ST. LOUIS -- If the Milwaukee Brewers had another chance to make up Monday's rainout on Thursday or leave town after Wednesday's afternoon game, they might choose to get out here -- as quickly as possible.

Instead, the Brewers will hang around to play another game Thursday afternoon against the hottest team in baseball.

Fueled by second baseman Mark Grudzielanek's cycle and starting pitcher Chris Carpenter's 12 strikeouts, the Cardinals won for the fifth time in 2005 against Milwaukee, beating the Brewers, 6-3, in front of 38,343 at Busch Stadium on Wednesday.

"They've got great starting pitching, a good bullpen and obviously you know about the hitters," Brewers right fielder Geoff Jenkins said. "You have to be on top of your game, you can't give extra outs as far as errors and you have to put some runs on the board to beat these guys."

Milwaukee fell to 7-13 on the year, 7 1/2 games behind St. Louis (14-5) in the National League Central. The Brewers, who are 5-10 against teams in their division, fell into last place after Pittsburgh (8-12) beat visiting Houston, 2-0, on Wednesday afternoon.

Brewers right-hander Victor Santos (1-1) entered Wednesday's game with opponents batting just .158 against him, which was the second-lowest mark in the National League. But the Cardinals helped inflate that number early, with three runs on three hits in the first inning.

Grudzielanek, who completed his cycle in his first four at-bats, led off the game with a home run to left center. Right fielder Larry Walker doubled and Albert Pujols singled before center fielder Jim Edmonds knocked an RBI double to make it 2-0. Pujols scored on an RBI groundout by shortstop Abraham Nunez for the third run.

Pujols delivered an RBI single to score Grudzielanek in the second inning to put St. Louis in front 4-0. Grudzielanek plated catcher Yadier Molina with an RBI ground-rule double in the fifth to make it 5-0.

"They were definitely hot," Santos said. "They're a hot team right now. I made a few mistakes in the zone that they took advantage of, Walker, Edmonds and Pujols. I made bad pitches to real good hitters, and you can't do that."

Santos, who was coming off impressive performances against St. Louis and San Francisco in his last two starts, lasted just four innings. He allowed five runs (all earned) on seven hits, walked three and struck out two. His ERA went from 1.64 at the start of the contest to 2.74 after the first inning and then to 3.12 when he was done.

"They hit some good pitches and then they hit some pitches that weren't quite so good," Brewers manager Ned Yost said of his starter. "They were just on him [Wednesday]."

Milwaukee struggled against Carpenter, who improved to 4-1 after allowing three runs (all earned) on eight hits and striking out 12 without walking a batter in 7 2/3 innings.

"He had a really good breaking ball. It kind of had two different tilts to it. " said Jenkins, who went 2-for-4 with a double and run scored, but also two strikeouts. "He was effective throwing strikes, not throwing strikes and obviously they hit the ball for him, too. He was throwing strikes with all of his pitches and moving the ball around, in and out."

The Brewers broke through for a run in the fifth. Shortstop Bill Hall knocked a two-out double to right-center, and catcher Chad Moeller dropped a single in shallow center field for his first RBI of the season. It was Moeller's first hit since Opening Day.

Pinch-hitter Wes Helms followed with his first hit of the season, past diving shortstop Nunez, but Brady Clark flew out to right field to end the inning.

First baseman Russell Branyan hit a two-run home run to center field in the sixth to make it 5-3. The home run, which traveled 407 feet, was Branyan's fourth of the season.

St. Louis added another run in the sixth off left-handed reliever Jorge De La Rosa. Grudzielanek drilled a triple into the right-field corner with one out to complete his cycle in his first four at-bats. The second baseman, who became the third Cardinals player to hit for the cycle at Busch Stadium, scored on an RBI single by Edmonds to left field to put St. Louis ahead, 6-3.

Cardinals' reliever Julian Tavarez, who entered in the ninth in place of injured closer Jason Isringhausen, struck out three batters in a scoreless ninth inning to earn his first save. The Brewers struck out in five of their final six at-bats and struck out 16 times in the game.