ST. LOUIS — The bumbling Brewers made four errors that led to three unearned runs, and the St. Louis Cardinals survived a short start by Jaime Garcia to beat Milwaukee 7-1 Friday night and take a 3-2 lead in the NL championship series.
Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday had three hits each for St. Louis, which burst to a 3-0 lead in the second when Molina doubled in a run and third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. allowed Garcia’s grounder to go through his legs. Holliday capped the scoring with a two-run double in the eighth.
“We just keep finding ways to win,” Holliday said. “It’s a team, it’s a group effort. It’s never one guy.”
Milwaukee’s infield nearly had a cycle of errors, with second baseman Rickie Weeks and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt also committing miscues along with reliever Marco Estrada. Weeks had committed the Brewers’ only two errors in the first four games of the series.
“You give these guys extra outs and they are going to hurt you,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
The Cardinals have won 14 straight games on getaway days, a run that began on Aug. 7 at Florida. The win gave players another opportunity to chant “Happy Flight! Happy Flight!”
St. Louis can wrap up the best-of-seven series and its 18th NL pennant on Sunday in Milwaukee. Edwin Jackson goes for the Cardinals against Shaun Marcum in a rematch of pitchers from Game 2, won by St. Louis 12-3 as neither starter received a decision.
The NL winner hosts the World Series opener against Detroit or Texas on Wednesday.
“We’re having a good series right now and, hopefully, we can do it for one more game,” Molina said.
Milwaukee had not made more than three errors in a game during the regular season, but the Brewers’ sloppiness reached a near-record level. Milwaukee was one shy of the LCS record for errors in a game, shared by the 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers and 1976 New York Yankees, according to STATS LLC.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had a quick hook once again. Garcia opened with four scoreless innings, then allowing three hits and a sacrifice in a span of four at-bats in the fifth, with Corey Hart singling in a run. With two and on and two outs, Octavio Dotel relieved and struck out Braun.
Dotel (1-0) struck out two in 1 1-3 hitless innings, combining with three other relievers for 4 1-3 innings of scoreless, two-hit relief. Jason Motte got four outs for his second save of the series, leaving Cardinals relievers 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA in 22 2-3 innings. St. Louis starters are 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA.
Only one St. Louis starter has lasted long enough to qualify for a victory, with Chris Carpenter working five innings in Game 3. The previous team to have a starter not pitch into the sixth in the first five games of a postseason series was the 1984 San Diego Padres in the World Series, according to STATS.
With Milwaukee down 5-1 and trying to rally with two on in the eighth, lefty Marc Rzepczynski relieved and struck out Prince Fielder.
Fielder is 0 for 4 with four strikeouts and two walks against Rzepczynski.
Zack Greinke (1-1) left pitches over the plate in some key spots and allowed five runs — just two earned — and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings with no strikeouts and two walks.
Hart had three hits, breaking out from a 1 for 12 start to the series.
St. Louis had been hitless in 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position — and 22 at-bats with runners on base — before Molina’s RBI double off the right-field fence. Hart just missed on a leaping attempt at the right field fence.
Hairston saved at least one run at third base with a spectacular diving catch to his left on Nick Punto’s low liner for the second out. But when he botched Garcia’s easy grounder, St. Louis was up 3-0.
Garcia’s RBI groundout made it 4-0 in he fourth, the first RBI by a Cardinals pitcher in the postseason since Jeff Suppan homered in the 2006 NLCS against the Mets.
Albert Pujols had an RBI single in the sixth to chase Greinke.
NOTES: Braun doubled in the first and has reached base safely in the opening inning of nine straight games, going 7 for 7 with a walk and hit by pitch. He has 22 hits in the postseason, matching the franchise record by Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. … Chuck Berry, a St. Louis musical icon, performed the national anthem with his daughter, Ingrid. Wearing his trademark sailor’s cap and a No. 84 Cardinals jersey (his age), Berry mostly watched and threw in occasional harmony. … Cardinals Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith threw a one-hop first pitch with injured St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright on the receiving end for the third straight night.