MILWAUKEE (AP) - The last time Chris Carpenter got off to such a rocky start to a season, he was a rookie in Toronto - 14 years ago.
The former Cy Young winner gave up four runs in the decisive sixth inning and the St. Louis Cardinals fell for the second straight night to the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-3, to see their lead in the NL Central fall to a half-game.
``I'm fine,' Carpenter said. ``I've been around too long to concern myself with what my record is and what I'm doing. I've got to go out and get ready to pitch the next time. They expect me to go out there and be ready to pitch and compete, and I will do that.'
Carpenter (1-6), the 2005 NL Cy Young, has lost his last four decisions. He started 1-7 for the Blue Jays in 1997.
The Cardinals have lost three of four after winning four straight.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, is the hottest team in baseball over the last month, and they keep improving on their major-league best home record.
Lance Berkman homered off Zack Greinke (6-1) to give St. Louis a 2-1 lead in the sixth, but Milwaukee scored four times in the bottom of the inning off Carpenter.
Greinke started with a single and Rickie Weeks followed with an opposite-field homer to right. Corey Hart's two-out double made it 5-2 after Carpenter uncharacteristically walked Fielder and slumping Casey McGehee.
``He made two mistakes in that inning - got a ball up to Weeks and a ball up to Hart - and that was four runs,' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ``Other than that, he pitched outstanding. Sometimes those balls get fouled off or hit at somebody.'
Carpenter blamed the walks for his downfall, especially the one to McGehee, who came in hitting .227.
``Those two walks are obviously not what you're looking for. They kill you,' he said. ``Then Corey hit a curveball. It just happened like that, that fast. I had as good a stuff as I've had all year. I just made a few mistakes, and they hurt me.'
Said Hart: ``(His cutter) was very good tonight. That's what he threw me the first pitch, strike one, then he came back with the curveball. He's such a competitor. Any time you face him, it's always a battle.'
Daniel Descalso's run-scoring double cut Milwaukee's lead to 5-3 in the seventh, but reliever Kameron Loe pitched a quiet eighth and John Axford converted his 14th straight save opportunity and 17th overall in the ninth.
``Greinke did a good job of keeping us off balance, and he went deep into the game,' Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay said. ``And their bullpen did a really good job.'
Fielder also hit his seventh homer in the last eight games for Milwaukee.
Milwaukee is off to their best start in franchise history at home at 24-9. St. Louis came into town with the most road wins in the majors at 20, but the Cardinals will try to avoid being swept out of first place on Sunday.
Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young winner, missed the first month of the season with a cracked rib and lost his first start against Atlanta, but has gone 6-0 in his last seven appearances coinciding with Milwaukee's ascent in the standings.
He was sharp again with nine strikeouts over seven innings, helping the Brewers (37-28) reach nine games over .500 for the first time in more than two years.
Fielder put Milwaukee ahead in the second on a 420-foot solo homer, his 18th this season. St. Louis answered with Yadier Molina's two-out, run-scoring double in the fourth and Lance Berkman's solo shot in the sixth to go ahead 2-1, setting the stage for Milwaukee's big inning.
``The good thing is we've still got a lot of time left in the summer, so we have got to keep on playing hard,' Jay said. ``There is still plenty of baseball to be played, and there are going to be more close games like tonight, so we just have to stay positive.
Jay made an over-the-shoulder diving catch near the wall to end the fourth, banging awkwardly into the lower padding. The extraordinary effort left Carpenter with a smile of disbelief as he walked toward the dugout, but the good times for the Cardinals wouldn't last long.
``I just went after it,' Jay said. ``I was trying to make a play, and I was able to make one.'
NOTES: The Cardinals will recall outfield prospect Andrew Brown from Triple-A Memphis on Sunday. The corresponding roster move will be announced Sunday. Brown, an 18th round pick in the 2007 draft, has been outstanding at Memphis this season, hitting .351 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI in 50 games. ``He was impressive in spring training, and he just carried it on into the season,' La Russa said.
The Associated Press News Service
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