ST. LOUIS — Eric Thames scored on reliever Bud Norris’ throwing error in the eighth inning and the Milwaukee Brewers improved their playoff positioning by topping the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4 on Monday night.
Ryan Braun homered and Christian Yelich drove in two runs as Milwaukee won for the fourth time in five games. The Brewers (90-67) opened a three-game lead over St. Louis for the top spot in the wild-card standings and pulled within 1 1/2 games of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs, who lost 5-1 to Pittsburgh.
Corbin Burnes (7-0), the seventh of nine Milwaukee pitchers, got two outs for the win, and Corey Knebel worked the ninth for his 16th save. With a runner on, Jose Martinez fouled off four two-strike pitches before taking a called third strike for the final out.
Chase Anderson was slated to start before Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell announced Sunday that the team had decided to go with a bullpen game instead. Dan Jennings made his first career start and retired Matt Carpenter on a grounder to second before the left-hander was replaced by Freddy Peralta, beginning a parade of relievers for the Brewers.
Martinez and Marcell Ozuna homered off Josh Hader in the rain, but St. Louis (87-70) was unable to close out a one-run lead. The Cardinals’ advantage in the race for the second NL wild card was trimmed to a half-game over Colorado, which cruised to a 10-1 win over Philadelphia.
Thames tripled past a sliding Martinez in right field with one out in the eighth. After Mike Moustakas was intentionally walked, Norris (3-6) tried a pickoff throw that got away from first baseman Matt Carpenter.
Thames scored easily and Yelich added an RBI double in the ninth as Milwaukee improved to 9-8 against St. Louis this season. Yelich, one of the top candidates for NL MVP, also walked and scored on Braun’s bases-loaded walk as the Brewers scored two runs in the sixth without a hit, opening a 3-1 lead.
St. Louis staged a dramatic rally as the showers intensified on a soggy night at Busch Stadium.
Martinez led off the sixth with a drive to centre for his 17th homer, sending a charge through the crowd of 36,508. After Paul DeJong walked, Ozuna put the Cardinals in front with a screaming liner just over the wall in centre.
Ozuna threw his right arm in the air as he rounded first after the 23rd homer of his first year with the Cardinals. He then popped out of the dugout for a curtain call.
Hader had given up just six homers in 51 appearances this year, and none since Anthony Rizzo connected for the Cubs on Sept. 3.
But Milwaukee quickly answered. The Brewers loaded the bases with one out in the seventh against Jordan Hicks, and Keon Broxton scampered home with the tying run on Yelich’s fielder’s choice back up the middle.
Brewers: Hader was visited by Counsell and a trainer after he slipped while trying to pick off Harrison Bader at second. Hader stayed in and walked Yairo Munoz before he was pulled after Tyler O’Neill was announced as a pinch hitter.
Brewers left-hander Gio Gonzalez (9-11, 4.28 ERA) and Cardinals left-hander Austin Gomber (6-1, 3.63) pitch on Tuesday night. Gonzalez is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in three starts since he was acquired in a trade with Washington on Aug. 31. Gomber is coming off a solid start at Atlanta, allowing one run in five innings for an 8-1 victory.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap