Brewers try to avoid sweep at hands of Cards

Not even the support of former NBA star Reggie Miller could spur the Milwaukee Brewers to victory in last night's second matchup of three with the rival St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park.

Miller is a friend of Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, who hopes to keep his footing in Thursday afternoon's series finale and prevent his club from being swept at home for the first time since late last August by the Dodgers. Braun fell rounding third base in his attempt for the first inside-the-park home run of his career in the third inning of Wednesday's 8-3 setback.

"It was a muggy night, very hot and humid the first six or seven innings," Brewers infielder Jerry Hairston said on the team's site. "Maybe Brauny lost his footing, maybe a little bit winded. It just didn't happen for us tonight."

Braun ended up with an RBI triple and finished with two hits for the Brewers, whose lead atop the National League Central standings was shaved to 8 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals and were coming off Tuesday's 2-1 loss in the series opener. Braun has 31 stolen bases and 25 homers this season, and is trying to become the first 30/30 player since Tommy Harper posted 31 homers and 38 steals in 1970.

Corey Hart extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a home run and Hairston finished with three hits and an RBI, while starter Randy Wolf was battered for six runs and seven hits, including three homers, in five innings. He allowed two homers in the first inning and a grand slam to opposing pitcher Jake Westbrook in the fourth to fall to 11-9.

"It was not a good way to start the game with two home runs and both of them with two strikes," Wolf said. "Things happen like this. We're a group that knows you're going to occasionally have bad games. A lot of us have short memories and we'll just have to put this one behind us."

Milwaukee is still 21-5 in its last 26 games at Miller Park and owns a 50-18 ledger as the host. It finished with 21 wins in August and hopes Yovani Gallardo can start September on a positive note when he takes the mound in Thursday's series finale. Gallardo is 4-1 with a 1.71 earned run average over his last six starts and defeated the Cubs his last time out in a 6-4 win on Saturday. He allowed one unearned run in seven innings and fanned 10 batters.

Gallardo is 15-8 with a 3.37 ERA in 28 starts this season and an impressive 9-1 in 13 appearances in front of the home crowd. However, the righty is only 1-5 with a 4.91 ERA in nine career starts against St. Louis. The Cardinals beat Gallardo in a 5-2 victory on August 11 at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals will shoot for their first three-game sweep in Wisconsin since Sept. 7-9, 2009 and have won three straight overall and five of their previous six games.

Westbrook broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning with his grand slam -- his first career home run -- and both Rafael Furcal and Albert Pujols homered in the win. Westbrook also took care of business on the mound, allowing three runs -- two earned -- and eight hits in five innings.

"It's pretty special to go back and say you've hit a grand slam," Westbrook said. "I just wanted to keep it fair and it turned out to be a big hit for us."

St. Louis will try to trim Milwaukee's lead a bit more when Brandon Dickson makes his first career start today. Dickson has made a pair of relief appearances this season at Tampa Bay and versus Cincinnati and has no record or earned run average through four innings of work.

Dickson, a right-hander, was 8-9 with a 3.95 ERA in 26 appearances (25 starts) with Triple-A Memphis.

"He goes about [the game] the right way," Cardinals acting pitching coach Derek Lilliquist told the team's website. "He does his work, keeps his mouth shut."

Milwaukee is still 8-6 against the Cardinals this season.