MILWAUKEE -- Sliding since the All-Star break, the Brewers may have found something to build upon: A rare home series win against the rival Cardinals.
Jesus Aguilar homered for the second straight day and Keon Broxton saved one run while driving in another, sending the Brewers to a 2-1 win on Thursday. By taking two of three games, the Brewers took a series from the Cardinals at Miller Park for the first time since 2012, snapping St. Louis run of 13 consecutive series victories here.
"About time," said Broxton. "There's a lot of weird stats between us and the Cardinals that we've broken this year, which is really awesome. We're just trying to create something new here and build our own identity."
Brewers starter Matt Garza returned from an 11-day stint on the disabled list to pitch into the sixth inning, limiting the damage to one run on four hits, with two walks and four strikeouts to pick up his fifth win of the season. Michael Wacha, who had a 1.86 ERA over his last six starts, lasted only through the fourth.
"I'd say my stuff wasn't as sharp or as crisp as I've been used to, but sometimes it's that way whenever you go out and take the ball," Wacha said. "I just had to grind. They put together some good at-bats. I had to make some pitches with guys on base, and I was able to hold them to just one."
With Wacha out, Broxton delivered the go-ahead RBI hit when he connected on the third of three successive two-out singles against St. Louis reliever Brett Cecil in the fifth inning.
The Brewers' bullpen held on, even as the Cardinals put the tying runner in scoring position in three of the final four innings. Jacob Barnes stranded a pair of Garza's baserunners in the sixth and pitched a scoreless seventh inning before Anthony Swarzak and Corey Knebel sealed Milwaukee's fifth win in 17 games.
"[We did] a nice job of grinding through at-bats, even at the end," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It was the big hit that kind of eluded us."
Swarzak dodged a scare when Kolten Wong's one-out double struck high off the wall in the eighth inning, and Knebel had to work around a single and Stephen Piscotty's eight-pitch walk in the ninth for his 20th save. Knebel froze Greg Garcia with a curveball to strand a pair of runners to end the game.
"We're in a bit of an offensive rut right now, but that's OK. Our starters have been doing our job and our bullpen is shortening things up," Garza said. "As soon as our offense starts clicking, we'll be all right."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED No way, Jose: Before he drove in a run, Broxton took one away from Cardinals left fielder Jose Martinez by making a leaping catch at the wall in right-center field for the second out of the second inning. Broxton made the catch so casually that it took a replay or two to confirm that the baseball appeared headed over the fence for what would have been the game's first run, only to be pulled back.
"I thought it was gone as soon as he hit it," Garza said. "Broxton made a great catch. He's been doing it all year. If he doesn't get a hit, he's definitely robbing somebody back there. It was a huge catch. It was huge for momentum, too."
Said Broxton: "That's my job. The game didn't really tell me to get too excited about it. I just made a good play and helped Garza out and helped the team stay in a good position." More >
Turning point: After Garza walked the first two batters of the fifth inning and Garcia tied the game at 1 with a one-out single, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny wanted more. With runners at the corners, Matheny pulled Wacha in favor of pinch-hitter Luke Voit, whose ground ball up the middle was foiled by the Brewers' infield shift and became an inning-ending double play. Voit entered the day 3-for-9 in pinch-hit opportunities. The Brewers capitalized against Cecil in the bottom of the inning.
"He's at 80 pitches, and [with how] much he's thrown the last few outings here, we have to take a shot," Matheny said of his decision to go for offense over one more inning from Wacha. "Especially because you could see we weren't getting a whole lot of opportunities up to that point."
"For me, it's not so much winning against the Cardinals, it's winning. It's a big time of year. Every team we play, it's a big series for us right now. That was a hard-fought game and a hard-fought series. Three one-run games. Five one-run games on the homestand. It's [nice] coming out on top in a tough game." -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell
"We feel we have to get over .500 to win this division and so, you know .. we've got to get over it. That's a good start, for sure."
-- Wacha, on the Cardinals missing another chance to pull back to .500
ROUGH DAY BEHIND THE PLATE
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who has long appeared seemingly unaffected by the wear-and-tear of his position, took a beating behind the plate on Thursday. Molina was visited by the team's athletic trainer first in the opening frame, when a foul ball ricocheted off his chest protector and struck him on the collarbone. He went down again in the seventh when Domingo Santana's bat hit Molina on the back of the head on the backswing. Again, Molina remained in the game.
"He's good," Matheny said afterward. "He's a warrior."
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: The Cards will continue their road trip with a three-game series in Cincinnati that opens Friday at 5:40 p.m. CT. Right-hander Mike Leake will start for the Cardinals against rookie Asher Wojciechowski. Leake is 0-4 with a 4.79 ERA against his former club.
Brewers: The Brewers will pack their bags for a five-game road trip, starting with a three-games series in Tampa Bay beginning on Friday at 6:10 p.m. CT. The Brewers have not faced the Rays since playing a three-game set in July 2014. Tampa Bay won that series, 2-1, and holds a 6-3 all-time advantage.