MILWAUKEE -- Leave it to the St. Louis Cardinals to kill the buzz at Miller Park.
The Brewers' chief rivals did it again Monday night, when Lance Lynn pitched seven scoreless, strikeout-filled innings and Jon Jay hit a three-run home run that sealed a 4-0 Cardinals victory and ended the Brewers' win streak at nine games.
A 10th win in a row would have been the Brewers' longest run in more than a decade, but that would have required beating a St. Louis team that had won 23 of 34 regular-season meetings since the Cardinals bounced the Brewers in the 2011 National League Championship Series. Make it 24 of 35 -- by a combined score of 190-119 -- after Lynn & Co. cruised to victory in the opener of this three-game set.
"You know what? We don't look at their uniforms; we don't care who they are," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "We just want to beat them. Yeah, they're a good team. They've got good pitchers, good hitters. But I think we match up pretty well. We have to figure out how to win."
The Brewers had been winning -- a lot. They entered Matt Garza's start on Monday riding high after consecutive three-game sweeps at Boston, at Philadelphia and at home against the Pirates. Even with Monday's loss, the Brewers own the best record in baseball at 10-3.
Manager Ron Roenicke doesn't think his team has a Cardinals conundrum.
"It swings back and forth," Roenicke said. "If there was a history of 20 years of never playing well against them, then yeah, it would probably bother me. But I know things switch back and forth. They had a great pitching performance today, and that was the difference in the game." That performance came from Lynn (3-0), who struck out 11 batters while scattering three hits and three walks in seven scoreless innings. The right-hander whiffed Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun and Lucroy two times apiece.
"Today was as good as I've seen him, and he's had some good outings," said Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter, who watched the final four innings in the clubhouse after being ejected for arguing a called third strike. "He was on. We needed it. The Brewers were swinging hot bats, and he shut them down."
Garza was just as good aside from one hanging slider to Jay, whose three-run homer with two outs in the sixth inning was the game's biggest hit. Jhonny Peralta also homered off Garza, a solo shot leading off the second inning, and Garza was charged with four runs on nine hits in seven innings. He became Milwaukee's first starting pitcher since Sept. 15 to surrender more than three earned runs, ending at 26 a franchise-record streak of games with three or fewer.
Garza has pitched 15 innings in his first two Miller Park starts this season, and the Brewers have yet to score a single run of support. On Monday, they were held to three hits by Lynn and Cardinals reliever Carlos Martinez.
"He kept us in the ballgame," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I didn't think his stuff and command was as good as we've seen, but he battled."
Jay's homer capped a game-changing sequence that began the half-inning before, when Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett worked a two-out walk from Lynn but was held at third when Logan Schafer dropped a double down the right-field line. That brought up Garza, who on one hand began the day with a .094 lifetime batting average, but on the other hand had limited the Cardinals to one run through the first five innings on 73 pitches. He was sent up to bat, and swung through two sliders before looking at a fastball for an inning-ending strike three.
Back on the mound in the top of the sixth with the score still 1-0, Garza surrendered a flurry of St. Louis hits. Matt Holliday singled and tried for home when Matt Adams' double got past a diving Schafer in left field and briefly lodged under the padded wall. Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez, backing up the play, gathered the baseball and threw to shortstop Jean Segura, who threw a one-hop relay home to Lucroy, who secured the ball and applied the tag in one movement for an out. The Brewers got another big out when first baseman Lyle Overbay fielded an Allen Craig grounder and threw to third to cut down Adams for the second out.
That left one out to go, but Peralta singled to extend the inning for Jay. In a 1-2 count, Garza tried to spike a slider in the dirt, but he hung it up. Jay sent it to the bleachers in right field.
The pitch was "obviously not" where he wanted it, Garza said.
"We wanted it in the dirt," Lucroy said. "That's a big strikeout pitch, Garza's strength. He gets a lot of strikeouts with sliders down, and it was just up in the zone. [Jay] put a good swing on it." As Jay circled the bases, Garza kicked the dirt atop the pitcher's mound and yelled into his glove.
"The worst thing is it's just a big-time momentum shift right there," Garza said. "I felt we had momentum after the tag at home, and the great plays on defense, and that [one pitch] was a back-breaker in a sense. We're fine. We'll come back and start a new thing tomorrow."