Sunday night, the Cardinals saw good pitching up on the mound, and the result was a 4-3 loss to the Brewers in 10 innings.
Milwaukee starter Manny Parra opened the game by striking out Felipe Lopez and Brendan Ryan. It quickly became a consistent theme.
In the third frame, Parra punched out Ryan, second baseman Aaron Miles and pitcher Jaime Garcia. In the fourth, he whiffed four batters, sitting down Albert Pujols, Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus, while Yadier Molina managed to advance to first base after swinging through a wild pitch. Parra finished the game with 10 K's in 5 1/3 innings and Redbird hitters saw strike three a total of 12 times across the 10 innings.
"He was great," said Ryan, a Parra strikeout victim on two occasions. "I mean, he is throwing that splitter hard and for strikes. He is throwing his hook at any time and he has got a live fastball, so put those three things together and when he starts locating, it is going to be pretty hard to have success."
The lack of runs created finally caught up to St. Louis in the top of the 10th frame, when Cardinals reliever Jason Motte gave up the go-ahead run off a sacrifice fly from Corey Hart to score Prince Fielder from third and give the Brewers a 4-3 lead.
Motte started the inning with a walk to Fielder and a pair of singles to Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee, giving Hart the opportunity to play hero.
"I don't think [Motte] looked bad today," La Russa said. "They got him. Sometimes you have to give credit to the other side. He didn't stink up the joint ... sometimes they get you, it is the big leagues."
During the other half of the innings, Garcia worked out of jams.
The rookie pitcher quickly found himself in trouble after allowing the first three Brewers batters of the game to load the bases with singles. Belying his rookie status, however, Garcia managed the damage, only allowing two runs. Fighting around an error from Lopez at third base, Garcia yielded a sacrifice fly before getting a fortunate line-drive double play.
Garcia left the game with six innings pitched and two earned runs allowed, though he did have to work around eight hits and two walks.
"I don't think it is a big deal," Garcia said of giving up more hits in his last two starts. "The biggest thing I've got to be able to do is keep fighting, you know, no matter what happens, just keep fighting and just focus on getting the next guy out."
While Garcia was able to work his way out of jams, Cardinals hitters fell just short of capitalizing on a couple Brewers pitching mistakes.
Parra left the game in the sixth inning after losing control and walking the bases loaded with just one out. Pinch-hitters Skip Schumaker and David Freese were unable to capitalize, however, with Schumaker striking out after a 12-pitch at-bat, and Freese softly grounding out to Alcides Escobar at shortstop.
The Redbirds put men on base in every inning afterwards, but only succeeded in plating a run when Randy Winn brought home Ryan Ludwick with a sac fly in the eighth.
"We had a hellacious effort," La Russa said. "Hung in there, hung in there. Couple chances to win it, and didn't."
Though the Cardinals took home their second consecutive series against the Brewers, they were denied a sweep of a National League Central opponent for the fourth time this season in the final game of a series.
"You want to win every game, but the plan is to win two out of three," Ryan said. "Obviously, we had a chance to sweep, but shoot, good pitching is tough to beat and Parra was outstanding tonight."
Michael Bleach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.