Jaime Garcia didn't allow more than three earned runs over his first 13 starts, adding depth to an already impressive St. Louis staff upon returning from shoulder surgery. He's now done it twice in his last three, which lines up with the club's recent struggles.
The left-hander will try to get back to midsummer form Wednesday night in Milwaukee. He could have a key part of the Cardinals' lineup back to support him in case there's another blowup, though that seems unlikely against the Brewers.
St. Louis (90-54) reached 90 wins for the third straight season with Tuesday's 3-1 series-opening win, increasing its NL Central lead to three over Pittsburgh after the Pirates and Chicago Cubs split a doubleheader.
No team has reached 90 wins faster since Philadelphia did it over 138 games in 2011. Despite losing eight of 12, the Cardinals are on pace for 101 victories, which would be five shy of the 1942 franchise record.
"We weren't swearing too much what was going on before," manager Mike Matheny said. "We weren't allowing ourselves."
They're also in position to win a ninth straight series at Miller Park, where they've gone 20-7 since losing two of three in July 2012.
Garcia's latest start included a season high and a season low, just not the right kinds with six runs allowed in 4 1/3 innings of Thursday's 11-0 loss in Cincinnati. He gave up six hits with four walks two starts after allowing four runs and a season-high 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings of a 7-5 win in San Francisco.
The Cardinals had won the previous eight games Garcia (8-5, 2.33 ERA) started.
"Definitely not a good one," Garcia said. "There are no excuses. I've got to do a better job the next time."
He had one of his best starts of the year in a 3-0 win at Milwaukee on Aug. 8, allowing just two hits to move to 7-4 with a 2.59 ERA in 14 career starts against the Brewers. Ryan Braun has gone 8 for 42 against Garcia, while Martin Maldonado, Adam Lind, Jason Rogers, Khris Davis and Shane Peterson are a combined 0 for 21.
The Brewers have won Wily Peralta's last three starts with the right-hander posting a 1-0 record and 1.80 ERA. In Thursday's 6-4 win at Pittsburgh, Peralta (5-8, 4.14) cruised early before allowing two runs over six innings and missing out on the decision.
"For the first four innings Wily was the best he's been this year," manager Craig Counsell said.
The right-hander faced Garcia last month and fell to 0-4 with a 4.06 ERA in his last five starts against the Cardinals. Matt Carpenter (13 for 30 with two home runs) and Matt Holliday (10 for 26 with two homers) have hit him well, but Matt Adams (3 for 19) and Kolten Wong (4 for 23) have struggled.
Holliday was activated Tuesday after missing 41 games with a quadriceps injury. He wasn't in the lineup, and Matheny doesn't plan to use him as an everyday player just yet.
The Cardinals might not need him immediately if Jason Heyward continues hitting. The right fielder homered and doubled twice for the second straight game, giving him a 9-for-17 line in his last four and boosting his average to .296 -- its highest since his third game of the season.
Milwaukee (62-82) has dropped four straight and seven of nine to fall back to 20 games under .500, despite Davis homering for a second straight game. He's one off his career-high 22 from last season in 41 fewer games.