The St. Louis Cardinals extended their winnings streak to six game Thursday night with a huge road win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
The loss was the Brew Crew's ninth in a row.
The opening contest of the four-game set was of monumental importance because the Brewers could cut their deficit to two games with three games to play in the series. By winning the opener, they'd put the heat on St. Louis and have a chance to erase the Cardinals' advantage in the standings. But a Cardinals win extended the lead to four games and put St. Louis in a spot where it would leave Milwaukee in first place, no matter how the rest of the series goes.
In other words, the worst case scenario is no longer a concern.
Although he missed two and a half months with his shoulder blade injury -- and only made one rehab start before being returned to the active roster -- Michael Wacha looked relatively sharp in his abbreviated start.
Wacha allowed one run on three hits over three innings. He struck out three and walked one despite a tiny strike zone that seemed to dance around. He was replaced in the fourth by Marco Gonzales who pitched a solid 2 1/3 innings, giving up one run on a solo homer.
But the real story of the game was outstanding outfield defense from Jon Jay who stopped one rally with a headlong dive and another with a spectacular running catch deep in the right field corner. Peter Bourjos made two excellent plays of his own in centerfield, saving an errant throw to second base by aggressively backing up the play and then another by overcoming a late jump to sprint back to the wall and snare a long drive that would have cleared the bases and given the Brewers a late lead.
Matt Holliday and Matt Carpenter each collected three on the night. They tried to work together in the top of the ninth to add some much-needed insurance. But after Carpenter and Jay got on with no one out, Holliday smashed a ball up the middle that hit Carpenter in the foot a couple of steps toward third base from the bag. If the ball would have gone through, the Birds would have scored a run and avoided an out. Who knows how much more could have been made of the opportunity.
Instead, the Cardinals ended up with the bases loaded and one out. Yadier Molina hit a medium fly to right that forced a desperation chance to score. Jay ended up being out at the plate by 10 feet to end the threat.