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Must C Classic: McGehee hits three homers

MILWAUKEE -- Forget beanballs. The Cardinals and Brewers traded big blasts instead, and the budding pennant race rightfully reclaimed the spotlight at Miller Park.

Previously slumping Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee hit three of the game's five home runs, the second a go-ahead two-run blast that sent Milwaukee on its way to a 10-5 win on Wednesday in the finale of a charged series.

Playing in front of their 19th sellout crowd at home, the Brewers claimed the series and a bit more breathing room in the National League Central. Their lead grew to 3 1/2 games over the second-place Cardinals, with nine more matchups between the teams packed into the next 35 days.

"You know it was going to be an intense series coming in, just because of the situation both [teams] are in," McGehee said. "But I think Prince [Fielder] did a tremendous job of summing it up -- we don't have time for all the fighting, the talking and this and that. We've got more important things to do, and that's going out to win baseball games. That's our focus. We're going to do things our way."

That meant limiting the drama to baseball, and foregoing the sort of shenanigans that marked the series' first two games. The Cardinals complained Monday night that Brewers officials were using the ribbon of scoreboards that circle Miller Park to aid the home team's hitters, a charge dismissed by Major League Baseball. Tensions grew on Tuesday, when the Cardinals responded to a pitch that hit Albert Pujols in the left hand with one that struck Ryan Braun in the back, prompting sharp comments from both sides. Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy called the Cardinals' tactics "stupid." Cardinals manager Tony La Russa referred to some fans at Miller Park as "idiots."

Umpire crew chief Gary Darling set an early tone for Wednesday's series finale by ordering both managers to home plate for the exchange of lineup cards.

"He basically told us, 'Let's just play baseball,'" Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.

Then it was business as usual, and business was booming. Corey Hart and McGehee homered off Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson (8-8) in the first inning to turn an early 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead. Hart's homer was his third leading off a game this season, and the fifth time he's done it in his career. McGehee's was his first homer since July 6.

The Cardinals answered in the second inning against eventual winning pitcher Randy Wolf (8-8), who surrendered a three-run home run to new Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal. His second homer this season gave St. Louis a 4-3 edge.

Back came the Brewers again in the third inning, when McGehee turned on a Jackson fastball for another two-run homer and a 5-4 lead. The Brewers added two insurance runs in the fifth inning, two more in the sixth and another in the seventh, when McGehee got to Jackson for the third time.

McGehee went 7-for-14 in the three-game series and his batting average is up to .240. He had one home run in the 63 games before Wednesday's breakthrough.

"I don't think I've hit three in a game, ever," McGehee said. "It was one of those out-of-body experiences."

The Brewers scored more than four runs for the fifth straight game to pick up Wolf, who had been the victim of poor run support in so many of his starts this season. The team had scored four or fewer runs in each of his previous nine starts.

"I didn't have a good game today, and the boys picked me up," Wolf said. "Casey really carried us today."

The gap between a 3 1/2-game division lead and 1 1/2 games is "a huge difference, no doubt," Wolf said. "They're a really good team. They're really good offensively this year, and when they score, for us to come right back is huge. We did that today."

Wolf won his second consecutive start. The Brewers improved to 41-15 at Miller Park and will try again to take their momentum on the road for a week-long trip through Houston and St. Louis.

"I think we've had a better edge for a little while now," Wolf said. "I just think we're finding our identity as a team. It may be August, but I think we're finding the kind of personalities we need to take on the field every day."

The Cardinals won't have to wait long for their rematch. The Brewers will be at Busch Stadium for three games next week.

"I talk about how long the season is and still we've got such a long ways to go," Roenicke said. "But these series, they're great. They're great for a confidence boost individually and as a team."

Said Furcal from the quiet Cardinals clubhouse: "We've got two more months left. We don't have to put our heads down, just keep going."

McGehee actually had a similar outlook.

"By no means, no matter what happened, was this series going to be the nail in the coffin," McGehee said. "We have a lot of work to do."

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