MILWAUKEE -- Wily Peralta did everything in his power to prevent the Cardinals from sweeping their way out of Miller Park on Wednesday. He pitched into the seventh inning. He dodged comebackers as best he could, and he made at least one highlight-worthy defensive play. He even hit the line drive that sparked the Brewers' game-breaking rally.
By the end of the day, Peralta was a bit bruised, but his Brewers were back on track thanks to a 5-1 win.
"It felt pretty good," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "That's a pretty good team over there, and they've had some momentum against us the past few years. It was nice to get a win and come off a 4-2 homestand. That's pretty good. If we can do that the rest of the year, we're going to be there in the end."
At 11-4 overall, Milwaukee owns baseball's best record. Carlos Gomez drove in one run and scored another, Lucroy snapped a mini-slump with a big two-run single and Peralta allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings to prevent the Cardinals from pulling into a tie atop the National League Central.
"We needed a big start from somebody, and [Peralta] came out right away with a fastball that was down in the zone, good sliders," manager Ron Roenicke said. "That was an important game, and he did his job."
Said Lucroy: "He was a show-stopper today. He stopped the [Cardinals'] momentum and shut them down. It was a lot of fun to catch."
If there is such a thing as a critical game in April, this was it. The Brewers had been outhit and outpitched in the series' first two games before bouncing back thanks in large part to Peralta, who retired nine of the first 10 men he faced and didn't allow a run until Allen Craig connected for a solo home run in the sixth inning.
If Peralta did his part, so did the Cardinals' defense. An error charged to first baseman Matt Adams on an easy bouncer in the third inning positioned Gomez for an RBI double, giving the Brewers their first lead of the series.
In the fifth, with Cardinals reliever Seth Maness on the mound because starter Joe Kelly had exited with a left hamstring injury, the Brewers added three more runs after St. Louis shortstop Jhonny Peralta missed Wily Peralta's knuckling line drive with two outs. That play was initially ruled a hit, then changed to an error, but later changed back to a hit -- the first by a Milwaukee pitcher this season -- after official scorer Tim O'Driscoll saw a replay from the center-field camera that showed the baseball take a turn just before it reached the fielder's glove.
That ruling made everything which came next bad news for Maness' ERA.
Maness walked Gomez, before Jean Segura, Lucroy and Aramis Ramirez delivered successive singles. Lucroy had been 0-for-9 in the series and 2-for-16 on the homestand before he hit his two-run roller through the hole at second base, and Ramirez followed with a single to left field that boosted him to a remarkable 10-for-13 this season with men in scoring position.
"It just goes back to prove the point that is something we have to bring every day. We have to bring that good defense," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We've got the kind of guys who can make the plays. In games like this where we're not stacking up a bunch of runs, defensive plays can come back and bite you, and they did today."
Wily Peralta and a trio of Brewers relievers held the lead. With the bases loaded, Will Smith induced a critical double play from Cardinals pinch-hitter Shane Robinson for the final two outs of the seventh inning. Tyler Thornburg pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and has retired 20 hitters in a row. And after Lyle Overbay's bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth inning to extend the Brewers' lead, Francisco Rodriguez worked a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation.
Brewers relievers lead the Majors with a 1.33 ERA.
"Our bullpen has been amazing," Peralta said. "If we keep pitching the way we've been pitching, we're going to be fine."
Brewers starters have been solid, too, with a 2.52 ERA. That includes Peralta's 6 1/3-inning, six-hit, one-run performance. He walked one, struck out three and lowered his ERA to 2.88 over his past 20 starts dating to last season.
"I think it was really important, because we were really hot and then we lost these two games," Peralta said. "It was good to win this one so we can go to Pittsburgh and have a good series there. I'm glad I was able to have a good ballgame."
He was also glad to get away in reasonably good health. A Jon Jay line drive deflected off Peralta's back to shortstop Jean Segura for the final out of the second inning, one of Peralta's six assists. One of those other comebackers struck Peralta's foot. When Roenicke made his pitching change in the seventh inning with Peralta at 89 pitches, it was partly for matchups and partly because Peralta's back was feeling a bit tight.
"They kept hitting it right at me," Peralta said. "They gave me a lot of ground balls today. I had a lot of work today."