PIT@MIL: Davis belts a two-run homer in the second

ST. LOUIS -- Lingering soreness in his left wrist limited Brewers outfielder Khris Davis to "dry" swings on Tuesday, a discouraging sign for manager Ron Roenicke.

Davis, batting .298 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs in 33 games since replacing Ryan Braun on the active roster, missed his fourth straight start.

"He's still sore. I was a little disappointed today," Roenicke said. "I want to get him back out there while he's hot, you know? I hate for him to sit out and miss so much that all of a sudden he loses that good feeling now."

Davis offered a more encouraging assessment, saying he hoped to hit in the cage Wednesday. But even if that session goes well, he would probably not return to the lineup until Thursday at the earliest.

Davis called it "a day-by-day thing. It's not there yet. I didn't want to hit and push it, but it felt fine dry swinging."

"To think it's just going to disappear one day, it probably won't happen," Roenicke said.

Axford talks differences of pitching for St. Louis

Debating the John Axford trade on MLB Now

ST. LOUIS -- Former Brewers reliever John Axford spoke with fondness Tuesday about his tenure in Milwaukee and said he was adjusting to the differences of playing for the Cardinals, even if he couldn't -- or wouldn't -- explain exactly what those differences are.

"It has been different, but it's definitely good," Axford said before his old team met his new one at Busch Stadium. "I think I like that, also, that you get a different change of scenery and get to experience things a little differently, when things are done a little bit differently. That's all part of the experience, I guess."

Asked to expound on how the Cardinals do things differently, Axford said, "I don't know. There are some things you can just feel, and some things you can just tell. The way things are in the clubhouse, I guess it's just an all-encompassing thing of sorts. You can just tell the way things are and the way things are different here compared to the Brewers."

The Brewers traded Axford to the Cardinals on Aug. 30, deciding that getting another strong-armed reliever in return -- right-hander Michael Blazek -- was better than letting Axford go after the season for nothing. He is earning $5 million this season and has three years of arbitration eligibility remaining, so the Brewers would have non-tendered Axford in December, making him a free agent.

The Cardinals may opt for the same course of action, but Axford nonetheless has embraced his change of scenery. He surrendered two earned runs in his first five appearances with St. Louis.

"It seemed like Milwaukee was coming to an end for me, and it was time to carry on and go somewhere else and start new once again," Axford said. "Milwaukee gave me a huge opportunity, the Brewers gave me a huge opportunity, and I took advantage of it the best I could and did a great job the best I could for as long as I could. I guess, over the last couple of seasons, things haven't worked out quite as well, and maybe what's needed was another change."

Axford set a Brewers record with 46 saves in 2011 and played a significant role in the club's National League Central crown and its deep run in the postseason. But he struggled through the middle section of '12, then faltered again earlier this season and was replaced in the closer's role by Jim Henderson.

His first two weeks with the Cardinals have been interesting. Axford missed his first game because of travel issues at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, including weather and a fire on the runway, and was ejected in his fourth outing after hitting the Pirates' Tony Sanchez with a high-and-tight fastball. Both teams had been warned by home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo earlier in the game.

Axford, who said he'd never been ejected at any level, is still awaiting word from Major League Baseball about whether he will be fined.

"I'm sure if I just brushed a jersey or got someone on the thigh, it would have been no big deal," Axford said. "But because it was 96 [mph] and the shoulder, it's a little different story."

His new team enters its series against the Brewers on a hot streak. The Cardinals swept the second-place Pirates over the weekend and entered play Tuesday with a one-game lead in the NL Central.

"It was huge," Axford said. "A lot of fun, a lot of energy here. The team is excited. You can get a sense of that just being in the clubhouse. You don't even have to talk a lot or discuss it, you can just feel it. That's a great thing to have around you right now. It's fantastic."

He was eager to pitch against his old teammates.

"I am definitely looking forward to getting in there." Axford said. "It will be fun. I'm sure it will be odd from both sides, so we'll see how it goes."

Final stretch forces Crew to use six-man rotation

PIT@MIL: Thornburg fans four over six solid frames

ST. LOUIS -- Tuesday marked the first of 20 games in 20 days to finish the Brewers' season, a grueling stretch in which manager Ron Roenicke will employ at least six starting pitchers.

Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada and Tyler Thornburg were lined up to start the series against the Cardinals, followed by Kyle Lohse, Johnny Hellweg and Yovani Gallardo against the Reds.

"And I think if there's a chance to slip Jimmy Nelson in there, we'll try to," Roenicke said. "We'll just see how things go here, see how he looks out of the bullpen, and see what we want to do.

"Thornburg threw so well for us [in previous starts] that Doug [Melvin, Milwaukee's general manager] would like to get a better look at him. Hellweg, we know what he is -- the [Pacific Coast League] pitcher of the year -- we need to see what he's got. The six days, we didn't feel that was a big deal for the guys who have been pitching all year."

Roenicke said the long stretch without an off-day is not ideal, especially this late in the season. Center fielder Carlos Gomez, third baseman Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Jean Segura, all managing nagging injuries, will need at least one game off apiece.

"The off-days have been weird this season, they've been grouped," Roenicke said. "Is this our third 20-game stretch? They're tough. We just had two off-days -- I would have loved to have the second one a week later."

Twenty games in a row is the maximum allowed under baseball's collective bargaining agreement. The Brewers had one such stretch from late May to early June, another in late June to the All-Star break in July, and now this streak in September.

The 2014 schedule was unveiled Tuesday and the Brewers will have only one 20-game streak, in June.

Last call

• Brewers reliever Tom Gorzelanny and wife Lindsey welcomed a second son, Connor Thomas, on Monday. Gorzelanny is currently sidelined by a shoulder injury and is not with the team on its road trip, though Roenicke hoped to know more about the left-hander's status when the team returns to Miller Park on Friday.

Asked whether he expected Gorzelanny to pitch again this season, Roenicke said, "I'm hoping he will. Any time you have a little irritation there -- hopefully that calms down enough so we can see him."

• Roenicke sees the NL Central race as too close to call, with the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds entering Tuesday within two games of each other.

"You've got three really good teams," Roenicke said. "[The Cardinals are] probably the most well-rounded team if you look at all the different things, but I don't see the next few years -- unfortunately, I see all three teams really good for a while. That's a tough thing for us. You don't have all these veterans who are going to be free agents, so they're going to lose all these guys. They're going to be good for a while."