The Milwaukee Brewers head into the All-Star break able to breathe a huge collective sigh of relief -- and once again in sole possession of first place in the National League's Central Division.
Riding a season-high-tying 19-hit day at the plate and a terrific start from Wily Peralta, the Brewers drubbed the St. Louis Cardinals, 11-2, on Sunday afternoon in front of an appreciative crowd of 35,345 at Miller Park.
Elian Herrera, making his first-ever start at shortstop in the major leagues, collected a career-high five hits while Carlos Gomez and Scooter Gennett had three apiece. Every Brewers starter had at least one hit as the team scored in six of eight innings, taking out their collective frustrations on the rival Cardinals.
Peralta, meanwhile, was dominant over seven innings. He limited the Cardinals to three hits and one unearned run while striking out five in an 80-pitch day as he improved to 10-6.
At 53-43, Milwaukee enters the break tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the NL and in first place for just the fourth time in franchise history. The last time was 2011, when the Brewers were 49-43 and tied with the Cardinals.
The Brewers got out to a quick lead against fireballer Carlos Martinez, who was making just his sixth start of the season in a St. Louis rotation that has been hit hard by injuries.
Gomez and Gennett both singled to center to start, and Ryan Braun followed with a broken-bat blooper over the head of first baseman Matt Adams. Third-base coach Ed Sedar waved Gomez around third, and he scored easily after an awful throw home by Adams.
On that throw, Braun broke for second and catcher Tony Cruz threw down to get him, only to see Gennett break home from third and score easily to make it 2-0.
Martinez walked the bases loaded in the third only to get himself out of the jam by striking out Khris Davis on a big breaking ball.
The Cardinals trimmed the deficit to 2-1 in the fourth when Adams drove in Kolten Wong with an RBI groundout. Wong reached base after striking out on a passed ball by Jonathan Lucroy, stole second and went to third on a swinging bunt by Matt Holliday.
Milwaukee answered back in the bottom of the frame with utility man Herrera singling to center for the second time in as many at-bats with one out.
After Peralta bunted Herrera to second, Martinez plunked Gomez in the left knee with a 95-mph fastball to put two on for Gennett. He responded by slapping a double into the left-field corner to score both and stretch the Brewers' lead to 4-1.
The fifth belonged to Davis, who robbed Jon Jay of potential extra bases with a sprawling grab running toward the fence in the top half and then hit a solo homer to right off reliever Seth Maness in the bottom half.
The homer was the 15th of the season for Davis, giving him the team lead heading into the break.
As Peralta continued to cruise on the mound, allowing just one single over the fifth and sixth, Milwaukee's offense kept the pressure on St. Louis.
Herrera doubled to lead off the bottom of the sixth and was bunted up to third by Peralta. Then the floodgates opened, with Gomez, Gennett and Braun all singling off Maness as the lead grew to 7-1. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny brought in Jason Motte, and he was greeted by a single from Ramirez that made it 8-1.
Milwaukee scored once in the seventh and twice more in the eighth to put the game even further out of reach, with Will Smith pitching the eighth and Francisco Rodriguez the ninth.
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