Manager Mike Matheny played a hunch Saturday, and it paid tremendous dividends for his St. Louis Cardinals.
Matheny opted to play slumping second baseman Kolten Wong and the rookie responded with a three-hit game that included a home run and three RBIs in the Cardinals' 9-7 victory over Milwaukee at Busch Stadium.
"That worked out all right for us," Matheny said with a sheepish grin. "He had a great night. He's been having a (few) things he needed to work through. It was nice to see him bounce back."
Wong tied the game at 1 in the first with his seventh homer of the season, a career-long 408 feet to right-center against Kyle Lohse.
Wong followed with a two-run single in the second that made it 4-1, and he doubled and stole third in the sixth, effectively turning the page on a 6-for-36 skid that had dropped his average to .239.
"Successful," Wong said in describing his performance. "I didn't strike out once, so that's definitely a plus for us."
Wong had endured three three-strikeout games since July 23, a disturbing trend for a player batting second in the order.
"I knew the reason I was striking out as soon as the game finished (Friday)," Wong said of his most recent three-strikeout game. "I was swinging way too hard, trying to do way too much. That showed today when I made the adjustment.
"I'm still learning as the days come through how to play at this level and how not to try and do too much. I'm going to try to continue to have an easy swing and not try to demolish the ball."
Jhonny Peralta homered in the second and Oscar Taveras drove in two key runs with a single in the fifth.
It was the most runs scored by the Cardinals since they amassed 10 against the Brewers on July 12. Newcomer Justin Masterson was the beneficiary, as he posted his first National League win in his first start for the Cardinals since being acquired Wednesday.
Masterson, a 29-year-old right-hander who had been with the Cleveland Indians, allowed five runs (earned) on seven hits in six innings, walking three and striking out four. He threw 90 pitches, 61 for strikes.
"There was a little rust in the fourth inning," Masterson said of Milwaukee's three-run outburst that cut the Cardinals' lead to 6-4. "I got out of myself a little bit. But with the intense offense that we had tonight and some solid defense, that makes it fun to be out there.
"I think anyone could get used to that type of run support."
The Cardinals (58-51) pulled back within two games of the Brewers in the National League Central heading into the rubber game of the series at 1:15 p.m. Sunday.
Lohse struggled from the start. The Brewers spotted him a 1-0 lead in the first on Aramis Ramirez's RBI single, but Wong's homer deadlocked the game and Peralta's 15th homer in the second put the Cardinals ahead to stay.
Peralta's leadoff blast was followed by two consecutive outs, but the Cardinals loaded the bases ahead of Wong's two-run single that gave them a three-run lead.
Matt Holliday's single made it 5-1, and when Wong broke for third, left fielder Gerardo Parra threw wildly past the bag, enabling Wong to cross the plate and give St. Louis a 6-1 lead.
Matt Carpenter's sacrifice fly made it 7-4 in the fourth, but Milwaukee got within 7-5 in the fifth. Taveras' two-run single made it 9-5 in the fifth and knocked out Lohse (11-6).
The Brewers scored twice against Kevin Siegrist in the seventh, but Pat Neshek worked a perfect eighth and Trevor Rosenthal pitched around a leadoff double in the ninth and recorded his 33rd save.
Matheny was encouraged by Masterson, who also picked up his first National League hit and laid down a sacrifice.
"I thought he was kind of as expected --good when he was in the zone," Matheny said. "We saw the ball sail, like we talked could happen. He's got a real good idea of what he feels on the mound. ... Overall, he found a good groove and he had some big double-play outs just like we hoped he would have."