MILWAUKEE -- The young Brewers got a taste of what a pennant race is like.
The 6-4 victory Sunday night against the NL Central-leading Cardinals might be even more valuable next season for Milwaukee than in a 2013 campaign weighed down by injuries and the doping suspension of slugger Ryan Braun.
Norichika Aoki scored three times and doubled home a run, and Jim Henderson got Matt Adams, representing the potential go-ahead run, to strike out to end the game and close out the season at Miller Park on a high note.
"I think it's great for them. You play the Cardinals right now, it's a playoff atmosphere," manager Ron Roenicke said. "But all this is growth for them, and [when] the pressure spots come up, because they will, they can handle them better."
The Brewers are in fourth in the NL Central, long out of the pennant race at 17 games under .500. More pressure is on the division-leading Cardinals, who learned earlier Sunday they were assured of at least an NL wild card after Washington lost its doubleheader opener against Miami.
The Cardinals chased Peralta after loading the bases in the sixth with no outs. Reliever Donovan Hand allowed two runs to score on consecutive sacrifice flies to cut the Brewers' lead to 4-3, but he got out of the jam by getting Matt Carpenter to strike out on a curve with the tying run at third.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina misplayed a throw to the plate for another error in a two-run seventh that restored Milwaukee's three-run cushion. St. Louis also committed two errors in the Brewers' two-run second.
For some reason, the Cardinals just weren't sharp.
"We made many mistakes and were lucky to have been that close," manager Mike Matheny said. "From here on out we have to play clean baseball and they know that. But when you don't do it, you have to make up for it somehow."
Working through a nagging blister on his right index finger, Wily Peralta (11-15) struggled through five-plus innings by giving up five hits and walking five. Henderson earned his 26th save after allowing Carlos Beltran's RBI single in the ninth before striking out Adams.
The Brewers lost Braun in late July to suspension. Rickie Weeks was lost for the season in August to strained left hamstring. Corey Hart never even made it out of spring training and hurt both knees this year.
So Milwaukee has turned to young players to solidify the team. For instance, Peralta, 24, will be counted on to continue to mature and solidify the rotation next year.
The blister that has plagued him of late felt the worst it's been all season on Sunday.
"You know, I walked a lot of people, but I think I made big pitches when I needed to," Peralta said.
St. Louis remains two games up in the division, but now has two teams to fend off in second after the Reds defeated Pittsburgh 11-3 to pull into a tie with the Pirates.
Kelly hesitated on what could have been an inning-ending double play in the first after getting Carlos Gomez to bounce sharply back to the mound with runners on first and third. That allowed a run to score from third.
Aoki had led off the first with a single and came home on an RBI single by Aramis Ramirez with one out. Aoki then reached on an RBI double in the second before scoring after Kelly threw away a sacrifice bunt attempt by Scooter Gennett.
"My stuff felt good," Kelly said. "Obviously, me throwing away a ball didn't help. Just one of those games and that kind of stuff happens."
Kelly went seven innings, allowing seven hits and six runs -- three of them unearned.
LF Matt Holliday was scratched from the starting lineup with back spasms. ... St. Louis has a major league-leading 34 wins from rookie pitchers this season, their most since also getting 34 in 1952. ... Manager Ron Roenicke thinks SS Jean Segura will be available for pinch-hitting duties for the Brewers' three-game set starting Monday in Atlanta. Segura, the NL leader in steals with 44, has been sidelined since Wednesday with a strained right hamstring. ... LF Khris Davis was out of the lineup Sunday due to a nagging wrist injury, but is also likely to return to action in Atlanta.