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10/03/09 6:49 PM EST
Brewers capitalize on Cards' miscues
Braun homers for 200th hit; Villanueva wins spot start
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The weather was crisp, but for the second straight day, the postseason-bound Cardinals were not. The way the Brewers' own season has gone, they'll take it. Ryan Braun homered for the seventh 200-hit season in club history, but it took a trio of Cardinals errors to push the Brewers over the top in a 5-4 win at Busch Stadium on Saturday that left only one regular-season game to play. St. Louis aided the visitors' cause for the second straight game. On Friday night, Milwaukee scored twice on errors and benefited from four run-scoring wild pitches. "More than anything, it's just nice to win," said Braun, who joined Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount as the only Brewers to notch 200-hit seasons. "It's nice to finish the year winning this series on the road against a great team. It's certainly uncharacteristic of how they play the game. "It's a tough situation, though, because they clinched [the National League Central] so long ago and everybody is looking ahead to the postseason. At the same time, you want to go into the postseason with some momentum, and it's kind of nice to take that away from them." The Cardinals still don't know their first-round playoff opponent. The more pressing matter for manager Tony La Russa might be tightening up his own team. "I know coming in here that they had a meeting about their hitting because they weren't hitting very well," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "I just think sometimes a club, once they've clinched and know they're in, they don't have the sharpest of edges. We just played Colorado, and their edge was as sharp as it could get. "I'm sure in the back of your mind as [La Russa], you probably have some concern about that. But having the edge when it counts is the most important thing." The Brewers rallied just in time to make a winner of spot starter Carlos Villanueva (4-10), just like they did Friday night after Braden Looper left the game. Villanueva surrendered leads of 2-0 and 3-2 as the Cardinals twice forged a tie, then surrendered the go-ahead run in the fifth inning when Julio Lugo walked and Brendan Ryan doubled for a 4-3 St. Louis lead. Milwaukee answered in the top of the sixth inning against Kyle Lohse (6-10) with some help. With the bases loaded and two outs, speedster Alcides Escobar, batting leadoff for the first time in his young career, hit a bouncer to Lugo at second base. First baseman Albert Pujols broke first toward the ball, then had to rush to get back to first to collect Lugo's throw. Lohse was also too slow to cover as Escobar shot up the line, and Lugo's throw sailed past. Two runs scored for a 5-4 lead, and a quartet of Brewers relievers made it stand. David Weathers, Claudio Vargas and Todd Coffey worked a scoreless inning apiece, and Trevor Hoffman pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 37th save. Mowing down the Cardinals in order was key for Hoffman because it left the ultra-dangerous Pujols on deck when the game ended. "He walked right through us in the ninth," La Russa said. In five innings, Villanueva allowed four runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts. He threw 87 pitches. "I tried to come in not thinking about pitch counts," said Villanueva, who was picked to start after Dave Bush was shut down with a fatigued arm. "After I got out of the third inning, I said in my mind, 'I'm going five innings.' If they would have tried to take me out in the fourth, I would have said no, or I would have made my best effort to stay in. I know we're way short. Today, we really needed that." Said Macha: "He didn't pitch the greatest, but he got us five innings." Lohse lost despite allowing only two earned runs in six innings. "We haven't been playing too clean of baseball," Lohse said. "Hopefully, we can get it cleaned up. Sometimes it's hard to keep that level that we were at and you don't want any kind of a letdown, but obviously that has happened. We just have to regroup and get back to what we were doing."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.