MILWAUKEE -- The long drought is over for Brewers hitters. For Jimmy Nelson, too.
Domingo Santana's RBI single in a three-run first inning snapped Milwaukee's weeklong funk with runners in scoring position, and Nelson pitched six quality innings for his first win against the Cardinals in 11 career starts as the Brewers took the opener of a three-game series, 3-2, on Tuesday at Miller Park.
"The Cardinals are always in it, no matter how many games they are back," said Nelson after four Brewers relievers preserved the victory. "Those guys always battle. They have a good core of guys over there, and they have a good team."
That good team threw its best pitcher, Carlos Martinez, who did not allow a run after the Brewers scored three times in the opening inning.
"There were other points in the game where I could have lost focus, but I said, 'OK, the first inning is over with,'" Martinez said through a translator. "I put that behind me and tried to learn from it and said, 'I'm not going to let things get to me.'"
But the Cardinals never got over the hump against Nelson, who allowed two runs on six hits in six innings for his team-best 13th quality start, and the first winning decision of his career against the Cardinals. Nelson entered the night 0-8 with a 7.01 ERA against St. Louis in 10 starts plus one relief appearance.
Yadier Molina and Tommy Pham delivered two-out RBI singles in the Cardinals' fifth unsuccessful attempt to climb back to .500 for the first time since June 2. The Cardinals have scored seven runs in their last five games.
Brewers relievers Jacob Barnes, Josh Hader, Anthony Swarzak and Corey Knebel covered the final three innings to secure the victory. The Cardinals' only hit against the quartet came in the ninth on Stephen Piscotty's one-out single, which hit off shortstop Orlando Arcia's glove in a near-collision with left fielder Ryan Braun. Knebel recovered for his 19th save.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Clutch hit: Before Tuesday, the Brewers' last hit with a runner in scoring position was Santana's single a week ago in Washington. It was Santana who snapped the longest such drought in franchise history, which grew to 0-for-33 when Braun drove in a run with a groundout and Travis Shaw struck out against Martinez in the first. With two outs and a runner at third base, Santana followed with a single up the middle to break the streak. He then scored on Manny Pina's double to boost the Brewers' advantage over opponents in the first inning this season to 88-51.
"The streak's over," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said with a smile. "It ended up being a big hit, got Manny up there, and we got another one. It was a big part of the win, for sure."
Out at home: Nelson kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard until the fourth inning thanks to a big assist from his defense in the third. Kolten Wong led off with a single and was off and running when Randal Grichuk doubled to the wall in left-center. Braun and Arcia combined for a strong relay home to catcher Pina in time for the out. The Cardinals briefly reviewed the play to determine whether Pina blocked home plate but opted against a challenge.
"The word we got was the ball took him to the spot where he was, and that's what it looked like to me, too," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of his decision not to ask the umpires to review whether Pina blocked Wong's lane to the plate. "He caught it and tagged all at the same time. Once again, I didn't think there was going to be a play. I was really surprised. Kolten went in as hard as he could directly into the plate."
Off the bat, Nelson and Pina did not think the Brewers would have a play, either. Nelson didn't even back up home plate.
"I always think we have a chance with Arcia, because he's shown to make some really big-time throws," Counsell said. "He threw a bullet, and Manny made a really difficult catch. Kind of a short hop, an in-between hop. Something that we practice quite a bit. It was a big play on both sides."
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With the win, the Brewers gave themselves two chances to snap the Cardinals' streak of 13 consecutive series victories at Miller Park. The last time the Brewers won a series against the Cardinals at home was 2012.
Cardinals: With Adam Wainwright still on the disabled list, the Cardinals will turn to Luke Weaver for his second spot start of the season in Wednesday's 7:10 p.m. CT game. Weaver, who was hurt by a grand slam in his five-inning outing last week, is 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts against the Brewers.
Brewers: Left-hander Brent Suter will look to build off his last start when he takes the mound on Wednesday. Suter allowed no runs on four hits in a career-high seven innings against the Cubs on Friday. He is 0-1 with a 3.12 ERA in three games against the Cardinals this season.
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