Cardinals-Brewers Preview

The Associated Press

The St. Louis Cardinals are doing fine without All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, having a chance to enter the break alone atop the NL Central.

Things continue to go very badly for the Milwaukee Brewers amid a significantly more troubling development.

The Brewers, without grieving shortstop Jean Segura, were in first place through nearly the entire first half of the season but won't end it there if St. Louis completes a three-game sweep at Miller Park on Sunday.

As notable as the Cardinals' 10-2 win was Saturday because it put them in a tie with Milwaukee, the game was overshadowed by the news Segura's 9-month-old son had suddenly died. Segura traveled home to the Dominican Republic shortly after learning of the tragedy following Friday night's 7-6 loss and was placed on the bereavement list.

While Brewers manager Ron Roenicke conceded "everybody in the clubhouse was affected quite a bit," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said "you can't help but take a step back and just prioritize life."

Center fielder Carlos Gomez admitted before the game that the Brewers struggled to focus on baseball, saying "we feel like everybody wants to stay home."

Gomez had the only hit among the top four in Milwaukee's lineup, and the Brewers' three errors included Ryan Braun's first of the season on a dropped fly ball.

Milwaukee (52-43), which blew a six-run lead Friday, fell behind 6-0 after three innings en route to its seventh consecutive loss. The Brewers, who haven't had a longer losing streak since dropping nine straight in May 2010, have held at least a share of the division lead every day since April 4.

"We need to regroup and start playing like we did in the first part of the season," Roenicke said.

The defending Central champion Cardinals (52-43), who trailed by 6 1/2 games July 1, haven't had sole possession of first place all season. They've won eight of 11 with a 3-1 record since losing Molina, including a win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday which he left early with a torn thumb ligament that will keep him out at least eight weeks.

"This game is a funny game of ups and downs," Saturday's winning pitcher Adam Wainwright said. "The teams that have the most ups and the least amount of downs end up winning the whole thing."

Molina has been replaced by Tony Cruz, who had a career-high three RBIs on Saturday. Kolten Wong homered for the second straight day and fifth time in seven games.

Jhonny Peralta is 5 for 8 with four RBIs in the series, and he's hit .500 with five homers and 12 RBIs in 11 career games at Miller Park.

St. Louis has won 12 of 15 there and can add to that success by beating Wily Peralta (9-6, 3.95 ERA), who has a 6.38 ERA over his last eight outings.

Despite those struggles, he was riding a five-game winning streak - partly because his 8.08 run-support average since June 1 tops the majors - before allowing a career-high nine runs in a season-low 4 1-3 innings of a 9-7 defeat to Philadelphia on Tuesday.

"We've got to get him back on his game and get him confident," Roenicke told MLB's official website. "We need this guy."

The right-hander was 1-3 with a 7.71 ERA in four career starts against the Cardinals before winning his only matchup this year, going 6 1-3 innings in a 5-1 win April 16.

He'll square off against fellow Dominican Carlos Martinez (2-3, 4.12).

The Cardinals have won all five of his starts since removing him from the bullpen. Martinez's worst start came Tuesday, when he gave up a pair of two-run homers among his eight hits allowed, but he lasted a career-best six innings and St. Louis scored in the ninth to beat Pittsburgh 5-4.

In seven relief appearances against Milwaukee, Martinez has yielded four hits in 9 2-3 scoreless innings.

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