Brewers 1, Cardinals 0

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MILWAUKEE (AP)—Geoff Jenkins saw the sign begging the Brewers to keep him, then stated his case.

With his future uncertain, Jenkins homered off Tyler Johnson leading off the ninth inning Wednesday night to back a four-hitter by rookie Carlos Villanueva and two relievers in Milwaukee’s 1-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Jenkins, in his ninth year with Milwaukee, lost his starting right-field job on Aug. 11. He has one guaranteed year left in his contract—he is owed $7 million—and may not be part of the team’s plans for 2007.

“I know I’ve got a big support group,” said Jenkins, who was aware of the “Keep Jenkins” sign just behind him in right field. “It’s definitely nice when you see that from the fans. It’s pretty awesome. And they get a baseball, too.”

St. Louis lost for the sixth time in 11 games, but the Cardinals’ magic number to clinch the NL Central dropped to five when second-place Cincinnati lost to Houston 7-2.

Jenkins, batting .477 with six homers and 10 RBIs in September, hit his 16th home run of the season, a drive to right off Johnson (0-3).

“Mistakes happen,” Johnson said. “I left that slider right over the plate, right in his swing.”

It was the Milwaukee’s fourth game-ending home run this season and the second of Jenkins’ career.

“There’s no better feeling than when you’re coming off third base after a walkoff homer and see your teammates waiting on you,” Jenkins said. “There’s probably not a too much more gratifying feeling as a player.”

Villanueva, who earned his first major league victory in relief on Friday against Washington, made his fourth big league start. He allowed three hits in seven innings, struck out five and walked one.

“Their rookie had command of all his pitches,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “We couldn’t do anything offensively.”

In the seventh, Villanueva finished his night by getting Ronnie Belliard to swing and miss wildly at a changeup, then throwing a 91 mph fastball on the inside corner for a called third strike.

“My changeup, as the game went on, got better as they got a little bit more aggressive,” Villanueva said. “When I was behind in the count, I could go to my changeup and it worked pretty well.”

Chris Spurling pitched a one-hit eighth, and Francisco Cordero (3-0) threw a perfect ninth, lowering his ERA to 0.42 in 22 appearances since the Brewers acquired him from Texas on July 28.

Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan gave up six hits in seven innings, struck out four and walked one.

“He did everything he could,” La Russa said.

The teams combined for six double plays, with Milwaukee hitting into double plays that ended the first, third and sixth innings.

Milwaukee had two on with two outs in the eighth before catcher Yadier Molina picked off Corey Hart at first with Jenkins in an 0-2 hole.

The Cardinals’ first four hitters went 1-for-15 and Albert Pujols, who came in with 10 hits in his prior 17 at-bats, went 0-for-4.

“The first two times I got him out with a changeup,” Villanueva said. “He’s one of my idols. When you step between the white lines, you can’t think about that.”

Notes

Jenkins prior game-ending homer was May 29, 1998, against Florida. … Brewers RHP Rick Helling is to have surgery Thursday on his left knee to repair torn cartilage. … St. Louis has won the last six season series against the Brewers and is 7-5 this year. The Cardinals finish the regular season with a four-game set against Milwaukee. … Cardinals RF Preston Wilson snapped an 0-for-10 streak with a single in the fourth.

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