ST. LOUIS – Jake Westbrook threw only 77 pitches in his latest start, but that was apparently enough for St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
Westbrook left the game after five innings Saturday night, with his team trailing the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1. The Cardinals never caught up and lost 6-3.
Although he only gave up three runs, Westbrook (13-11) was not at his best. He allowed 11 base runners on seven hits and four walks, and escaped bases loaded situations in the second and third innings.
"He just really had trouble finding the plate," Matheny said. "That's a pretty good hitting team. Working behind, bad things are going to happen. Not one of his typical starts."
The Cardinals could have used a stellar performance from Westbrook. St. Louis dropped its third in a row and leads the Los Angeles Dodgers by just a half-game for the last wild-card spot in the National League.
Westbrook said he was battling himself all night.
"I was erratic in my mechanics," Westbrook said. "A little bit all over the place. In turn that makes my location not as good. I wasn't doing a very good job of controlling counts."
Westbrook was able to limit the damage by making some key pitches with runners on the bases.
"That's part of the battle," he said. "I was able to make some pitches. I also made some mistakes as well and that hurt us."
Aramis Ramirez had three hits, including his 22nd home run, to lead the Brewers. Rickie Weeks added a solo home run, Ryan Braun went 3 for 5 with a run scored, and Carlos Gomez went 2 for 4 and drove in two runs.
Ramirez, who also walked twice, reached base all five times he batted and scored twice. After a slow start, he has raised his average over the past 89 games from .218 to an even .300.
Mike Fiers (9-7) allowed one run and five hits in five innings and also got his first career RBI with a single in the second inning. He limited the Cardinals to five hits and three walks while striking out five. John Axford pitched a scoreless ninth for his 27th save.
Adron Chambers had an RBI triple for St. Louis.
Milwaukee improved to 15-4 in its last 19 games and pulled five games behind the Cardinals for the second wild card in the National League. St. Louis is one-half game up on the Dodgers for that spot with a four-game series against the Dodgers set for next weekend in Los Angeles.
The Cardinals — at 74-65 — have the same record they had after 139 games last season. St. Louis went on from there to capture its 11th World Series title.
The Brewers took a 2-0 lead in the second as Gomez's sacrifice drove in Ramirez, who had walked, and Fiers had his RBI single two batters later.
Daniel Descalso's two-out RBI single pulled St. Louis within a run in the bottom half of the inning.
However, Milwaukee regained its two-run lead in the third on a fielding error by Skip Schumaker on Corey Hart's grounder that scored Braun. Weeks' homer leading off the seventh off reliever Trevor Rosenthal made it 4-1.
The Cardinals pulled to 4-3 on Schumacher's sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Ramirez went deep with one out the ninth against Fernando Salas to make it 5-3, and Gomez's RBI single closed the scoring.
NOTES: Joe Kelly (5-6) will face the Brewers' Shaun Marcum (5-4) in the series finale Sunday. ... The Cardinals' Matt Carpenter left the game in the third inning after cutting both hands when his bat shattered. The wounds were superficial and he is expected to be available Sunday. ... Carlos Beltran, who was hitless in the first five games of the homestand (0 for 9) was out of the lineup for St. Louis. . . . David Freese is not expected to play Sunday after twisting his left ankle trying to leg out a double in the eighth inning.