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STL@MIL: Wong connects for a two-run homer

MILWAUKEE -- With one game remaining before the All-Star break, the Cardinals finally have ended the Brewers' stranglehold on the National League Central lead.

By virtue of Saturday afternoon's 10-2 victory, the Cardinals moved into a first-place tie with the Brewers. Milwaukee, which has had sole possession of the top spot since April 9, continues to falter, losing its seventh in a row and 11th of its last 12.

"This is a funny game of ups and downs," All-Star pitcher Adam Wainwright said. "The teams that have the most ups and the least amount of downs end up winning the whole thing. Inevitably, you're going to have both."

Wainwright remained dominant on the mound. He picked up his 12th win of the season, tying him with Cincinnati's Alfredo Simon and the New York Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka for the Major League lead. Wainwright hadn't given up a run for 19 1/3 innings, covering three starts, until surrendering back-to-back doubles to Jeff Bianchi and pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay in the fifth. He gave up two runs and five hits over seven innings.

"It's just been so fun to watch him pitch," manager Mike Matheny said. "The different styles he'll make up depending on what he has that day."

The Cardinals jumped on Brewers pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson for three runs in the first inning and never looked back. The Brewers summoned Nelson to replace the struggling Marco Estrada in the starting rotation. Prior to his promotion, Nelson was leading the Pacific Coast League in ERA (1.46) and strikeouts (114) and was tied for the league lead in wins (10).

Kolten Wong, who had faced Nelson in Triple-A, had praise for the Brewers' pitcher despite the rough outing on Saturday.

"I told everybody he's a really good pitcher," Wong said. "He's one of the best I've seen down in Triple-A."

Jhonny Peralta's run-scoring single put the Cardinals up, 1-0, in the first. The Cardinals benefited from a fielding error by Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett with two outs in the inning. Tony Cruz followed with a single that drove in two.

Matt Carpenter drew a two-out walk in the second and Wong followed with his sixth home run of the season. Wong has homered in five of seven games since returning from the disabled list on Sunday.

"I definitely don't try for the home runs. I just try to put a good swing on it," Wong said.

Matheny said Wong's success stems from a good approach at the plate.

"When he sets to swing, you don't see a lot of half swings. When he decides to the pull the trigger, he pulls it," Matheny said. "The bat speed is what will result in the ball jumping out of the park, not necessarily lifting it."

Cruz, who has been starting at catcher with Yadier Molina on the disabled list, drove in another run in the third with a double.

"He did a nice job behind the plate. He and Adam work great together," Matheny said. "The offense is a nice added bonus."

Hitting isn't Cruz's top priority.

"For me, handling the staff is always No. 1. I just try to step in there and do what I can at the plate," he said.

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