ST. LOUIS -- It could have been a historic opening month for the Brewers.
Instead, it was just a really good one.
Matt Garza was knocked around by the Cardinals before he was knocked out of the game by a right thumb bruise, and the Brewers missed a chance for a rare sweep of their National League Central rival. Matt Adams and Allen Craig each homered and drove in three runs as St. Louis beat Milwaukee, 9-3, at Busch Stadium on Wednesday.
Adams' three-run home run off Garza during a long third inning gave the Cardinals the lead for good and helped deny the Brewers a 21st victory before May 1. In Major League history, only the 2003 Yankees have won 21 games before that date.
Still, at 20-8, the Brewers own the best record in baseball and are only the fourth team in history to win 20 times in March and April. Two of the previous three -- the 2003 Yankees and '01 Mariners -- made the postseason. The '08 D-backs also started 20-8 but finished 82-80 and missed the postseason.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had more pressing matters on his mind after the game than that bit of baseball trivia. Garza's exit after three-plus innings further taxed a bullpen that was worked hard in the opening month. In the three games against St. Louis alone, Brewers relievers threw 275 pitches, plus 13 from backup catcher Martin Maldonado in the bottom of the eighth inning on Wednesday.
"My gosh, we're really happy with where we are," Roenicke said. "But things can change, and I don't want it to happen to the pitching staff because we overused them."
The Cardinals were happy to avoid what would have been Milwaukee's first series sweep in St. Louis since 2009.
"We understand the fact that these guys are playing really good baseball," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's what we plan on people saying about us here in the near future and hopefully the rest of the way through."
Taking the field once again without injured regulars Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Jean Segura in the lineup, the Brewers got to St. Louis starter Shelby Miller early in the game. After Matt Holliday's RBI single off Garza put St. Louis ahead in the first inning, Brewers first baseman Mark Reynolds hit a two-run home run in the second inning and Carlos Gomez added a long solo shot to straightaway center field in the third, making it 3-1.
It marked only the second time in Miller's seven starts against Milwaukee that he had surrendered more than two runs. But he gave up no more runs and exited in the seventh charged with three runs on six hits in six-plus innings.
The Cardinals reclaimed the lead against Garza and his emergency replacement, Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang, by scoring seven runs in the span of three innings, beginning with Garza's 43-pitch, three-run third. Garza walked Jon Jay with one out and surrendered a single to Holliday before Adams connected with a curveball at the bottom of the strike zone and sent it 439 feet to the right-field seats. It gave Adams six hits in eight career at-bats against Garza and gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.
Garza escaped further damage in that inning, throwing 18 extra pitches after Cardinals rookie Greg Garcia struck out but took first base on a passed ball. Garza sustained his thumb injury when he hit a broken-bat groundout in the top of the fourth inning, and he was removed from the game after walking Matt Carpenter to lead off the bottom of the frame.
Wang took over and allowed the inherited runner to score. Garza was charged with five earned runs on five hits and four walks in three-plus innings, snapping at nine games the Brewers' streak of quality starts.
He is 1-3 with a 5.00 ERA, the only member of Milwaukee's five-man starting rotation with an ERA above 3.00.
"It's been a consistent battle for me so far this year," Garza said. "I don't know if it's me fighting myself or me trying to do too much, or what it is, but it needs to stop. I'm not happy. I'm really disappointed in myself. I'm going to figure it out. I'm going to carry my weight on this team, and I'm going to do my part. Right now, I'm not."
Garza predicted he'd make his next start as scheduled.
"I don't know, he just wasn't putting guys away," Roenicke said of Garza. "The balls that I saw that were hit well were pretty much middle of the plate. I thought his stuff was fine. I don't know if it was just location or what it was."
Wang was charged with four more Cardinals runs on six hits over three innings. Zach Duke covered the seventh inning, and Maldonado pitched the eighth, becoming the Brewers' first position player to take the mound since Joe Inglett in 2010.
Roenicke is not a fan of using position players to pitch, but he worries about the workload of a relief corps that has been excellent this season.
"It can turn, and that's what we're trying to avoid," Roenicke said. "To do well in this division, we know how important our pitching staff is. The bullpen is huge. When you're winning games, you need to win them. You can't give up too many games late. We've got five more months of the regular season, and I need these guys to be strong all through the year."
Segura gave the Brewers an encouraging sign late in the game, appearing at shortstop in the eighth inning and doubling down the right-field line in the ninth. He and Ramirez are both expected back in the lineup on Thursday against the Reds.