The Cardinals pounded out a season-high 19 hits off of sloppy Milwaukee Brewers pitching in a 12-4 victory on Tuesday night, drawing the Cardinals closer to contention in the NL Central and spoiling the Brewers' 1982 World Series team reunion.
It was a stark contrast to the emotions that were swirling in the Cardinals' clubhouse when they came to Milwaukee on April 30 for their first games after relief pitcher Josh Hancock died in an automobile accident.
"Everybody takes hits, but we've had an unending bunch of body blows," La Russa said. "So it's been nothing but a gut check, and the guts have responded."
With Hancock's jersey hanging in their dugout and bullpen as a tribute more than three months ago, the Cardinals were swept by the Brewers before boarding a plane to attend his memorial service. The three-game sweep relegated St. Louis to fifth place in the NL Central, and a return to the playoffs was the farthest thing from their minds.
Now the reigning World Series champions have clawed their way back into the division race. With Tuesday night's victory, St. Louis trails Milwaukee by 4½ games, and second-place Chicago by three.
La Russa said he is proud of the way his players have handled adversity, but isn't going to get too excited about their recent progress until they having a winning record. With the victory, St. Louis is 56-60.
"When that happens, then you look around and say, 'Hey, where are we?,"' La Russa said.
The Brewers still lead the division, but continue to sputter and weren't exactly inspired by a pregame ceremony to commemorate the 25-year anniversary of what remains the franchise's only World Series appearance.
Both teams wore throwback uniforms to commemorate the 1982 series, in which the Cardinals defeated the Brewers in seven games -- making Tuesday's result look vaguely familiar.
Brewers starter Chris Capuano (5-10) hasn't won since May 7, a streak of 15 starts without a victory that includes 10 losses and five no-decisions. Brewers manager Ned Yost said he and general manager Doug Melvin might consider taking Capuano out of the starting rotation.
"The streak is up to 15 now," Yost said. "He's laboring through it right now. I'll talk to Doug. We've got to see what our options are. He might be our best option. It's hard to make a rash decision after that."
Capuano said he feels like he's only one or two good pitches away from getting out of situations such as the six-run fifth inning on Tuesday, and doesn't know anything about his status as a starter.
"I haven't spoken to anybody about it so I'm not sure," Capuano said. "I haven't thought about it too much. It's not for us to worry about. It's for them to discuss and then decide."
With Milwaukee leading 3-2 in the fifth inning, Capuano hit Ryan Ludwick to load the bases with one out. Two runs then scored when a potential double-play ball glanced off the glove of third baseman Ryan Braun.
Edmonds singled to load the bases again, and Yost removed Capuano from the game.
Milwaukee reliever Manny Parra then walked in a run, gave up a two-run single to Cardinals pitcher Kip Wells and allowed a sacrifice fly to David Eckstein, putting the Cardinals ahead 8-3. Wells was hitting eighth in the lineup on Tuesday night, the 10th straight game manager Tony La Russa used a pitcher in that spot.
Wells (6-13) allowed a solo home run to Prince Fielder, his 37th, and a two-run shot to Geoff Jenkins in the first inning. It was Jenkins' 208th career home run as a Brewer, tying him for second on the team's all-time home run list with Gorman Thomas -- an icon of the 1982 team who was in town for the reunion. Another prominent '82 Brewer, Robin Yount, has the franchise lead with 251.
But Wells didn't give up a hit after that until Braun's triple in the sixth. Wells said the Cardinals' road trip is another opportunity to jump back in the division race.
"We've had certain times where it's like, 'This is a big week for us. This is a big month for us,"' Wells said. "We just haven't necessarily put it together from top to bottom."
Chicago lost 6-5 to Cincinnati on Tuesday, allowing Milwaukee to maintain a 1½ game division lead over the Cubs. But the Cardinals suddenly are lurking.
"I don't think we ever counted them out," Braun said. "But at same time I feel like we're still in first place. We're still in a position we want to be in and we still control our own destiny."
- Commissioner Bud Selig, who owned the Brewers in 1982, addressed the crowd during the pregame ceremony but did not speak to reporters afterward.
- Yost said he has not heard anything from the league office about a potential punishment for Fielder, who was involved in a confrontation with umpire Wally Bell during the Brewers' 6-4 loss at Houston on Sunday.
- Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder will likely make a minor-league rehab start on Thursday. Mulder has missed 116 games as a result of left shoulder surgery.
- Braun, hitting in the cleanup spot for the first time, went 3-for-4 and hit his 23rd home run of the year. He has an 11-game hitting streak.