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Cards edge Brewers in NL Central showdown

Milwaukee, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers are headed in opposite directions at a pivotal time of the year.

Yadier Molina drove in two runs to help St. Louis send the Brewers to their ninth straight loss with a 3-2 win in the opener of a four-game set on Thursday.

The Cardinals, who used a patchwork effort from their bullpen to secure the win, have won six straight and now lead Milwaukee by four games in the NL Central.

Marco Gonzales (2-2) allowed one run in 2 1/3 innings of relief of Michael Wacha, who returned to the mound for the first time since June 17 because of a shoulder issue.

Wacha surrendered one run on three hits and a walk while striking out three in his 50-pitch, three-inning outing.

Wily Peralta (15-10) was tagged with the loss after he gave up three runs on seven hits and struck out seven over six innings of work. Peralta has now lost three straight and four of his last five starts for the reeling Brewers.

"We hit a lot of balls hard and they made a lot of nice plays," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "That was a good ball game."

St. Louis opened the game with three straight singles to load the bases, and Molina cashed in with a one-out single to left that plated a pair for a 2-0 lead.

Gerardo Parra singled with one out in the home half before Jonathan Lucroy knocked an RBI double to right that cut the deficit in half.

Matt Holliday was hit by a pitch with one out in the third and Molina walked two batters later to set up Kolten Wong's two-out single that scored Holliday for a 3-1 lead. Peralta hit Xavier Scruggs a batter later to load the bases, but he worked out of trouble with his third strikeout of the inning.

Pinch-hitter Ricky Weeks blasted the first pitch he saw from Gonzales over the wall in center to help the Brewers get within one in the sixth. After a strikeout and single, Jason Motte came on for Gonzales and allowed a single to Aramis Ramirez, then got Khris Davis to line out. Motte walked Lyle Overbay in the following at-bat before giving way to Seth Maness, who induced an inning-ending flyout from Logan Schafer to escape the jam.

Carlos Martinez relieved Maness with runners at the corners and two outs in the seventh. Martinez got Lucroy to pop out to keep it a one-run game.

Pat Neshek pitched a scoreless eighth and Trevor Rosenthal converted his 42nd save of the season as the Cards widened their margin in the division.

Game Notes

Jonathan Broxton allowed two hits in a scoreless eighth in his first appearance with the Brewers since being acquired from Cincinnati ... The Brewers have lost 12-of-14 overall ... St. Louis outhit Milwaukee, 12-9 ... The Cards went 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position, while the Brewers went 0-for-9 in those instances and left 11 men on base.

09/05 00:13:18 ET