A seemingly favorable schedule combined with a key injury to an NL Central rival may be just what the St. Louis Cardinals need to gain ground in the standings.
St. Louis (47-43) is third in the Central and 3 1-2 games behind first-place Cincinnati, which lost All-Star first baseman Joey Votto for at least three weeks with a knee injury Monday.
That could present the Cardinals with a chance to close in on first place, and a series against Milwaukee (42-47) may improve their odds.
St. Louis has won 15 of 20 against the Brewers, taking last year's NL championship series in six games. They have won eight of 10 at Miller Park, averaging 7.1 runs while batting .298 with 19 homers.
The Cardinals continued that success against the Brewers with a 3-2 victory Monday, scoring three times in the ninth off closer John Axford .
Holliday triggered the comeback with a tying two-run single and Allen Craig followed by driving in the go-ahead run after St. Louis was swept in three straight at Cincinnati over the weekend.
"We have to hit like we are capable of," Holliday said. "We've got to start playing well and beating the teams in our division and playing better."
Holliday is doing his part, hitting .439 with 12 doubles and 24 RBIs in his last 25 games. The six-time All-Star has a team season-high 15-game hitting streak and is 10 for 30 with six RBIs in his last seven visits to Miller Park, including three during the NLCS.
The Cardinals are scheduled to turn to Joe Kelly (1-1, 2.70 ERA), who hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his six starts since being recalled from Triple-A Memphis last month.
The rookie right-hander struggled with his command early in his most recent outing July 8 before the Cardinals rallied with three runs in the ninth to beat Miami 5-4. He threw 10 of his first 18 pitches for balls before settling down and allowing one unearned run and two hits with a season-high five walks in six innings.
Monday's loss was another setback for the Brewers, who announced earlier in the day that Zack Greinke will skip his scheduled start Wednesday and isn't scheduled to pitch again until July 24 at Philadelphia.
The Brewers are scheduled to give the ball to Randy Wolf (2-6, 5.80), who hasn't won since beating San Diego on April 30. He's 0-4 with a 5.42 ERA in 13 games - 12 starts - since that victory.
The left-hander has been particularly bad over his last four starts, compiling an 8.34 ERA while yielding seven homers in 22 2-3 innings.
Wolf's most recent appearance came out of the bullpen July 7, when he allowed one run and three hits in two innings at Houston.
He's won four of his last six starts against St. Louis behind a 4.15 ERA, including a road victory in Game 4 of last year's NLCS.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|July 08, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Bruised left leg|
|June 06, 2012||Jaime Garcia||15-Day DL||Strained left shoulder|
|June 06, 2012||Jaime Garcia||60-Day DL||Sprained left shoulder|
|May 31, 2012||Skip Schumaker||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|May 31, 2012||Skip Schumaker||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|May 23, 2012||Matt Carpenter||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||15-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
|June 02, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left quadricep|
|May 31, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Tight Achilles|
|May 28, 2012||Jonathan Lucroy||15-Day DL||Fractured right hand, out 4-6 weeks|
|May 26, 2012||Cesar Izturis||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|May 26, 2012||Travis Ishikawa||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Just when it looked as if the Milwaukee Brewers ' new closer was going to deliver an all-too-familiar result, Francisco Rodriguez managed to wiggle out of trouble - and finally help the bullpen deliver a win for Randy Wolf .
Although it wasn't pretty, Rodriguez picked up a save just hours after he was named the team's new closer and Wolf won his first game since April 30 as the Brewers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 on Tuesday.
"It was nice," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "It was nice for Randy, too. He pitched a great game, comes out again with people on base and you don't know what's going to happen."
The Cardinals' Matt Holliday left the game after getting hit in the leg with a pitch in the first inning and Brewers slugger Ryan Braun was removed with a right adductor strain in the seventh. Braun said the injury, something he has been dealing with off and on all season, wasn't serious. He hoped to play in Wednesday's series finale, a day game.
"Hopefully," Braun said. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow."
Rickie Weeks hit a mammoth home run to give the Brewers the lead in the fourth.
Wolf (3-6) went 6 2-3 innings, giving up two runs and eight hits with a walk and six strikeouts to end his winless streak.
"It's been a very, I think, tumultuous year to say the least," Wolf said. "I've had my own personal demons to deal with, just my own frustrations. It's been tough emotionally more than anything."
Cardinals starter Joe Kelly (1-2) took the loss. St. Louis' Lance Berkman was ejected for arguing a call.
With John Axford continuing to struggle and blowing another save Monday night, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke gave the closer's job to Rodriguez before the game.
"Definitely, I didn't want to get the job in this way," Rodriguez said.
It wasn't easy for Rodriguez, who gave up a leadoff double to David Freese , then a single to Yadier Molina to put runners on first and third with no outs.
Rodriguez then got Matt Carpenter to ground out, holding the runner at third, and struck out pinch hitter Skip Schumaker . With runners on second and third, Rodriguez got pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso to pop up and end the game.
Wolf apparently fought off the temptation to cover his eyes.
"I didn't quite watch them through my fingers," Wolf said of the final innings.
Wolf hasn't had a victory since April 30 at San Diego, but the Brewers' bullpen shares some of the blame for his winless streak. Coming into Tuesday's game, Wolf was 0-4 with a 5.45 ERA during his last 12 starts. During that stretch, he left seven games with the lead, only to have the bullpen blow it.
Wolf said he got congratulations from several relievers.
"I said, `There it is, the elusive third win,"' Wolf said. "You usually say that in May, maybe."
Kelly went six innings, giving up three runs - two earned - with six hits, a walk and four strikeouts.
Holliday took an 89 mph fastball from Wolf off his left leg in the first inning. Holliday remained in the game, but Cardinals manager Mike Matheny took him out in the bottom of the second. Holliday's injury was described as a left thigh contusion.
The Brewers took a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Corey Hart , but the Cardinals came back with two runs in the third.
Aramis Ramirez 's RBI single tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the third. Then, Weeks' ninth homer of the season caromed high off the facade in center field, giving the Brewers a 3-2 lead in the fourth.
Wolf then allowed back-to-back singles to start the seventh. After a lengthy meeting with Roenicke at the mound, Wolf stayed in the game, and Tyler Greene 's sacrifice bunt advanced runners to second and third with one out.
Berkman pinch hit and Wolf ran the count to 3-2 before Berkman was called out on a checked swing. Berkman complained about the call and was thrown out of the game by plate umpire Brian Gorman.
Berkman said afterward that he was mostly upset that Gorman didn't appeal the call.
"My biggest beef was you can't make that call (from home plate)," Berkman said. "They think they can, but he was having a hard time getting the strike zone right, much less seeing if anybody swung a bat or not. So my beef was, just appeal. I mean, we've got a guy standing down there. It's not tough to ask, you don't have to make that call."
With two outs, Roenicke pulled Wolf for reliever Jose Veras , who got Furcal to pop out to the catcher.
Notes: Weeks' home run was estimated at 460 feet. ... Holliday does not lose the 15-game hitting streak he brought into Tuesday's game. ... After a recent wave of temperatures in the high 90s, it was 85 degrees at first pitch.