Brian Barton, who hasn't been a part-time player since he was a freshman in college, continued his embrace of pinch-hitting with a key knock at Miller Park. Barton's leadoff double in the ninth inning sparked the rally that finally put the Brewers away in a hard-earned 4-3 Cardinals win.
Barton jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Derrick Turnbow, doubling to left-center field to open the ninth in a tie game. Cesar Izturis bunted him over to third base, and Skip Schumaker also jumped on a first-pitch heater, drilling it to center for the winning run.
"Being in a pinch-hit situation, you've got to be ready," Barton said. "Not really seeing the guy, and not being in the game, you're looking for one pitch, and one pitch down the middle. And he happened to throw it right there, and I took a good swing at it."
Schumaker had been 0-for-4, though he hit two balls hard for line-drive outs earlier in the evening. Rick Ankiel drew two walks and scored a run, and Chris Duncan singled and made a tough play at the outfield wall. Then Duncan gave way to Ryan Ludwick, who reached on a ball deep in the right-field corner that was ruled a three-base error.
Each time the Cardinals took the lead, though, the Brewers clawed back in the next half inning. It was 2-0, then immediately 2-2. A 3-2 lead was erased in the eighth. It took until the ninth before the Cards finally made a lead stand, thanks to a 1-2-3 save by Jason Isringhausen.
After Milwaukee tied it against Ryan Franklin, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa called on Barton to lead off against the hard-throwing but erratic Turnbow. The right-hander presents an unusual challenge, because he can be far out of the strike zone but he also can come right over the middle of the plate. You must be ready for the latter while attuned to the possibility of the former.
Barton, who typically displays a refined, patient approach, was prepared to pounce when Turnbow came over the plate. He's shown that ability and willingness coming off the bench, going 4-for-9 as a pinch-hitter. He's 4-for-8 when he swings at the first pitch. It's not an easy adjustment, but it's one that Barton has made.
"Pinch-hitting is not easy," Ludwick said. "A lot of people think it's the hardest thing to do in the game. You're coming in cold a lot of the time, and you've got to find ways to get loose and be ready. [You've got to] get a good pitch to hit, sometimes in your only at-bat of the night, and it's usually in a pretty important role. It's definitely not easy to do."
The Cardinals have turned into a nemesis for Turnbow, once the Brewers' closer. His ERA against St. Louis actually dropped to 11.02 when he allowed a single run in the ninth. Turnbow has walked 16 batters in 16 1/3 career innings against St. Louis.
The last run gave the win to Franklin, who allowed a single tally in the eighth but escaped a situation that could have gotten much worse. Isringhausen picked up his seventh save in eight chances.
Adam Wainwright tossed seven excellent innings for the Redbirds, but he received a no-decision. Wainwright allowed two runs on four hits while striking out six and walking four. He has pitched at least seven innings in each of his four starts this year. After allowing the Brewers two runs in the third inning, he retired 11 straight batters.
"I wasn't sharp early," Wainwright said. "Even the first two innings I was kind of erratic. I was erratic in the strike zone for the most part, so I was able to get outs. But you've got to be able to flip a switch sometimes in the middle of a game when you're kind of erratic."
In a bizarre exchange, the Cardinals took an eighth-inning lead, then gave it back, thanks in large part to similar plays. Right fielder Corey Hart's misplay on a ball hit by Ludwick set up Ludwick to score the go-ahead run in the top of the inning.
Then, in the bottom half, right fielder Ludwick misplayed a ball hit by Hart that brought the tying run home. Ludwick lost the ball in the lights, and so he was not charged with an error. It is likely, though, that the run would have scored on a sacrifice fly even if Ludwick had fielded it cleanly.
St. Louis improved to 13-7 on the year. The Cardinals trail the first-place Cubs by one-half game in the National League Central.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.