Cardinals 8, Brewers 3
Jake Westbrook only hoped his drive would stay fair. Turns out, Westbrook's big hit is keeping things interesting in the NL Central.
Westbrook hit his first major league homer - a grand slam - to lead St. Louis to an 8-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night.
''It's pretty special,'' Westbrook said. ''To go back and say you hit a grand slam in the big leagues, it's a lot of fun. ... I'm still not that great of a hitter.''
Rafael Furcal and Albert Pujols added solo homers as the Cardinals won their fifth in six games to cut the first-place Brewers' lead to 8 1/2 games in the NL Central.
''Our team needs to generate a lot of wins,'' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ''If we win a lot of games, a couple of weeks from now, we can get excited.''
The Cardinals' victory guaranteed Milwaukee will lose its first series at home since Arizona took two of three at Miller Park July 4-6. The Brewers haven't been swept at home this season.
''We still have to win games once they leave. We still have to play other teams. It's not too dramatic as far as they sweep us,'' Milwaukee's Prince Fielder said. ''It's not good for us. (But) it's not the end of the world.''
Furcal led off the game with a homer and Pujols followed two batters later with his NL-leading 32nd. Westbrook (11-7) tossed five innings, and his slam in the fourth gave St. Louis a 6-2 lead.
Of the last four pitchers to hit grand slams in the major leagues, three have been Cardinals.
Milwaukee has the best home record in the majors at 50-18, but the Brewers have been sloppy each of the last two games and failed in their second and final chance to set a new franchise record for wins in any month at 22.
''The hotness is still over there,'' La Russa said. ''They're legit, their record, they've earned and they'll be tough to catch.''
Brewers starter Randy Wolf (11-9) couldn't escape trouble in the fourth with the game tied at 2 after hitting the first two batters of the inning.
Yadier Molina followed with a sharp fly ball that hit the right-field wall.
David Freese stopped at third and Lance Berkman couldn't advance past second, leaving Molina momentarily hung up on the bases, but the Cardinals catcher scrambled back to first just ahead of Fielder's tag to load the bases.
''I did the right thing throwing it to home,'' second baseman Jerry Hairston said. ''It just so happens you don't expect a guy going back to first on a sure double.
''It's a weird play and it just worked out in their favor. Prince was right where he was supposed to be. Everybody was where they were supposed to be. You don't expect a guy hit a ball off the wall to have to go back to first.''
After Ryan Theriot's fielder's choice cut down Freese at the plate, Westbrook hit a drive down the left-field line for his first career home run. Pinch-hitter Corey Patterson's RBI double and Furcal's run-scoring single off Marco Estrada in the sixth gave St. Louis an 8-3 lead.
''We've got to go out there and win ball games, that's the attitude we're taking,'' Westbrook said. ''It was another good win for us and we need to do what we can to get on a good streak and keep it going.''
Corey Hart homered to start the game for Milwaukee, but Ryan Braun fell halfway down the third-base line on what would have been an inside-the-park homer in the third.
With Nyjer Morgan on first, Braun appeared to have an inside-the-park home run when center fielder Allen Craig awkwardly dived at the wall and the ball caromed away.
Braun rounded third base but lost his balance down the line and fell flat. By the time he got back on his feet, Molina had the relay throw and began a rundown that ended when Freese tagged him out at third.
Braun received a standing ovation from the crowd of 38,073 and a few chuckles in the dugout for his RBI triple, but the play only tied the score at 2 instead of giving the Brewers the lead.
''It's unfortunate,'' Fielder said. ''It was gravity.''
Westbrook followed with his big hit before Hairston's single in the fourth cut St. Louis' lead to 6-3, but the Brewers never got closer.
''We've established we're going to tough out the season,'' La Russa said. ''This month, there were a couple of periods there it was discouraging because Milwaukee couldn't lose and we were mugging games.''
NOTES: It was Furcal's 28th career leadoff home run. ... The Brewers agreed to terms with 16-year-old OF Juan Ortiz from the Dominican Republic on a 2012 minor league contract. The agreement is pending a standard MLB age-identification investigation. ... The Cardinals will shuffle their rotation again this weekend by moving RHP Edwin Jackson to Sunday's game against the Reds to help him avoid pitching against the Brewers for a fourth time in the span of just over a month. ... Milwaukee will try to avoid being swept at home for the first time this season on Thursday when Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo (15-8, 3.37 ERA) faces rookie RHP Brandon Dickson, who will be making his first major league start and third career appearance.