(Reuters) - The St. Louis Cardinals took advantage of sloppy Milwaukee fielding with another superb bullpen outing to beat the visiting Brewers 7-1 Friday and claim a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Milwaukee made four errors, two of which led to three unearned runs early in the game, contributing to a victory that put St. Louis within one win of a World Series berth.
"That hurt," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said about his team's shoddy play. "You give these guys extra outs and that's going to hurt you."
Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa said cashing in on opportunities was crucial.
"Well, the errors are a part of the game," La Russa told reporters. "Competition that's this close, if you can take advantage of one of those or two of those, it could be the difference."
Four relievers finished the game for St. Louis, throwing 4 1/3 scoreless innings, with hard-throwing Octavio Dotel registering the win.
The Cardinals put the Brewers on the brink of elimination despite once again failing to get their starting pitcher further than the fifth inning.
"Our bullpen has been incredible," Holliday, who has five hits in his last eight at-bats, said after the game. "You'd like your starters to go deeper but when you got a bullpen that's as deep as ours you've got an option."
The Cardinals scored three runs off the bat of St. Louis starting pitcher Jaime Garcia, whose grounder through the legs of third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr brought home two runs in the second inning off Brewers hard-luck loser Zack Greinke.
Hairston's error came immediately after he had made brilliant catch of a Nick Punto line drive with a reflex dive to his left that saved two runs.
Another infield bouncer by Garcia scored another run in the fourth inning, set up by a bloop hit to shallow center that just glanced off the glove of second baseman Rickie Weeks, who later made his third error of the series on a wild throw.
Garcia, however, did not get the win as he failed to finish the fifth inning, giving up a run and putting two men on before Dotel struck out slugger Ryan Braun to end the threat.
Dotel fed Braun fastballs low and outside before getting him to swing and miss on a change-up high in the strike zone.
"Just lucky against him, that's what I can say," Dotel said about Braun, who is only 2-for-10 against him. "I try to make my pitches every time I see him. I guess I'm lucky against him, and I would love to be the same lucky when the series is over."
The series now shifts to Milwaukee, where the Brewers compiled the best home record in Major League Baseball, for Game Six Sunday and a possible deciding Game Seven Monday.
"I'm sure we're going to come out and play a good game," Brewers manager Roenicke said. "These games, we do have them once in a while. Hopefully we'll come back out, and I'm confident that we will, and play a good game on Sunday."
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Peter Rutherford, Alastair Himmer)