ST. LOUIS – Another big swing from Casey McGehee kept the Milwaukee Brewers rolling and dealt another blow to their closest pursuers in the NL Central.
McGehee's double snapped a 10th-inning tie and the bullpen allowed three hits in four scoreless innings as Milwaukee won for the 12th time in 13 games with a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.
McGehee had a three-homer day off Edwin Jackson last week but was hitless in four at-bats against Jackson and the St. Louis bullpen before getting the go-ahead hit.
"Obviously, I would have rather done it throughout (the game)," McGehee said. "The guys in front of me had some great at-bats to give me a chance. It was a big win for us."
Brewers left-hander Chris Narveson, who had been set to start Friday against Pittsburgh, cut his pitching thumb before the game trying to repair his glove. Manager Ron Roenicke said the cut required eight stitches and although he said Narveson definitely was out Friday he wasn't sure if he'd be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Cardinals rookie reliever Lance Lynn injured a left side muscle in the eighth inning after retiring five straight with three strikeouts and manager Tony La Russa expects the right-hander to be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
"I think it would be hard to avoid it," La Russa said. "He's been very useful, a key contributor. We'll find somebody else."
The Brewers' 3-4-5 hitters had been 0 for 12 before extra innings when Prince Fielder singled to put runners at the corners ahead of McGehee's double off Octavio Dotel (0-1). Yuniesky Betancourt added a sacrifice fly and John Axford finished for his 30th straight save and 33rd in 35 chances overall.
"The biggest thing is I'm just trying to attack hitters and go after them, a lot more than I was earlier in the year," Axford said. "I don't think there's really anything different in my stuff or my attitude when I'm out there."
Although Milwaukee is 25-35 on the road, they have won the first four games of a six-game trip.
"It's always important to get that first game, always," Roenicke said. "It helps guys relax, it helps them also to build confidence."
David Freese had an RBI single in his first game back from a concussion sustained from a beanball last Thursday for the Cardinals, who fell four games back after the opener of a three-game series. Gerald Laird had two hits and an RBI but Albert Pujols was 0 for 5 with no tough outs and missed a chance to end it in the ninth against LaTroy Hawkins (1-0), popping out to right with two on and two outs.
Pujols declined to speak to reporters after the game.
The Cardinals are the only team to beat the Brewers during their run, but have lost three of four to them the last eight days. They are four games behind for the first time since April 12, disappointing a sellout crowd of 40,626.
Both teams have backed up their vow thus far to avoid shenanigans after tempers flared last week when Pujols was hit on the hand with a pitch high and tight and the Cardinals retaliated by hitting Ryan Braun.
St. Louis and Milwaukee have eight games remaining, so there's plenty of time.
"I remember with the Astros being nine back of this club with about 11 games left in the season and we almost tied them, so anything can happen," Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman said. "When you have a chance to play the team that's in front of you, you would like to take advantage of it, but they're in front of us for a reason.
"Because they have a great team. And they're going to be tough to beat."
Leadoff man Corey Hart gave the Brewers a 2-0 lead in the third with his 17th homer, returning after missing only one game with a bruised left hand. Jonathan Lucroy had two hits and an RBI.
"They all count," McGehee said. "It's like a run in the first counts the same as a run in the ninth inning."
The Brewers totaled nine hits against four pitchers, ending a franchise-best run of nine straight games in double figures that matched the best in the majors this season.
Jackson retired the first seven hitters with nothing out of the infield before Lucroy's clean single to left with two outs in the third. Two batters later, Hart homered to straightaway center to put the Brewers up 2-0.
It was the fifth homer the right-hander allowed in 14 2-3 innings against the Brewers, two to Hart and three to McGehee.
The Cardinals tied it in the sixth against Shaun Marcum on RBI singles from Freese and Laird, whose grounder slipped under first baseman Fielder's glove far off the bag.
An inning earlier, Skip Schumaker was ruled out on a tag play at the plate in a controversial call by Angel Hernandez that prompted a vehement protest from La Russa. Replays appeared to indicate that Schumaker had beat Lucroy's tag after a throw from Fielder but Berkman said Hernandez told La Russa that Schumaker's foot never touched the plate.
The Cardinals were playing a man short with catcher Yadier Molina serving the final game of a five-game suspension for a spittle-spraying confrontation with plate umpire Rob Drake on Aug. 3 in Milwaukee.
Notes: Cardinals RHP Jason Motte struck out one in a scoreless seventh and hasn't allowed an earned run in 21 appearances covering 15 innings since June 24. ... The Tigers had nine straight double-figure hit games from June 22-July 1. ... Pujols is 5 for 39 (.128) with no homers and three RBIs against the Brewers. ... Betancourt was 0 for 4 to end a 10-game hitting streak.