ST. LOUIS — In the one-game-at-a-time world of Major League Baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers no longer have to focus on catching the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central Division.
Now they have to focus on catching the St. Louis Cardinals.
Marcell Ozuna homered and Miles Mikolas tossed six effective innings to push the Cardinals into the second wild card spot in the NL with a 7-2 victory over the Brewers on Saturday night.
St. Louis (68-56) moved a half-game ahead of Milwaukee (68-57) and within four of the first-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.
Travis Shaw and Christian Yelich homered for the Brewers, who have lost six of eight and eight of 11 and find themselves on the outside looking in at the postseason picture.
“We’ve kind of got our tails kicked the last couple nights,” Brewers starter Wade Miley said. “Not to put a lot of pressure on us, but we’ve got to play better baseball.”
The Cardinals, who are a half-game behind wild card-leading Philadelphia, have won 10 of their past 11 and captured their seventh straight series after winning the opener of the three-game set on Friday.
The seven-series winning streak is the longest since St. Louis won eight in a row from April 10-May 7, 2015.
“We’re surging and we’re dangerous,” Mikolas said. “This is the time of year to get hot.”
Ozuna hit his 15th homer of the season in the second off Miley (2-2).
Paul DeJong and Harrison Bader added two-run hits as St. Louis improved to 21-10 under interim manager Mike Shildt, who took over after Mike Matheny was fired on July 14.
When Shildt claimed the job, the Cardinals sat in fourth place in the wild card standings, four games behind the second spot and 7½ games behind first-place Chicago. They have made up plenty of ground in a relatively short amount of time.
"This is nice," Shildt said. "If we keep playing good baseball, the process will take care of itself."
Mikolas (13-3) gave up one run on five hits. He struck out seven and did not walk a batter in winning his fifth consecutive decision.
Miley surrendered four runs on four hits over five innings. Three of the runs were unearned thanks to a missed third strike by catcher Erik Kratz that prolonged a three-run third inning.
“It’s my fault,” Miley said. “I crossed (Kratz) up on the fastball with two outs. He put down cutter and I thought I saw fastball.”
Tyler O’Neill broke a 1-all tie with a bloop single to right following the passed ball by Kratz, which would have ended the inning. Following a walk to Ozuna, DeJong hit a two-run single to push the lead to 4-1.
St. Louis infielder Matt Carpenter had a 35-game streak of reaching base snapped with a 0-for-4 performance.
DeJong drove in three runs.
"We can beat you in a lot of different ways," DeJong said. "That's something we're figuring out."
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell was ejected in the first inning by home plate umpire Cory Blaser. Blaser had warned Miley for throwing inside to O’Neill. Mikolas hit Lorenzo Cain in the top of the first.
Counsell came out to argue the warning and was ejected for the fourth time this season.
St. Louis infielder Kolten Wong was removed in the fourth inning with a bruised right elbow. He was hit by a pickoff attempt from Miley.
Happy day for Mikolas
Mikolas got to celebrate twice on Saturday.
The St. Louis right-hander was all smiles early in the afternoon when his twins, Miles and Madelyn, were released from the hospital for the first time after being born prematurely a month ago.
"A special day," Mikolas said.
He said he felt motivated by the progress made by his twins. His wife, Lauren, gave birth last month, with Mikolas returning early from the All-Star festivities.
"I think it's good to keep those happy thoughts in your head while you're pitching," Mikolas said. "It's nice to have my family healthy and happy."
Braun still out
Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun missed his second straight game with a sore rib cage. He is listed as day-to-day.
Cardinals outfielder Jose Martinez was originally in the starting lineup, but was scratched 90 minutes before the game with right hip tightness. He was replaced by O’Neill. ... Right-hander Carlos Martinez will make his second rehab appearance today for Class AA Springfield. Martinez, who was bothered by a right shoulder strain, threw two innings on Friday.
Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (12-4, 3.72) will face right-hander John Gant (5-4, 3.74) in the final game of the series on Sunday. Gant hit a two-run homer in his most recent outing, a 6-4 win over Washington on Tuesday.
The Brewers are 18-8 when Chacin starts. He is 0-2 with a 5.65 ERA in three career starts in St. Louis.