ST. LOUIS (AP) - With just 84 strikeouts coming in, Jake Westbrook surprised himself with a career-tying nine against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Westbrook (11-8) gave up three runs - two earned - and nine hits in six innings of the Brewers' 11-8 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. He used his off-speed stuff to strike out nine over the first four innings.
It was uncharacteristic for Westbrook, who now has 93 strikeouts in 166 1-3 innings.
"That's not normally my game," Westbrook said. "But, I was able to do that today. My off-speed stuff was good."
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa felt Westbrook deserved a better fate in his matchup with Milwaukee's Randy Wolf.
"He did his part. He held them down," La Russa said. "We just couldn't solve their lefty."
Wolf (12-9) allowed one run over eight innings and Ryan Braun and Nyjer Morgan each homered to lead the Brewers.
The Brewers won their fourth straight to move 10Â½ games ahead of St. Louis in the NL Central, tying their largest lead of the season.
Wolf, in a bounce-back effort, gave up four hits, struck out five and walked two as he improved to 6-1 with a 3.11 ERA in his last eight starts. The left-hander allowed just two hits over his final six innings, and also had a pair of infield singles.
Just five days earlier, Wolf gave up six earned runs and lasted just five innings in an 8-3 loss to the Cardinals in Milwaukee, a performance he called, "horrible."
"That was a tough one to swallow," Wolf said. "It was rough."
Wolf got even with one of his finest efforts of the season. The eight-inning stint ties his longest outing of the year. He also erased the memory of his only bad performance during this current eight-start run.
"I just wanted to concentrate on slowing my body down," Wolf said. "Today, my body was in a position where I could throw off-speed pitches in any count."
Braun said Wolf looked like a totally different pitcher.
"He made some adjustments and really did a great job," Braun said. "It starts with our starting pitching and Randy was phenomenal."
John Axford pitched a perfect ninth to record his 41th save in 43 chances.
The Cardinals were looking to get back into the race. Instead, they find themselves in a deep hole with 21 games remaining.
"This is baseball, you can't figure it out," St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols said. "You think we're not trying? It is what it is. They're playing well. Give the credit to those guys."
Braun, who went 2 for 5 and leads the league with a .335 average, hit his 27th homer in the third inning to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead.
St. Louis cut the deficit in half in the fifth on a double by David Freese and a double-play groundout from Allen Craig.
Yuniesky Betancourt, who went 3 for 4, drove in a run with a single to left in the sixth.
Morgan added his fourth homer of the season in the seventh off reliever Kyle McClellan.
St. Louis swept the Brewers in Milwaukee last week to climb to within 7Â½ games. Less than a week later, the lead is back to where it was at the start of that series.
"Those guys beat us pretty bad at our place," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "We needed to come back and play a good game. We really played well. We pitched great and made some nice defensive plays."
Braun said that the Brewers needed to bounce back from the three losses to St. Louis. Milwaukee outscored Houston 20-4 in a three-game sweep over the weekend.
"This is definitely a good start to the series," Braun said. "We feel good about ourselves again."
Corey Hart extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a run-scoring single to deep short in the second.
NOTES: St. Louis RHP Kyle Lohse (12-8, 3.72) takes on Yovani Gallardo (15-9, 3.68) in the second game of the three-game series Tuesday. ... Pujols is 10 for 20 this month with two homers and six RBIs. ... Infielder Tyler Greene, catcher Tony Cruz and outfielder Adron Chambers have been recalled from the Cardinals' Triple-A Memphis team and will join the roster on Tuesday. ... St. Louis OF Lance Berkman did not play. He is 3 for 32 against Wolf.