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STL@MIL: Ramirez launches a two-run homer for a lead

MILWAUKEE -- It was a futile exercise, but manager Ron Roenicke and reliever Brandon Kintzler couldn't help but wonder.

In 2014, with expanded replay in place, might Monday's game have ended differently?

All they could do was wonder, because Roenicke had no recourse when St. Louis rookie Kolten Wong was safe at first base on a very close play with two outs in an eighth inning that was about to turn ugly for the home team. Wong collected the first of six successive two-out hits in a four-run Cardinals rally that beat the Brewers, 8-5, at Miller Park.

By batting around in the inning, the Cardinals erased the impact of Aramis Ramirez's first home run in nearly two months -- a go-ahead, two-run shot in Milwaukee's three-run seventh -- and solved the Brewers' most reliable reliever of late. Kintzler had not allowed a run in his previous 20 1/3 innings, and had allowed only 11 hits in 76 at-bats (.145) against left-handed hitters through Jon Jay's double-play grounder.

That figure began to rise when Wong barely beat a ground ball to third base. The next four batters were all left-handed, and all delivered singles of their own, with Matt Adams rolling a hit through the Brewers' infield shift for a 5-5 tie, and Matt Carpenter's opposite-field hit giving the Cardinals a 6-5 lead.

"If the call goes the other way, we're not standing here," Kintzler said with a shrug.

It was a challenging call for the umpire, Kintzler conceded, because Ramirez's low throw was scooped out of the dirt by first baseman Yuniesky Betancourt. It was precisely the sort of call Roenicke would be allowed to challenge next season under a proposed expansion of instant replay.

For his own benefit, Roenicke watched the slow-motion replay after the game. He was adamant: Wong was out.

Is Kintzler a proponent of replay?

"Today I [am]," he said. "Tomorrow, I might not like it."

Pinch-hitter David Freese greeted the next Brewers reliever, Burke Badenhop, with a two-run insurance double to cap Kintzler's pitching line: two-thirds of an inning, six hits, four earned runs and an ERA boosted from 2.38 to 2.98.

"That's how crazy this game is, right?" Kintzler said. "I give up 11 hits against lefties all year and then give up five in a row. They had a good plan, and next time we'll change our plan and see what happens."

Is there such thing as a good plan against these Cardinals? They entered Monday's games with baseball's best batting average with runners in scoring position at .329, a ridiculous 43 points better than the runner-up Tigers (.286), including .301 with runners in scoring position and two outs. The White Sox rank second in the latter category at .263.

On Monday, the Brewers held the Cardinals to 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position, but all four came in the decisive eighth inning.

"They were relentless right there," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It started with some hustle with Wong legging that out, and then guys having some big, big at-bats for us."

The Brewers fell to 2-9 against the Cardinals this season, including 0-5 at Miller Park.

"We think we're in a good position, we've got some good pitchers coming in against them that have been doing a great job, and next thing you know, they get runs back," Roenicke said. "I know we make some mistakes against them. If we make pitches, we're going to get them out.

"But for some reason -- it's like [Yadier] Molina, we know there are certain spots you have to stay away from, and he fouls off the tough pitches long enough until you make one of those mistakes, and then he doesn't miss it. They have a few guys like that. It's frustrating. It's frustrating when you play that hard and you get back and you get the lead, and then you give it up."

Ramirez's jack was his first home run since June 26 against the Cubs, two weeks before he succumbed to a second stint on the disabled list for a sprained left knee that has sapped the veteran's power all season. Ramirez was 1-for-18 with a single since returning from the DL before Monday's home run.

Norichika Aoki also homered for Milwaukee, a solo shot in the fifth inning that briefly tied the game at 2, and Jonathan Lucroy finished with three hits and a walk.

Brewers starter Marco Estrada avoided the sort of meltdown that ruined his other home start against St. Louis, but he remained winless in his 11th career appearance against the Cardinals. He surrendered four runs on eight hits in six innings, twice allowing the Cardinals to regain the lead after the Brewers had rallied in the previous half inning for a for a tie.

After Lucroy's third-inning single knotted the game at 1, Estrada surrendered a leadoff single to Allen Craig and an RBI double to Molina in the top of the fourth. And after Aoki's seventh home run of the season made it 2-2 in the fifth inning, Molina hit a one-out single and trotted home on Jay's two-run homer in the sixth.

Jay hit a curveball. Estrada admitted there was "no conviction behind it."

"I kept throwing him curveball after curveball, and on the pitch before it looked like he took a really good swing, but he fouled it off," Estrada said. "That's when I'm like, 'OK, I need to switch it up.' You know, they called another curveball, and inside my head I didn't want to throw it, but I said, 'OK, let's just make a good pitch. The pitch wasn't terrible, but he had just seen so many. When you see the same pitch over and over, eventually, it's going to get hit. That's what happened. …

"It's just really frustrating right now. I keep thinking about that pitch over and over. I wasn't convinced with that pitch."

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