Avoiding the sweep: Cardinals top Brewers

Albert Pujols of the Cardinals slides safely into home during the fifth inning of Thursday night's win over the Brewers in St. Louis.

Albert Pujols of the Cardinals slides safely into home during the fifth inning of Thursday night's win over the Brewers in St. Louis. Photo by The Associated Press.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Albert Pujols kicked off a 4-for-4 night with a solo homer Thursday night and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-2 to avoid a three-game sweep.

St. Louis pulled within four games of NL Central-leading Milwaukee, which has won 13-of-15. The Cardinals are the only team to beat the Brewers during their hot streak.

Pujols entered with just five hits in 42 at-bats against the Brewers. He ended the slide with a drive in the first against Yovani Gallardo (13-8), tying him with teammate Lance Berkman for the National League lead with 28 homers. Pujols added two singles against Gallardo, who lasted just five innings.

Chris Carpenter (8-8) gave up 10 hits in eight innings, but shut down the Brewers after they scored twice in the first. Fernando Salas finished for his 22nd save in 25 opportunities.

Rafael Furcal got St. Louis off to a fast start with a leadoff drive to right in the first. After Gallardo fanned Jon Jay, Pujols hit a tying drive over the wall in center.

Mark Kotsay, subbing for All-Star slugger Ryan Braun, reached three times and had an RBI double for Milwaukee. Prince Fielder had a run-scoring single to give him 88 RBIs.

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.

Gallardo gave up five runs, four earned, and seven hits.

Notes: Furcal’s leadoff homer was the 27th of his career. ... Milwaukee will start a seven-game homestand today 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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