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Cards seal split vs. Crew with 5-run 4th inning

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

MILWAUKEE -- Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the Cardinals' recent slide had been the disconnect it spawned in regards to their offense. The gap between how the club believes its lineup should act and how it actually does has only widened in recent weeks, as manager Mike Matheny's more traditional edicts -- "take good at-bats," "grind" -- registered as out of tune behind his hitters' modern all-or-nothing approach.

By the time the Cardinals arrived at Miller Park for Sunday's series finale, the problem could be explained in two ways: part execution, part personnel. Then both arrived over a span of six innings, when St. Louis used maybe its most complete offensive attack of the season to capture an 8-2 win over the Brewers to seal a split of the four-game series.

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MILWAUKEE -- Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the Cardinals' recent slide had been the disconnect it spawned in regards to their offense. The gap between how the club believes its lineup should act and how it actually does has only widened in recent weeks, as manager Mike Matheny's more traditional edicts -- "take good at-bats," "grind" -- registered as out of tune behind his hitters' modern all-or-nothing approach.

By the time the Cardinals arrived at Miller Park for Sunday's series finale, the problem could be explained in two ways: part execution, part personnel. Then both arrived over a span of six innings, when St. Louis used maybe its most complete offensive attack of the season to capture an 8-2 win over the Brewers to seal a split of the four-game series.

View Full Game Coverage

"We put it together today," said Jose Martinez, whose 3-run home run broke the game open in the Cardinals' five-run fourth inning. "We try to do this every day -- keep the lineup moving, keep the rally going. When the whole team puts pressure on the pitcher, that's when positive stuff happens."

Video: STL@MIL: Martinez crushes a 3-run homer to left

By far the Cardinals' most consistent masher this season, Martinez provided the big hit as he has so often over the season's first few months. But more notable were the contributions wrapped around his Statcast-projected 436-foot shot off Jhoulys Chacin, which led to multi-run rallies in the fourth and fifth.

It was behind a multi-pronged assault that the Cardinals paraded around the bases to salvage a split: Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader (two hits, two runs apiece) paced the lineup from the bottom; Matt Carpenter reached three times and drove in two; Kolten Wong was on base twice and earned postgame praise for a productive out; winning pitcher Luke Weaver squeezed home a run, half of the total he allowed over 5 2/3 innings. It all led to a six-run margin of victory, St. Louis' largest in five full weeks.

"Just a well-played game," Matheny said. "The guys just kept coming. It feels good to see that kind of offense."

Video: STL@MIL: Matheny on Fowler, Weaver after 8-2 victory

Better yet for Matheny was where the spark came from. His role reduced and average still miles below the Mendoza Line, Fowler proved the "ignitor" he's sporadically been this season. His two opposite-field doubles -- one poked, one pounded -- began both rallies. Fowler also added a pair of athletic plays in right.

"We need him feeling good about his game overall," Matheny said. "Taking better swings, a better approach and being an ignitor. That's the guy we've seen against us so many times."

Fowler credited an unlikely source for helping him rediscover his timing: his pitching coach. Hitting .166/.273/.271 after this week's series in Philadelphia and admittedly "out of sorts," Fowler asked Mike Maddux for permission to track pitches during St. Louis' starter's pregame bullpens. Only there did Fowler feel he could simulate the velocity he'd see in games.

"I played this game for 10 years, I know I can play, but it's tough in this new role," Fowler said. "It's little things that make a big difference. Timing, feel, the reps. Just getting back into the swing of things, if you will."

Video: STL@MIL: Fowler drills a double to lead off the 5th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Weaver bounces back: The last two months have "been a grind," Weaver said, and his first two innings Sunday were, as well. Spotted a one-run lead in the first, Weaver gave two right back on a Christian Yelich home run and Hernan Perez RBI single, and then he labored through the second. He needed 53 pitches to complete the first two frames, making his first win since May 11 seem like a longshot.

But Weaver struck out four across 1-2-3 innings in the third and fourth before exiting in the sixth with a four-run lead. He struck out a season-high nine to snap a seven-start winless streak.

"The first inning, it was like, 'Here we go again,'" Matheny said. 'It means a lot for him to right the ship."

Video: STL@MIL: Weaver fans Yelich to end the 2nd

SOUND SMART
The Cardinals' offensive effort stood in stark contrast to the rest of their seven-game road trip, over which they largely whiffed and waited to a 3-4 record against the Phillies and Brewers. Their five-run fourth inning was their first since Monday that featured more extra-base hits than strikeouts. St. Louis also walked at least seven times for the first time since May 6.

Video: STL@MIL: Bader pulls an RBI single into left field

HE SAID IT
"We're making strides, going in the right way. Today was a big day for a lot of us. Putting together good at bats. Fighting. We're trying to figure out our niche. Once that happens, you're going to see a different team." -- Wong, on the Cardinals' offense

"Sometimes they talk about fighters who have to get hit in the nose one time to be any good in the ring. Sometimes you get embarrassed and realize that's nowhere we want to be." -- Matheny, on rebounding from Thursday's 11-3 loss in the series opener

UP NEXT
The Cardinals will begin the process of filling Michael Wacha's rotation spot when they return home to open a three-game Interleague series on Monday against the Indians. Though Daniel Poncedeleon and Dakota Hudson could earn chances in place of Wacha, who is expected to miss several weeks with an oblique strain, the first crack will go to right-hander John Gant (1-2, 4.39 ERA). Right-hander Mike Clevinger (6-2, 3.00) is set to oppose Gant, who will make his fourth start of the season, with first pitch set for 7:15 pm CT at Busch Stadium.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Jose Martinez