ST. LOUIS -- There would be no series sweep on Sunday afternoon for the Cardinals, who dropped a 2-1 game to the Brewers at Busch Stadium. But the finish couldn't foil all the positive momentum generated during a homestand that saw the Cardinals improve their position as postseason contenders.
St. Louis took five out of seven games against a pair of postseason contenders, ran its string of consecutive series wins to seven and improved to 14-4 in August. Those four losses have come by a combined four runs.
"I don't think we can play any more confident than we are right now," Matt Carpenter said. "I mean, when you look at the difference when we were down the last couple months, a game like today we could've ended up losing like 6-1. But we're 2-1, and we had a chance to win. We were right there. We feel like that every night."
Over the course of the homestand, the Cardinals inched past multiple National League Wild Card hopefuls and moved a game and a half closer to the Cubs, whom they trail by four games, in the NL Central.Though the Cards dropped out of the second position in the Wild Card race with Sunday's loss, they shaved two games off their deficit in a seven-day span.
The Brewers lead St. Louis by a half-game with one more series looming between the rival clubs the final week of the season.
"Honestly, these guys feel like they own some part of the Brewers, and they don't," Milwaukee's Jeremy Jeffress said. "We showed them today that we're not going nowhere. We're still in second place. We're still going to fight. This win felt great."
It nearly turned on the Brewers late, as the Cardinals' comeback attempt against the Brewers' top relievers fell only feet short.
After Patrick Wisdom pulled the Cards to within one with a 414-foot blast off Jeffress in the eighth, Carpenter crushed the next pitch 393 feet. It died just in front of the center-field wall. Jedd Gyorko then drove the final pitch of the game 373 feet, where Keon Broxton caught it up against the right-field wall.
"One of those tough breaks," Gyorko said. "I made a good swing, got the barrel on it. [Carpenter] said he crushed that ball, as well. It's a tough place to get balls out of."
Josh Hader's save made a winner out of starter Jhoulys Chacin, who helped halt the Brewers three-game skid by holding the Cardinals to four singles over six scoreless innings. It was quite the change in fortunes for Chacin, who, despite improving to 13-4 on the season, has had almost no success against the Cardinals.
He entered the day 0-7 with a 6.90 ERA in nine career appearances (eight starts) against St. Louis. This season alone, he had been knocked for 14 earned runs over 14 2/3 innings in three outings.
"This might have been the biggest game of the season for me," Chacin said. "The Cardinals have always been tough on me, and this year, it was no exception. I didn't think I was going to pitch against the Cardinals again, but I'm glad I got a chance."
On the other side, Cardinals starter John Gant battled through command issues for 4 1/3 innings. Mike Moustakas drove in both of Milwaukee's runs when he sliced an 0-2 changeup from Gant down the right-field line with two outs in the third.
Behind Gant, the Cardinals' bullpen posted zeros, giving the offense at least an opportunity to strike late.
"We came up short today, but overall, a really positive homestand," interim manager Mike Shildt said. "Another series win. Good consistent baseball. Today was a good baseball game. It just didn't go our way."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Wisdom's first clout: One week after tallying a number of firsts in his Major League debut, Wisdom added another to the list after being summoned to pinch-hit in the eighth. Wisdom deposited a 2-2 curveball into the seats in left-center field for his first home run as a Cardinal -- and the 100th of his professional career. He later traded one of his bats to the fan who caught the ball, which will be going to his parents.
"I felt pretty light running around the bases," said Wisdom, now 2-for-5 as a pinch-hitter. "It was special, something I'll never forget. [It] still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it right now."
HE SAID IT
"It's just consistent baseball. We are going out there every day and giving ourselves a chance to win. Pitching has been good. Bullpen has been good. And [the] lineup has been steady. We are really playing well. If you continue that stretch, no doubt you'll be playing October baseball." -- Carpenter
Left-hander Austin Gomber will be the first of three rookie starters the Cardinals send out to face the Dodgers in another series matchup of National League Wild Card contenders. Gomber will face lefty Alex Wood in Monday's series opener, which is scheduled for 9:10 p.m. CT at Dodger Stadium. The Cardinals hope to have second baseman Kolten Wong and right fielder/first baseman Jose Martinez back in the lineup for the series.