MILWAUKEE (AP) — In less than three weeks, the surging St. Louis Cardinals have climbed to the top of the division — and then some.
Marcell Ozuna’s bases-loaded double keyed a six-run second inning and St. Louis pounded out a 12-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night.
The Cardinals, who have won five straight, jumped on starter Gio Gonzalez (2-2) for eight runs in the first two innings en route to their 14th victory in 17 games.
Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong each homered and drove in three runs for St. Louis, which moved to a season-high 14 games above .500. The Cardinals extended their lead in the N.L. Central to three games over idle Chicago. The third-place Brewers dropped 5½ back.
“I think everything is just kind of coming to fruition. I don’t think we’re doing anything different,” DeJong said. “We might just have a little bit better focus when the game starts, knowing our plan, going out and executing without panic and without worry.”
Before their recent success, the Cardinals were in third place, four games out of first on Aug. 8.
Despite being staked to a 9-1 lead, starter Adam Wainwright lasted just 3 2-3 innings, throwing 90 pitches. He allowed two runs on six hits with three walks.
“The toughest part about today was I had a seven-run lead at that point and my manager looked out there and thought ‘we better make a change,'” Wainwright said. “That’s on me. But that hurts. It hurts my soul, it really does. But it’s going to make me work harder between starts and keep competing.
John Gant (9-0) relieved Wainwright and struck out three in 2 1/3 hitless innings for the victory.
Molina’s bases-loaded single with two outs in the first put the Cardinals up 2-0.
Molina’s fifth homer, a solo shot in the fourth, made it 9-1. DeJong added a two-run homer, his 24th, in the sixth and a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
“It was a bad game from the start,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Nothing went right. You’ve got to turn the page. We’ve got to forget about it. We played a poor game tonight. Come back tomorrow and try to change the score.”
The Cardinals manufactured a run to open the decisive second when Harrison Bader reached on an infield single, advanced on a sacrifice and took third on an errant pickoff throw by Gonzalez.
Dexter Fowler singled in Bader to make it 3-0. Tommy Edman singled and Paul Goldschmidt walked. Ozuna cleared the bases with a double down the right-field line.
“It was definitely one of those games where it was on me,” said Gonzalez, who managed to get through five innings, allowing just one run after the rough start. “The whole game. I did nothing to help us out. Put us behind extremely early. It just wasn’t my night.”
Despite having a 10-run lead, Shildt opted to bring in closer Carlos Martinez with two outs in the ninth to face Yasmani Grandal. Martinez replaced Andrew Miller, who faced three hitters. “Made sense to get Andrew in there for the ninth,” Shildt said. “The plan was to get him in there for an out then get Carlos on the mound but he got a double play ball. Regardless of the score, they were going to pitch tonight. We wanted to make sure we limited their workload as well and it worked out.”
Cardinals: OF Jose Martinez, on the 10-day injured list (right shoulder AC joint sprain) was scheduled to begin his rehab assignment Monday with Double-A Springfield. “He’s going to work defensively before the game and he’ll DH in the game,” manager Mike Shildt said. . IF Kolten Wong, who left Saturday’s game after fouling a ball off his right big toe, was not in in the lineup, but is improving. “I talked to him a little bit and it looks like he’s going to be a bit of a warrior,” Shildt said. “I know he’s in some pain. We’ll evaluate him and take it day-by-day.
Brewers: 3B Mike Moustakas left the game in the third inning with pain in his left palm and wrist after being struck by hard-hit bouncer by Harrison Bader the previous inning. “He’s sore. X-rays were negative,” Counsell said. “It’s a left hand contusion right now. So, he’s probably unlikely for tomorrow.”
Cardinals: RHP Miles Mikolas (7-13, 4.43 ERA) is 0-3 in his last five starts. He has allowed 15 earned runs in 22 innings in his last three outings.
Brewers: RHP Adrian Houser (6-5, 3.62 ERA) is 2-5 with a 4.91 ERA in 11 starts, and 4-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 17 relief appearances. He won his last start, allowing one earned run in 5 1-3 innings in a 5-3 victory over the Cardinals.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports