MILWAUKEE • The Cardinals have been in the playoffs 10 times in the previous 14 seasons, so being in first place really matters to them only in September. But, inasmuch as they hadn't been there for the last 98 days, their ascension to a tie for the lead in the National League Central Division shouldn't be dismissed.
This is especially so since, 11 days previously, the Cardinals were 6 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers. But the Cardinals went 8-3 and the Brewers 1-9 after that. And the Cardinals' 10-2 thrashing of the Brewers Saturday at Miller Park, delighting the many Cardinal fans here, brought the teams dead even at 52-43 with one game remaining Sunday before the All-Star break.
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright tied for most wins in the league at 12, giving up two runs in seven innings. That was as many total runs as Wainwright had allowed in his previous five starts.
But he had room to coast after his team gave him a 6-0 lead in the first three innings. His next outing will come in Tuesday's All-Star Game, which he might start, in Minneapolis.
Tony Cruz, the Cardinals' No. 1 catcher until at least September with Yadier Molina out, drove in three runs with two singles. Kolten Wong, who had one homer in his first 77 big-league games, hit his fifth in his last seven games and Jon Jay had three hits.
The Cardinals also had a strong defensive game, with reserve outfielder Peter Bourjos making the best play, running down Jonathan Lucroy's drive at the center-field wall in the eighth.
Since the third inning of Friday's game when the Cardinals erased a six-run lead, the Cards have outscored the Brewers 17-2. Milwaukee has lost seven straight games, six of them at home, and 11 of its last 12 overall.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is 18-6 in Miller Park since taking over at the start of the 2012 season.
Milwaukee was playing without shortstop Jean Segura, who had returned to the Dominican Republic after learning of the death there of his nine-month-old son.
Wainwright reaches 100 hits
Adam Wainwright, well on his way to his 111th career victory, hit the century mark in another department today.
Wainwright singled to center to drive in a run and cap a two-run fifth inning as the Cardinals continued to stretch their lead over the Milwaukee Brewers. The hit, which followed another run-scoring hit by Jon Jay off lefthanded reliever Tom Gorzelanny, gave the Cardinals an 8-0 edge, meaning they had scored 15 straight runs since the fourth inning of Friday's game after they had started cutting into a 6-0 Milwaukee lead.
The Brewers gained a small consolation in the inning when a call was reversed at first base, which would have cost the Brewers another run. Matt Carpenter was ruled out the second time as Gorzelanny's foot was deemed to have been on the bag after he had taken a throw. Jay had dashed home with what would have been the ninth run.
Jay's hit gave him a .391 average against lefthanders this season.
The Brewers finally stemmed the Cardinals' onslaught a bit in the home fifth when Jeff Bianchi and pinch hitter Lyle Overbay hit back-to-back doubles to make the score 8-1.
Excitable Carlos Gomez struck out on a breaking ball to end the inning and, in his frustration, tried desperately to break his bat over his leg before he fired his batting helmet and his batting gloves to the ground.
Milwaukee then gave that run back in the sixth on two errors and a sacrifice fly by Peralta and it was 9-1.
Jay got his third single of the day in the seventh and scored after a walk to Wainwright and Carpenter's second hit as the Cardinals went ahead 10-1.
Cruz knocks in third run
Backup catcher Tony Cruz, hitless in his first two starts after Cardinals All-Star Yadier Molina went out with a torn ligament in his right thumb, knocked in his third run of today's game with his second hit in the third inning.
Cruz, who had singled in two runs in a three-run first, singled with two out to score Jhonny Peralta, who had doubled for his second hit off Brewers righthanded rookie Jimmy Nelson.
That gave staff ace Adam Wainwright a 6-0 lead over the Milwaukee Brewers at about the same juncture the Brewers had a 6-0 lead the night before and then blew it.
Wainwright held the Brewers to one hit, Ryan Braun's bloop single in the second, over the first four innings as the game went to the fifth still 6-0.
Wong plays long ball again
Cardinals rookie Kolten Wong, who had one homer in his first 77 big-league games over two seasons, hit his fifth in his last seven games when he unloaded a two-run shot off Milwaukee rookie Jimmy Nelson in the second inning today.
Wong's sixth homer overall this season hiked the Cardinals' lead to 5-0 over the reeling Brewers, who had surrendered a six-run lead to the Cardinals the night before.
Matt Carpenter walked with two out and barely avoided being picked off base before the lefthanded-hitting Wong connected. The second baseman had come off the disabled list (bruised left shoulder) only last Sunday.
Cardinals strike first
The Cardinals, who scored the final seven runs Friday night in a comeback 7-6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, scored the first three runs today in the first inning, an inning featuring a two-run single by Tony Cruz with the bases loaded.
Rookie starter Jimmy Nelson allowed a single to leadoff man Matt Carpenter and, with one out, hit Matt Holliday with a pitch. Matt Adams lined to center, sending Carpenter to third. Jhonny Peralta, hitting just .167 with men in scoring position, blooped a single to center to score Carpenter.
Milwaukee second baseman Scooter Gennett booted Oscar Taveras' two-out grounder, loading the bases before Cruz knocked in his ninth and 10th runs of the season. Taveras was thrown out at third by center fielder Carlos Gomez but Peralta had crossed the plate with the third run of the inning.
Wainwright pitches with 1st place on line
Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright, who has a 2.17 career earned run average against the Milwaukee Brewers, will make his final start today before he presumably pitches in Tuesday night's All-Star Game in Minneapolis.
Wainwright, 11-4 with a league-leading 1.79 ERA, will be pitching with first place at stake in the National League Central Division, which the Brewers have led since April 5 when they were tied with the Cardinals.
Milwaukee has a one-game lead entering today's play but the Brewers will be without shortstop Jean Segura, who learned after Friday night's game that his 9-month-old son had died after a brief illness in the Dominican Republic.
Segura has returned to the Dominican Republic after being placed on the bereavement list and his spot on the roster has been taken by switch-hitting infielder Elian Herrera.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke had closed the clubhouse after Friday's 7-6 loss to the Cardinals to inform his team of the tragedy for the Segura family.
Allen Craig, one for his last 17, is out of the Cardinals' lineup today, with Oscar Taveras in right field.
Catcher George Kottaras, acquired by the Cardinals on a waiver claim Friday, is here and wearing No. 59, last worn by in the regular season by reliever Fernando Salas.
Kottaras said he would try to get up to speed as quickly as he could.
"Learning staffs takes time," he said. "I'm just going to try to be a sponge."
Kottaras, a 31-year-old lefthanded batter, has 32 homers in 713 at-bats, an excellent ratio for any player, backup or otherwise. He is a .164 hitter against the Cardinals but with two homers, including a three-run pinch hit homer off Kyle McClellan at Miller Park in Kottaras' first at-bat for the Brewers in 2012.
Kottaras, who played for Milwaukee in 2010-12, had homered in his first two at-bats for Cleveland this season. Audry Perez, who was recalled when Yadier Molina suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb on Wednesday, was optioned back to Class AAA Memphis.