Heyward's blast builds Cards' Central lead
MILWAUKEE -- Carlos Martinez got back on track, and so did the Cardinals. Martinez pitched eight sharp innings before Jason Heyward's 10th-inning two-run home run beat the Brewers, 3-1, and widened St. Louis' lead in the National League Central.
Martinez, who'd allowed three or more runs in each of his previous eight starts, took a tough-luck no-decision after holding Milwaukee to one run on four hits, with nine strikeouts. The Brewers scored on Khris Davis' home run leading off the fifth inning, but Heyward had an answer when he doubled and scored in the sixth. In the 10th, Heyward's home run off Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg sent the Cardinals to only their fourth victory in 12 games.
The Cardinals added a half-game to their lead over the second-place Pirates, who sit three games back after splitting a doubleheader vs. the third-place Cubs in Pittsburgh. St. Louis also became the first team in baseball to reach the 90-win plateau, matching the team's total from last season with 18 regular-season games remaining.
"It was the best I've ever seen him throw," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Martinez. "That was no-hit stuff."
The Brewers fell to 62-82 and ensured a losing season. They have lost four straight games, the last two in extra innings.
"It's frustrating," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "I thought we played a nice game and pitched really well tonight. But when you play [the Cardinals] -- I don't think they threw a fastball under 95 [mph] tonight -- runs are going to be at a premium. You're going to get limited opportunities."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Escaping trouble: A questionable defensive decision by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina left Martinez in a jam in the sixth, but stellar defense by St. Louis helped keep Milwaukee off the board. After Martinez walked pinch-hitter Shane Peterson to start the inning, Molina tried to get an out at second base on a dribbler hit in front of the plate by Scooter Gennett. Elian Herrera then appeared to bunt for a base hit, but Martinez made an athletic play and a leaping throw to retire Herrera. After an intentional walk, Martinez got Adam Lind to hit a ground ball to first baseman Mark Reynolds, who got the out at first before firing to Molina to nab Peterson at the plate.
"The game changed on the play [Martinez] made on the bunt," Counsell said. "That's bases loaded with nobody out with any other pitcher. That was just a heck of a play, an outstanding play. It was probably one of the better plays you'll see a pitcher make."
Tiebreaker: Martinez had retired 10 batters in a row and 12 of the first 13 men he faced before Davis connected with an 0-2 fastball that came in at 98 mph and went out to straightaway center field. It was Davis' 21st home run this season and his 14th since Aug. 8. He's hit 39 percent of the Brewers' home runs since that date; Ryan Braun is the team's runner-up with six home runs since then.
Decisive blow: Heyward belted a 3-1 fastball from Thornburg into the seats in right-center field in the 10th inning. The go-ahead home run capped a stellar day for Heyward, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run, two runs scored and two RBIs. Heyward has recorded multiple hits in four consecutive games and is hitting .478 during his current six-game hitting streak.
"I was just trying to be aggressive in the zone," Heyward said. "I was able to lay off a couple of pitches during that at-bat and I got rewarded for it."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cardinals have won 26 of the last 36 regular-season matchups between these teams at Miller Park.
"If getting the pitcher out is the thing we have to improve on, then I think we'll be all right." -- Counsell, joking pregame about rookie starting pitcher Ariel Pena's trouble retiring opposing pitchers. But for the third time in as many big league outings, he served up a hit to his counterpart. Martinez's double in the third inning didn't burn Pena, who drew praise from Counsell after limiting the damage to one run and four hits in five innings.
Cardinals: Jaime Garcia will look to bounce back from his worst start of the season when he takes the ball Wednesday against the Brewers at 7:10 p.m. CT. The left-hander, who has 13 quality starts in 16 outings, allowed a season-high six runs in a season-low 4 1/3 innings in Cincinnati on Sept. 10. The Brewers have scored just one run over 14 innings against Garcia in 2015.
Brewers: Wily Peralta is seeking his first victory against the Cardinals this season as he readies for Wednesday's start at Miller Park. He's 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts against St. Louis in 2015.
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