ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Milwaukee Brewers had a chance to really grab control of the NL Central on Thursday night.
Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals came away with a sorely needed victory instead.
Yovani Gallardo got off to a slow start and never recovered as the Brewers lost 5-2 to St. Louis.
Pujols kicked off a 4-for-4 night with a solo homer as the Cardinals avoided a three-game sweep.
The Brewers had stifled Pujols all year. Coming into the game, the big first baseman had five hits in 42 at_bats against the division leaders. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke was hoping his team could extend that mastery for one more game.
``It's a matter of time before we make mistakes and he gets us,' Roenicke said.
Still, the Brewers took two of three from St. Louis and left town with a four-game lead over the Cardinals.
``I thought we played real well the last two days; today a little bit sloppy,' Roenicke said. ``But (Chris) Carpenter did a good job and kept our offense down.'
Carpenter (8-8) gave up 10 hits in eight innings, but shut out the Brewers after they scored twice in the first. Fernando Salas finished for his 22nd save in 25 opportunities.
``It was a battle all night,' Carpenter said. ``I think I was trying a little too hard. I was trying to back off and I wasn't able to.'
``He's tough; he pitched a good game for them,' Brewers slugger Prince Fielder said.
Milwaukee got off to a nice start when Mark Kotsay and Fielder each drove in a run in the first. Fielder now has 88 RBIs, second in the National League.
But St. Louis responded in the bottom half. Rafael Furcal led off with a home run into the right-field corner. After Gallardo (13-8) struck out Jon Jay, Pujols hit a drive to center for his 28th homer, tying him with teammate Lance Berkman for the National League lead.
``We went out there and we knew we were going to face a tough guy,' Pujols said. ``I just went out there and tried to see the ball and put on my best swings.'
Gallardo gave up five runs, four earned, and seven hits in five innings.
``I left the ball up the whole game today,' Gallardo said. ``That was basically the main thing.'
After last week's series in Milwaukee, which featured ejections and warnings for hit batters, this three-game set was fairly tame. The only thing close to an outburst came in the top of the eighth inning when all four umpires gathered briefly near third base and sent the Milwaukee bench a message.
``(There were) just some comments that were made from a couple of players,' Roenicke said. ``They were telling me to keep one of our players quiet.'
St. Louis took its first lead of the series in the third with some help from the Brewers. Second baseman Felipe Lopez booted Furcal's ground ball leading off the inning, allowing him to reach first. Furcal was forced at second by Jay, but Pujols and Berkman followed with singles to plate Jay.
That same combination worked again in the fifth when Jay singled to right with two out, stole second and scored on Pujols' single to center. Pujols moved to third on Berkman's single to right and came home on a wild pitch to make it 5-2.
NOTES: Furcal's leadoff homer was the 27th of his career. ... Milwaukee will start a seven-game homestand Friday when it begins a three-game series with the Pirates. The Brewers are a major league-best 41-15 at home. ... Cardinals OF Matt Holliday was out of the lineup for a second straight game with back tightness. ... Milwaukee's Frankie De La Cruz, who was called up earlier in the day to replace Chris Narveson on the roster, pitched a scoreless seventh inning. ... Cardinals C Yadier Molina extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an eighth-inning single.
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