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Diaz's homer looms large as Cards edge Crew

MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- A banged-up Aledmys Diaz did not start for the Cardinals on Saturday, but he made his presence felt with one big swing off the bench.

Diaz, sitting out the start after he tweaked his back and shoulder the night before, delivered a pinch-hit, tie-breaking home run in the seventh inning to back starter Lance Lynn, and the Cardinals held off a Brewers rally in the eighth on the way to a 4-1 win over Milwaukee at Miller Park.

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MILWAUKEE -- A banged-up Aledmys Diaz did not start for the Cardinals on Saturday, but he made his presence felt with one big swing off the bench.

Diaz, sitting out the start after he tweaked his back and shoulder the night before, delivered a pinch-hit, tie-breaking home run in the seventh inning to back starter Lance Lynn, and the Cardinals held off a Brewers rally in the eighth on the way to a 4-1 win over Milwaukee at Miller Park.

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Diaz's shot off Brewers reliever Carlos Torres and Cardinals reliever Brett Cecil's bases-loaded escape with a one-run lead in the eighth allowed Lynn to win his second straight start. Jedd Gyorko tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth when he circled the bases on an RBI triple and an error, giving the Cardinals -- despite going 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position -- their fifth victory in six games following a 3-9 start.

Video: STL@MIL: Lynn fans seven, holds Brewers to one run

"Torres is a tough righty," Diaz said. "He has a great slider. I was looking to get a ball to hit as hard as I can. Sometimes you are quick with your hands and you get better results. That was the case."

Seven of the Brewers' 10 losses this season have been hung on a relief pitcher, most in the Majors. It's partly a product of playing close games.

"If that's the way we're going to play them, perfect," Torres said. "Our pitching staff works hard every day, our fielders work hard every day. ... If we win more of those one-run ballgames than we did last year, we'll be in a good spot."

Three of the Brewers' first four batters in the game reached safely against Lynn, including Travis Shaw on an RBI double that gave Shaw 18 hits this season, and 14 for extra bases. But Lynn stiffened after that hit, retiring the next 11 batters in a row and positioning the Cardinals to tie the game in the fourth inning and push ahead in the seventh.

Video: STL@MIL: Shaw doubles to left and scores Villar

"That was big," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It could have been a really big inning. To get out of there with just the one was game-changing, even early."

Lynn surrendered one run on three hits in six innings and struck out seven in a good duel with Brewers starter Chase Anderson, who lowered his ERA to 1.13 by holding St. Louis to one unearned run on six hits in six innings, with a walk and six strikeouts. Anderson, however, couldn't come through in a critical moment at the plate, contributing to the Brewers' fourth loss in five games.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Good play, bad play: With Randal Grichuk at second base in the fourth, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun robbed Kolten Wong of a hit by charging in and making a nice diving catch. But his highlight went awry when Braun threw toward second in an effort to double up Grichuk, only to see the baseball sail over the bag and get past first baseman Eric Thames, too. When it bounced into the Brewers' dugout, Grichuk was awarded home, tying the game at 1-1.

Video: STL@MIL: Grichuk scores off Braun's error

Squeezed out: Brewers manager Craig Counsell is no fan of bunts, but he ordered a safety squeeze with two strikes against Anderson in the fifth. With one out and the teams still tied, Keon Broxton stole second base on Lynn's strike 2 to Anderson and took third when Cards catcher Yadier Molina's throw bounced into center field. Anderson walked down to third base coach Ed Sedar to make sure he had the right instructions, then squared to bunt the next pitch and whiffed on a sinker for a strikeout. Broxton, meanwhile, strayed too far from the bag and was caught in an inning-ending rundown.

Video: STL@MIL: Cardinals stop Broxton from stealing home

"I feel bad about letting Keon hang out to dry," Anderson said. "If I get that bunt down, that changes the game right there."

Last chance: Cecil had retired 10 consecutive batters over his last five appearances but found trouble in the eighth, when Thames and Braun worked back-to-back two-out walks to load the bases for Shaw, who was 7-for-19 against southpaws. Cecil jammed Shaw with a cutter, inducing a weak popup to third base that ended the threat.

Video: STL@MIL: Cecil escapes the bases-loaded jam

QUOTABLE
"Too many missed opportunities still. It can't keep happening. It is putting a lot on our pitching. The first three innings we had leadoff doubles and do a nice job getting them over twice and we don't get the job done. That's something we just have to get better at."
-- Matheny of his team going 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
By keeping the Brewers in the yard, St. Louis snapped Milwaukee's streak of 13 games with a home run, tied for the seventh-longest streak in Brewers history.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
St. Louis had a chance to add to a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning with runners at second and third with one out. Wong hit a grounder that second baseman Jonathan Villar fielded and threw home. Molina thought he touched home before he was tagged by catcher Jett Bandy, but home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale called him out. The Cardinals challenged the play, but the call stood after a review of 2 minutes, 42 seconds.

Video: STL@MIL: Villar throws out Molina at the plate

"I think had he called him safe, it would have stood, also," Matheny said. "I see what the dilemma was. It was trying to see whether their view was better than the umpire's view of when the initial contact was, because you could see the forceful contact was after the foot had been on the plate. You did see how the ball beat him at the same time. I get it, but I truly believe his foot was on the plate before contact was made."

WHAT'S NEXT
Cardinals: Mike Leake will take the ball for the series finale with the Brewers at 1:10 p.m. CT. The right-hander is off to an outstanding start, posting the lowest ERA (0.84), fewest runs allowed (2) and walks (1) through any season-opening, three-start stretch in his career.

Brewers: The last time Jimmy Nelson pitched, he worked at Wrigley Field with a stiff wind blowing out. He'll be happy to work in the climate-controlled environment of Miller Park on Sunday afternoon, even though the Cardinals have been one of his toughest opponents. Nelson is 0-7 with a 7.34 ERA in nine career games (eight starts) against St. Louis.

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Andrew Gruman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Milwaukee.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast