Cardinals end first half on good note, beat Brewers 5-1
MILWAUKEE — For a team that thinks it can and will play a whole lot better, the St. Louis Cardinals are in decent position.
Mike Leake struck out a season-high 10 over seven innings, Matt Adams and Randal Grichuk homered, and the Cardinals cooled off Milwaukee rookie Junior Guerra in a 5-1 victory over the Brewers on Sunday.
Aledmys Diaz scored from first on a single in the fifth to snap a tie and the Cardinals entered the All-Star break having cut a 12-game deficit to the Cubs to seven in the NL Central.
"That’s pretty impressive," manager Mike Matheny said, "because we haven’t played well."
Adams snapped an 0-for-27 skid with a solo homer estimated at 455 feet to lead off the second. That ended a 16 1/3-inning scoreless streak for Guerra (6-2). The right-hander allowed another solo shot to Grichuk in the sixth and snapped a three-start winning streak.
Grichuk and Adams added RBI hits in the ninth.
"Even though the (hitless skid) I felt that I was squaring up some balls and just hitting them hard right at them," Adams said. "But I was swinging at balls I don’t normally swing at. The last couple days I felt I was able to manage the strike zone a little bit better."
Jonathan Lucroy had two hits, including an RBI single in the first for the Brewers, who are 0-13-1 in their last 14 series with St. Louis.
Strikeouts have been a problem for Milwaukee’s offense all season long, and Leake (6-7) was an unlikely candidate to keep that going.
Leake entered with a rate of 5.7 strikeouts-per-nine-inning, ranking 91st out of 99 qualifying pitchers in the majors. However, he used his slider to keep Milwaukee off balance.
"I had that to go to because it was working and they were swinging over it," Leake said. "So why not use it a little bit more?"
Leake allowed six hits and no walks in his first win since June 12.
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"Mike was really good today," Matheny said. "He got into some bad spots and made better pitches when that happened."
The Brewers wasted Chris Carter’s leadoff triple in the seventh, his first since 2014, and didn’t score after putting runners at first and third with no outs in the third.
"To sustain a rally, you have to get something going there," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
Hernan Perez fanned three times, and the Brewers struck out 10 or more times for the 42nd time in 87 games.
Ex-Brewers reliever Jonathan Broxton struck out two in a perfect eighth before a two-run ninth put it away.
The Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the fifth thanks to their speedy All-Star. Diaz reached on his 19th infield single with two out. He then never stopped and scored from first on Stephen Piscotty’s bloop single off center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ glove.
"I just ran hard and looked at the third base coach," Diaz said. "I ran like it was a double in the gap and he sent me to home plate. I was ready to keep running."
The 31-year-old Guerra walked Leake with two out in the sixth to end his day. The former independent league right-hander gave up seven hits and three walks while striking out five.
"I didn’t make quality pitches at times," Guerra said. "When I missed my spot, they took advantage and got some big hits."
Cardinals: LF Matt Holliday (ankle) didn’t start for a second straight day, but flied out as a pinch hitter in the eighth. … C Alberto Rosario went 1 for 3 in his first big league start with veteran Yadier Molina resting a sore knee.
Brewers: OF Domingo Santana (elbow) will remain in Milwaukee during the All-Star break to rehab. "The goal is to hopefully increase his on-field activity starting Friday in Cincinnati," Counsell said. "Hopefully by the weekend, we can determine dates for (a minor league rehab assignment)."
A fan in the first inning made a leaning catch of a foul ball with his glove, bounced off the top of the Milwaukee dugout and fell backward to the ground. The man held onto the ball and drew cheers from Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, sitting nearby.
Cardinals: Diaz replaces injured teammate Matt Carpenter in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. St. Louis returns from the break Friday against Miami to start a 10-game homestand.
Brewers: Lucroy heads to his second All-Star Game. Milwaukee then begins a six-game trip in Cincinnati on Friday.