Milwaukee's bench was long empty of healthy position players and Aramis Ramirez had already undergone X-rays on his bruised left elbow by the time Khris Davis and Mark Reynolds delivered the 12th-inning RBIs the Brewers needed for a 5-3 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. By the end of a long night, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had used every healthy player at his disposal but one: Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang.
Davis was having a wretched night -- 0-for-5 with four strikeouts, eight left on base and one of the Brewers' many missed bunts -- before his go-ahead triple gave the Brewers their first lead. Reynolds was 1-for-5 with three strikeouts before his critical sacrifice fly made it a two-run advantage.
"It's crazy," Davis told reporters. "You come from being as low as that to answering questions from you guys."
Milwaukee scored three runs in the seventh inning against a previously untouchable Michael Wacha to push the game toward extra innings, and then won in the 12th against Cardinals reliever Seth Maness.
Six Brewers relievers combined for six scoreless innings to give Milwaukee hitters a chance. Zach Duke pitched two scoreless innings for the win, and Francisco Rodriguez stranded the tying runner on base to set a franchise record with his 12th save before the start of May.
The Brewers have 19 wins before May 1 for the first time in franchise history, and are 5 1/2 games better than second-place St. Louis in the National League Central.
"Obviously, we're aware of it," said the Cardinals' Allen Craig. "But it's long season and we've had a good team the last few years. We're confident in what we do, and we're going to go out and continue to play the game hard."
Meanwhile, in the Brewers' clubhouse, "Our bullpen came through awesome again. You can't say enough about those guys," said Reynolds. "We know they're going to keep us in it, and then it's just a matter of time before we push across a run. They're making it hard on themselves now because it's expected. If they give up a run, you're like, 'Dude, what?'"
Trailing by three after starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo surrendered a pair of solo home runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Brewers tied the game in the seventh by sending nine men to the plate against Wacha and reliever Pat Neshek. Jeff Bianchi, starting at shortstop for the injured Jean Segura, became the first of five consecutive batters to reach safely when he worked a Wacha walk. Pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay put the Brewers on the scoreboard with an RBI single, and Scooter Gennett hit another RBI single to chase Wacha from the game.
Neshek, a side-arming right-hander, struck out Jonathan Lucroy, but hit Ramirez in the left arm with a slider, forcing home a run. It was the second consecutive inning that Ramirez was hit by a pitch, and he left the game.
The teams did not score again until the 12th inning, when the Brewers went ahead. Jonathan Lucroy led off with a double, advanced to third on Martin Maldonado's groundout, then scored when Davis tripled to right field. One pitch earlier, Holliday let a Davis fly ball land in foul territory, rather than let Lucroy tag up and score on a sacrifice fly.
"It's as tough a one as we've had this year for sure," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of his team's loss. "It's not very often that we get a three-run lead here recently and are then not able to hold on to it."
Neither starting pitcher received a decision. Wacha was charged with three runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings, with two walks, two hit batsmen and nine strikeouts. Gallardo allowed three runs on seven hits in six innings for the Brewers' 21st quality start in 26 games this season.
Gallardo entered the night 1-11 with a 6.46 ERA against his "arch" nemesis, but limited the Cardinals to Matt Holliday's RBI single in the first inning, and solo home runs for Holliday and Craig in the sixth.
Both home runs came off breaking balls from Gallardo. In the previous half inning, Gallardo jammed the thumb on his right hand diving back to second base.
Asked whether his sore thumb impacted his pitches in that inning, Gallardo said, "No, not at all. I just fell behind. … Both of those pitches were up in the zone, and the innings before that, I was doing a good job of locating those pitches down in the zone and making them put it in play."
If that was frustrating for the Brewers, it was about to get worse. In the middle of the seventh inning, after Roenicke used Overbay as a pinch-hitter, Roenicke signaled to plate umpire Toby Basner for a straight up pitching change: Tyler Thornburg in place of Gallardo.
It was after he made that signal that Roenicke learned Ramirez was unable to stay into the game. But it was too late to save Overbay, so Reynolds moved to third base and Maldonado entered the game at first. Since Ryan Braun and Segura were injured, Roenicke was suddenly out of position players in a game that would go five more innings.
"It killed us," Roenicke said. "That's an easy flip if I know [Ramirez] can't go. But once I go 'straight up,' that's it. We're stuck."
He added: "That wasn't an easy one, when you start running out of players and Zach Duke is up there hitting. It's a grind. That's why it was so important to win it."