second on Wong's walk, Randal Grichuk was caught drifting too far from second on his lead. Maldonado threw a strike to second, and Grichuk was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned after a 59-second review.
"That changed the inning, for sure," Counsell said. "That was a big play in the game."
The Cardinals kept the Brewers from adding a 13th run with a successful challenge in the eighth. Arcia, initially ruled safe at first as he hustled to try to beat out a double play, was called out following a 42-second review. The overturned call ended the inning and prevented Perez from scoring.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: The Cardinals have been tough on Jimmy Nelson, who takes the mound for Milwaukee in Friday's 7:15 p.m. CT game. Nelson is winless with a 7.57 ERA in eight career games (seven starts) against St. Louis, though he's held the Cardinals to five earned runs in 12 innings (3.75 ERA) in two starts this season.
Cardinals:Carlos Martinez will look to continue his dominance over the Brewers when he starts the second game of this four-game series at Busch Stadium. Martinez, who held Milwaukee to one run over six innings on Aug. 29, has a 1.20 ERA in 18 career appearances against the club. This year, the Brewers have scored two runs off Martinez in 19 innings.