ST. LOUIS – The Milwaukee Brewers showed no sense of satisfaction in the clubhouse, even though they'd just won for the 13th time in 14 games and appeared to be pulling away in the NL Central.
Far from it.
After working eight sharp innings in a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night, Randy Wolf noted it's still early. The Brewers are 8-3 against the Cardinals, but there are seven games to go in the season series.
"We've just got to keep playing well," Wolf said. "We have a tough schedule ahead of us. We can't sit back and think we can cruise from here on out."
Prince Fielder had a sacrifice fly in the first inning and an RBI double in the third to help the Brewers open a five-game cushion on second-place St. Louis.
Milwaukee clinched only its fifth road series win of the season and will try for a three-game sweep Thursday night. The Brewers have taken four of five from St. Louis this month, although they doubt they've taken the fight out of their closest pursuers.
"Maybe. I don't know," leadoff man Corey Hart said after getting a two-run single and two walks. "There's so many games left, I think we both kind of view this as a series in the middle of August."
The Brewers are 41-15 at home and just 26-35 on the road, but are one win away from a perfect 6-0 trip.
"I think we carried over what we were doing at home and I'm hoping that this is the point where it doesn't really matter to them whether we're at home or road, they know we can win at both places," manager Ron Roenicke said. "That's important for them to feel that way."
Albert Pujols had a sacrifice fly in the first for the Cardinals, but is 0 for 8 in the series and 5 for 42 (.119) with only four RBIs against the Brewers this season. St. Louis entered with a four-game winning streak but has yet to lead in the series.
"It's not about me, dude, it's about the ballclub," Pujols said. "If I go 0 for 8 and we would have gotten two wins out there, who cares about it?
"Just a couple of tough losses."
Wolf (9-8) relied on defense, retiring 18 of his last 20 with no walks and one strikeout. He allowed one run and five hits, and pitched four 1-2-3 innings. He's beaten the Cardinals his last two outings although this one was a lot better than a week earlier when he gave up five runs in six innings of a 10-5 victory.
"He had everything working," Roenicke said. "He got a lot stronger as the game went along, his command got better. It's hard to figure out what to do to do in the ninth, he was pitching so well."
Hart added a two-run single in the ninth off Mitchell Boggs.
Four of the first five Brewers reached safely to open the game, although they settled for Fielder's sacrifice fly. The Cardinals matched them in the bottom of the first on Rafael Furcal's leadoff double, a sacrifice fly and Pujols' sacrifice fly.
The Brewers took the lead in the third when Ryan Braun walked with one out, stole second and scored on Fielder's double, and Yuniesky Betancourt made it 3-1 with a two-out single.
Jake Westbrook (9-6) settled down after that, retiring 11 in a row before walking Fielder with one out in the eighth. He lasted eight innings despite matching his season high with five walks, three of them to the first 12 hitters.
"My sinker was kind of all over the place early and my other pitches weren't as good as they have been," Westbrook said. "I still felt like I was able to minimize the damage a little bit and give us a chance."
Wolf's only other bit of trouble came in the second when Ryan Theriot singled and Jon Jay doubled with two outs, but Westbrook lined out to center to end the inning.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was ejected by first base umpire Greg Gibson in the ninth for arguing a call at first. Pinch hitter Josh Wilson was ruled safe on a sacrifice bunt when Pujols struggled to keep his toe in contact with the first base bag.
Pujols said he thought he had touched the corner of the bag.
"He missed a call and he didn't think he missed it," La Russa said. "That had very little to do with us losing the game. Short fuse, very undeserved ejection."
Though he didn't like the call, Pujols was happy with the way he was treated.
"He didn't give me any attitude back," Pujols said. "He just said 'Hey, I didn't see it' and that was it. He was honest."
NOTES: Casey McGehee is batting .435 (10 for 23) in extra innings since joining the Brewers in 2009, the best average on the team during that span. ... Lance Berkman is 3 for 30 against Wolf and was not in the St. Louis lineup even after Matt Holliday was scratched with what the team believes is a minor lower back injury sustained in the weight room earlier Wednesday. Holliday said he was hurt on the left side while getting ready to lift.