ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Cardinals relied on power and the pitching of Carlos Martinez to solve their home woes Friday night.
Matt Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty supplied two-run homers for the National League’s leading home run team and Martinez (14-7) pitched seven strong innings in a 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
The win improved the Cardinals to 31-38 at Busch Stadium and kept them a half-game behind the New York Mets for the NL’s second wild card.
Jimmy Nelson (7-14) retired the first eight Cardinals before Martinez started a two-out rally with a single up the middle. Carpenter followed with his 19th home run, Kolten Wong walked and Piscotty gave St. Louis the lead by hitting his 21st homer into the bullpen in right field.
"That gave me the extra energy to make it through and get the win for the team," Martinez said of the long balls.
Martinez gave up nine hits and hit two batters in seven innings but was helped by three double plays. He equaled his win total from last season and improved to 3-0 in four starts against Milwaukee.
"He’s our guy right now," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Carlos has been so consistent we’ve begun to anticipate he’s going to have that strong outing."
Nelson lasted six innings and allowed five hits but fell to 0-7 in eight career starts against St. Louis.
"The two guys that can really hurt him, hurt him," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Make mistakes to those guys and that’s what’s going to happen."
"It’s just a crazy game and stuff happens," Nelson said. "There’s never really just one answer in this game to anything. You don’t want to think there’s something wrong and start overanalyzing stuff so you just try to keep it simple."
Scooter Gennett’s two-run homer in the third gave the Brewers a 3-0 lead. Milwaukee scored an unearned run in the first when Gennett walked, Chris Carter was hit by a pitch and Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a hard one-hopper that shortstop Jedd Gyorko did not handle.
After the first-inning error, the Cardinals’ defense later stopped two potential rallies. Piscotty made a running, over-the-head catch that saved a run in the sixth and Wong helped Martinez escape the third by making strong plays on two grounders at second base.
"Defense showed up, for sure," Piscotty said.
Wong reached base three times by walking twice and getting hit by a pitch.
"I’m just tired of people thinking that I’m not good," said Wong, who has been relegated to backup duty much of the season. "I believe in myself to the fullest."
Seung-Hwan Oh worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth for his 17th save in 20 chances.
Martinez induced double-play grounders in the second and third innings to increase his NL-leading total to 32, two shy of the Cardinals’ team record set by John Denny in 1978. Wong backhanded a grounder up the middle and scooped the ball from his glove to Gyorko to start the third-inning double play. "That’s one of the best plays we’ve seen here," Matheny said. The Brewers popped out into a double play in the fourth.
Cardinals: SS Aledmys Diaz (right thumb) went 2 for 4 for Double-A Springfield in a rehab start Friday night. … RHP Trevor Rosenthal (shoulder inflammation) will throw to hitters Saturday for the first time since he went on the DL on July 26.
Brewers: RHP Chase Anderson (8-11, 4.73) has allowed three earned runs in 10 1/3 innings in two starts at Busch Stadium this season.
Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (10-8, 4.61) has allowed one home run at home this season but has lost his past two home starts.