ST. LOUIS – Milwaukee and St. Louis were tied 3-3 and the Brewers had the bases loaded with two outs in the sixth inning, Manager Ron Roenicke decided to let starting pitcher Marco Estrada bat for himself rather than send up a pinch-hitter.
Estrada struck out to end the threat and then gave up a two-run homer to Yadier Molina in the bottom of the inning that ultimately proved to be the difference in a 7-3 loss Saturday.
That left plenty of room for second-guessing, but Roenicke felt he had made the right call.
"It comes down to what we have in the bullpen and we're stretched out pretty far with what we can do," said Roenicke, whose team was blasted 13-1 Friday in the first game of the series. "If we pinch-hit for him, we're going to end up pitching a lot of guys in a game where we may be behind and that's not really where we want to be."
Estrada (0-1), who was making his second start, had not made many pitches to that point. He finished with 78 in six innings, allowing seven hits and five runs (four earned) while walking two and striking out two.
"I felt pretty good," Estrada said. "I threw a lot of strikes."
Cardinals rookie manager Mike Matheny had no problem with the strategy.
"He hadn't really given up that many hits at that point and he had been keeping us off balance," Matheny said. "I've got enough trouble figuring out what I'm going to do let alone second-guessing somebody else's moves."
Molina's home run was part of a 4-for-4 day, which tied a career high. Molina has 10 four-hit games in his career, the last coming on May 22, 2011, against Kansas City.
St. Louis has won three straight and leads the Brewers by five games in the NL Central.
Cardinals third baseman David Freese celebrated his 29th birthday with a solo home run. Freese has a hit in 15 of the 17 games he's started and has driven in 20 runs.
Jon Jay had three hits, including an RBI single, and a stolen base for the Cardinals.
Aramis Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez had solo home runs for the Brewers.
Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse ran his record to 4-0 for the first time. Lohse, who entered the game with a 0.99 ERA, tripled his walk total for the season by allowing four base on balls. He gave up six hits and three runs while striking out five.
Before Saturday, Lohse had not allowed a run in the first five innings of any of his previous four starts. Ramirez ended that streak when he hit a 396-foot, home run into right center-field bleachers with one out in the fourth to make it 2-1.
Still, Ramirez was impressed with Lohse.
"He's good," Ramirez said. "He doesn't have over-powering stuff but he locates well."
Freese answered Ramirez with a 407-foot shot to the same area leading off the bottom of the inning. But Gonzalez led off the fifth with a homer, and the Brewers tied it when Lohse walked Gonzalez with two outs in the sixth to load the bases, then walked George Kottaras to force in a run.
Notes: Before the game, Molina received his fourth consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove as a catcher and the inaugural Rawlings Platinum Glove that is awarded to the game's best fielder. . . . Ramirez, who has a six-game hitting streak, is batting .361 (13-for-36) in his last 10 games after batting .103 (4-for-39) in his first 10. . . . Jay has an eight-game hitting streak and six hits in the first two games of the series. ... Milwaukee leads the National League with 29 home runs.