ST. LOUIS -- During the season's first two months, the St. Louis Cardinals
boasted the majors' best rotation. Injuries and inconsistency brought the starting staff down in June, July and August.
If the past four games are an indication of things to come, though, St. Louis might be ready to make another extended postseason run. Shelby Miller
worked 6 2/3 scoreless innings Tuesday night in St. Louis' 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers
, and the Cardinals maintained a one-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates
in the National League Central.
Miller (13-9) scattered five hits, walked two and fanned four. Although his fastball stayed in the low 90s, about 2 or 3 mph below its norm, Miller made up for it with excellent location.
"I was getting ahead and getting quick outs," he said. "They have a great offense over there, and you can't pitch the same way against them every time. You have to trust the D and trust (catcher) Yadier (Molina)."
In winning four straight to start a nine-game homestand, St. Louis (84-60) has received matchless starting pitching. Joe Kelly
, Adam Wainwright
, Michael Wacha and Miller have combined to allow one run over 26 2/3 innings.
Wainwright, Wacha and Miller have supplied consecutive scoreless starts, the first time the team has had three in a row since mid-April.
"The last four starts have been exciting to watch," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Brewers rookie Wily Peralta was pretty exciting as well, overpowering St. Louis through 5 2/3 hitless innings in which only David Freese threatened to get a hit. Freese's leadoff liner in the bottom of the fifth was snared by a sliding Norichika Aoki.
However, Matt Holliday
quashed Peralta's gem with one swing. Ambushing a first-pitch, 95 mph fastball with two outs in the sixth, Holliday rifled a 424-foot shot into the bleachers in left-center with Matt Carpenter
aboard for his 19th homer of the year and a 2-0 lead.
It was one of only two Cardinals hits off Peralta (9-15), who was strafed for 12 runs over 9 1/3 innings in two prior starts against St. Louis.
"He's had good stuff every time out against us," Matheny said of Peralta. "The difference was he made less mistakes and stayed on the corners. He was in control until Matt got up there."
Peralta said, "I was trying to prove myself and give our team a chance to win."
Peralta walked four and fanned seven in his 105-pitch outing, departing after issuing a two-out walk to Kolten Wong in the seventh that led to Carpenter's RBI single.
Milwaukee (62-81) fell to 3-11 against St. Louis, getting outscored 81-49 in those gams.
Matt Adams' two-out RBI hit in the eighth gave the Cardinals their last run. Pinch hitter Logan Schafer belted a two-run homer off Edward Mujica in the ninth to get the Brewers on the board, but Milwaukee couldn't push the tying run to the plate.
While St. Louis couldn't gain further separation from Pittsburgh, it did move three games ahead of the third-place Cincinnati Reds
, a 9-1 loser to the Chicago Cubs
"We're watching the other teams, keeping up with it," Miller said of the tight division race. "It's part of the game. We have to keep things going."
With performances like Miller's, the Cardinals appear capable of staying in front.
NOTES: St. Louis 1B Allen Craig (left foot sprain) has had his re-examination pushed back to Thursday, at which point he expects to learn when he might be able to return. Craig was injured in the fourth inning of a 5-4, 16-inning win in Cincinnati on Sept. 4. ... Milwaukee OF Khris Davis (left wrist inflammation) remains out of the lineup. He injured himself before batting practice Friday, was scratched for a game against the Chicago Cubs and hasn't played since ... The Brewers started a stretch of 20 games in 20 days to end the season, 13 of them against playoff-bound teams (six against St. Louis, four at Atlanta and three against Cincinnati). By contrast, 16 of the Cardinals' last 19 games are against teams with losing records.
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