ST. LOUIS -- Thanks to another undermanned, extra-inning victory, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke gets a reprieve from one of his least favorite questions:
"Why can't you beat the Cardinals?"
Well, the Brewers did beat the Cardinals on Tuesday, rallying from a three-run deficit for the second straight night and winning on Lyle Overbay's go-ahead single and Francisco Rodriguez's record-tying save, 5-4, in 11 innings at Busch Stadium. With Wednesday's finale still to play, the Brewers were assured their first series victory over the Cardinals since taking two of three games here in September 2012.
The Cardinals had won or split seven consecutive series between the teams since then, including taking two of three games at Miller Park earlier this month. Each time, Roenicke was forced to face a version of that same nagging question.
Not this time, though. Roenicke resisted the urge to say "I told you so."
"Hey, I'm happy with the way we played and won these games," he said instead. "I know you guys hammer me on that stuff, but I'm just glad we're in tight games with a great team, and we come out ahead."
For the second straight night, it was a grind. The Brewers played without their usual three-, four- and five-hole hitters, and with starting shortstop Jean Segura limited to pinch-hitting duty. Roenicke had two healthy position players on the bench and a bullpen that has been worked hard by four extra-inning games in 10 days.
"We're thinking about [being] short on the bench and the bullpen being worked a lot," Roenicke said, "but you get wins like this, and it's worth it."
Tuesday's starter, Kyle Lohse, did his part over six innings by delivering the Brewers' Major League-leading 22nd quality start, and their ninth in a row. He also chipped in with a game-tying, two-run single in the fourth inning against Cardinals starter Lance Lynn as part of a comeback from an early three-run deficit.
Carlos Gomez hit a go-ahead home run for the Brewers in the seventh, but the Cardinals answered with Allen Craig's RBI double in the bottom half of the inning against lefty reliever Will Smith, who was charged with a run for the first time this season in his 15th appearance. The teams were still tied in the 11th when Khris Davis led off against Cardinals left-hander Kevin Siegrist with a double and watched Overbay poke two bunt attempts foul before swinging away and grounding the go-ahead single over second base. It was his second RBI of the night.
"With two strikes, I'm just trying to get him over to third base any way I can," Overbay said.
Rodriguez worked around a two-out hit in the bottom of the inning for his 13th save, tying the Major League record for saves in March/April set by the Mariners' Kaz Sasaki in 2001. Tyler Thornburg was awarded the win after pitching two scoreless innings of relief.
At 20-7, the Brewers have baseball's best record by a full three games, and a 6 1/2-game lead over the second-place Cardinals in the National League Central.
"They've got a lot of confidence on their side, too," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "They've had a lot of things go their way, and that tends to help as well. But they're a scrappy club, and they're fighting. You're seeing the good at-bats. You're seeing them do the little things right. They didn't get the bunt down and they end up getting a big base hit. Those sort of things -- when they're going right, they go right. We're seeing the other side of it."
Entering the week, the Cardinals had not surrendered a three-run lead all season. Now they've done so in two straight games.
It was 3-0 by the end of the first inning, when Lohse walked Craig with one out and allowed a Matt Adams double with two outs. That brought to the plate Lohse's former catcher-turned-tormentor Yadier Molina, who entered the night 9-for-16 against Lohse with two home runs.
With first base open, Lohse intended to pitch carefully to his former batterymate. The first two pitches were sinkers down and away. The third pitch was another sinker, but this one was up and in, and Molina hit it to the left-center field seats for three quick Cardinals runs.
"I wasn't trying to do that," Lohse said. "I was trying to throw off [the plate and] in. I was really trying to pitch around him, maybe try and set up the next at-bat because, no offense to Jhonny Peralta, I'll take my chances against him rather than Yadi. The ball didn't get where I wanted it."
Lohse surrendered no more runs. He was charged with those three runs on six hits in six innings, with a walk and a season-high-tying nine strikeouts. His 40 strikeouts in April set a personal best for a single month.
Lohse also accounted for one of the game's biggest hits, his two-out, two-run single off Lynn that capped the three-run Brewers rally in the fourth inning. It came four batters after Overbay had driven in Milwaukee's first run with a single of his own.
"If you can't put the pitcher away with two outs and the bases loaded and a two-run lead, you deserve not to win the game," Lynn said.
Lohse was 0-for-11 this season before that at-bat.
"It's not like we're up there thinking we're an out," Lohse said. "We practice. We don't get as much practice as [hitters] do, but when you get up in a situation like that, you're just battling to do whatever you can do to help out."
The Brewers are 11-1 on the road this season, and they will try to sweep the Cardinals on Wednesday for the first time since June 2011.
"I've told you all year, we're just looking at one game at a time," Lohse said. "We feel good about the way we've won the last two games. We're a team that's not going to give up. We don't give in. We don't give up at-bats. We've got a bullpen that I'd take over everybody. I don't really look at the big picture right now. We're just trying to rack up the wins and keep piling them on."