ST. LOUIS — Jhoulys Chacin had some extra motivation.
Mike Moustakas hit a two-run double, giving Chacin all the runs he needed to beat St. Louis for the first time in his career with the Milwaukee Brewers’ 2-1 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday.
“I can die now,” Chacin joked to reporters.
Milwaukee (69-57) snapped a three-game losing streak and moved back ahead of St. Louis (68-57) for the second National League wild card. The Cardinals lost for just the second time in their last 12 games.
“We talk about racking up wins and banking wins and we banked a win today and got a great pitching performance,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “I thought we swung the bats pretty good. It’s a good win. That’s a team that’s right in the thick of things and going to be there for the rest of the year.”
The Brewers had lost six of their past eight heading into the game. Milwaukee went 3-5 on its final three-city trip of the year, with Chacin logging two of the wins. Going back to Aug. 4, the Brewers are 4-8 and Chacin has three of those wins.
Chacin (13-4) entered the game 0-7 with a 6.90 ERA in nine career games, including eight starts, against the Cardinals, but shut them out through six innings as the Brewers avoided their first three-game sweep at St. Louis since July 1-3, 2016.
“This might be the biggest game of the season for me,” Chacin said. “The Cardinals have always been tough on me and this year it was an obsession.”
Chacin has won his last three starts and has given up three runs in his last 19 innings. The Brewers improved to 19-8 in his starts this season.
“I thought he kept them off balance, his slider was again good and his fastball,” Counsell said. “He threw fastballs and it was good sequencing.”
It took a harrowing finish, with Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader both holding their breath on fly balls to the warning track in the final two innings. Jeffress gave up a run in two innings of relief and Hader pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 10th save in 13 opportunities, making him the Brewers’ first lefty to log double-digit saves since Dan Plesac (24) in 1990.
“I think anything is possible now for me and the team,” Chacin said. “We win on Sunday, a day game, and I finally beat the Cardinals.”
He was only half-kidding. The Brewers entered the day with a 4-15 record on Sundays and 18-31 in day games, not to mention 10 straight losses in series finales.
Moustaskas hammered an 0-2 pitch down the first-base line to score Orlando Arcia and Lorenzo Cain, giving the Brewers a 2-0 lead in the third. Arcia and Cain each stole a base to help get them into scoring position ahead of Moustaskas.
“We always talk about little things and being able to vary our times and our holds and being quick to the plate is important, something that we’ve done really really well all year,” Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt said of Cain’s steal. “The reality is the guy’s an accomplished base stealer as well. It was a big play.”
John Gant (5-5) gave up two runs on six hits and two walks in 4⅓ innings. Gant has failed to make it past 4⅓ innings in three of his last four starts.
“It was just one of those days,” Gant said. “I never really found a good, solid groove.”
Brett Cecil pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth, Tyson Ross followed with three scoreless innings and Mike Mayers added another as Cardinals relievers combined for 4⅔ shutout innings.
Patrick Wisdom hit his first career home run 414 feet into the bleachers in left-center to lead off the eighth for St. Louis.
Around the horn
Ryan Braun of the Brewers returned to the starting lineup for the first time since he tweaked his right rib cage in Wednesday’s loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He went 0-for-3 with a walk. ... Milwaukee catcher Manny Pina (left shoulder) missed his third straight game and is day-to-day. ... Cardinals second Kolten Wong (bruised elbow) pinch hit and flew out after being taken out of Saturday night’s game. ... Yadier Molina started his 27th straight game for the Cardinals, a major league record for catchers 35 years or older.
Milwaukee right-hander Chase Anderson (7-7, 3.97 ERA) will start a three-game series against visiting Cincinnati and RHP Homer Bailey (1-10, 6.33 ERA) on Monday night. Anderson is 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA in nine career starts against the Reds.