MILWAUKEE -- The Cardinals aren't quite the juggernaut this season as they've been in years past, but one wouldn't know it by watching them continue to torment the Brewers.
Matt Adams and Randal Grichuk hit solo home runs, Mike Leake pitched seven innings with a season-high 10 strikeouts and the Cardinals beat the Brewers for the ninth time in 12 tries this season, 5-1, at Miller Park in Sunday's first-half finale. The Cardinals have won every series between the teams since May 2014, including four series this season, and are 29-12 at Miller Park since the start of 2012.
"Great win," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Mike was really good today. He got into some bad spots and made better pitches when that happened. Guys made good plays behind him, we had some timely hits. Just all around, a good effort."
On Sunday, the Cardinals beat the Brewers' best starter, Junior Guerra, who was 3-0 with a 0.81 ERA in his past three games, including consecutive scoreless starts against the Dodgers and Nationals that spanned 15 1/3 innings. Adams tied the game at 1 when he wrapped a home run around the right-field foul pole in the second inning (tracked at 455 feet by Statcast™) and Grichuk provided insurance with a long ball in the sixth, marking the second time in Guerra's 13 starts that he surrendered multiple homers.
"It certainly wasn't like his last two, but I thought he pitched fine," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He had to battle through it a little bit, but he had good stuff."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bloop and a score: Scoring a runner from first base typically requires a ball to be hit down the line, in the gap or over the fence, but the Cardinals needed none of those options to take the lead in the fifth. Following a two-out single that hit Guerra's glove, Aledmys Diaz scooted home on a Stephen Piscotty single to center field. Down 1-2 in the count, Piscotty hit a ruptured duck that went in and out of a diving Brewers center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis' glove. As Nieuwenhuis scrambled to locate the ball, Diaz raced 270 feet around the bases and put St. Louis up, 2-1.
"I think right from the top, Diaz wanting to do something special there and once he got around second base, just picking up the third-base coach and trusting him," Matheny said. "[Third-base coach] Chris Maloney did a nice job of rolling him."
Said Guerra: "[Nieuwenhuis] gave his full effort to try and make a play. Unfortunately, he just came short a little bit."
All-Star sendoff: The Brewers held a brief pregame ceremony to honor their lone All-Star Game representative, Jonathan Lucroy, who returned the favor by delivering a two-out RBI single in the first for a 1-0 lead against Leake. The Milwaukee catcher continues to mash in his career against Leake, improving to 19-for-38.
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Adams family: Adams came in on an 0-for-27 skid, with his last hit coming June 28. In the second against Guerra, Adams snapped that streak with a majestit blast down the right-field line. It was the second-longest homer hit by a Cardinal this season, only behind Matt Holliday's 466-foot dinger at Miller Park on Memorial Day. The first baseman added an insurance run with an RBI double in the ninth.
"Even through the little scuffle, I felt that I was squaring up some balls and just hitting them hard right at them," he said. "But I was swinging at balls I normally don't swing at, and the last couple of days, I felt I was able to manage the strike zone a little bit better and get better pitches to swing at." More >
Big man stranded:Chris Carter tripled to the right-field corner leading off the seventh, his fourth career three-base hit and his first since May 3, 2014. The Brewers couldn't cash in, as Leake retired Nieuwenhuis on a soft lineout, Hernan Perez on a strikeout and Ramon Flores on a groundout to keep the Brewers' deficit at 3-1. It marked the second time in the game that the Brewers put a runner at third base with no outs, but couldn't score.
"The big thing is to keep getting runners on base," Counsell said. "We've done a good job of that but on days like today when we don't draw any walks, we've struggled to score. Those at-bats, contact is important in those at-bats. I don't think it's an approach thing. I think our approach has been all right. We just have to try and get better at it."
"I think the bobblehead era feels like it's ending. This is the start of a new era. This can be the next great giveaway." -- Counsell, joking about the Bob Uecker alarm clocks distributed to fans at Sunday's game. They go off to Uecker's voice saying, 'Get up, get up, get out of bed.'
Cardinals: Following the All-Star break, the Cardinals play host to the Marlins for a three-game set beginning Friday at 7:15 p.m. CT as the franchise celebrates its 2006 World Series championship. Matheny has yet to name the starter for the opener against Miami, which sits one game ahead of St. Louis in the National League Wild Card standings at the midway point.
Brewers: Righty Matt Garza and the Brewers hit the road after the break for six games against the Reds and Pirates, beginning with Friday's 7:10 p.m. CT series opener at Great American Ball Park. Opponents are hitting .336 against Garza in five starts since the right-hander returned from a season-opening stint on the disabled list.
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