ST. LOUIS — Ryan Braun still stands out at opportune times for the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I’m not as good as I was,” the 35-year-old said. “But in big moments, I’m the guy still.”
Braun hit a go-ahead grand slam off Junior Fernández with two outs in the ninth inning as the Brewers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-6 Sunday to keep up their playoff push by winning for the ninth time in 10 games.
Milwaukee remained one game behind the Chicago Cubs for the second NL wild card and closed within three games of the NL Central-leading Cardinals.
With the Cardinals ahead 4-3, Jon Gant (10-1) walked Ben Gamel and Travis Shaw starting the ninth, struck out Trent Grisham and walked Yasmani Grandal.
Tyler Webb retired Mike Moustakas on a flyout not deep enough to score a run, Fernández relieved and Braun drove a hanging slider to left-center for his seventh career slam and a 7-4 lead.
“We had one bullet left,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. “Absolutely incredible.
“There’s been some memorable Ryan Braun home runs … but that’s right up there, there’s no question about it.”
A six-time All-Star, Braun was 0-for-4 in the game and 4-for-34 for the month entering his ninth-inning at bat. He hit a tiebreaking home run against Miami on Thursday.
“I believe in myself. I’ve had a lot of success in those moments,” Braun said. “I think I’m able to lock it in a little bit more.”
Tommy Edman hit a two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth off Josh Hader, who struck out Harrison Bader and pinch hitter Tyler O’Neill for his 33rd save in 39 chances.
Bader hit solo homers in the third and seventh innings totaling 909 feet, giving him 10 homers this season.
Matt Albers (7-5) got two outs for the win. Gant lost for the first time in exactly one year.
Cory Spangenberg hit a two-run homer off Ryan Helsley in the seventh, but Paul DeJong had a two-run homer against Ray Black in the bottom half for a 3-2 lead, a drive that curled just inside the left-field foul pole.
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Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson allowed one run and one hit over in four innings.
Cardinals starter Michael Wacha gave up five hits in five scoreless innings and is 0-3 in eight starts and two relief appearances since beating Cincinnati on July 19.
Milwaukee’s final 13 games are against San Diego, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Colorado — all teams with losing records.
Asked whether that represents a favorable slate, Counsell said: “‘Favorable’ is for everybody else to figure out. We have a game in front of us. It’s hard to win them, and we have to do everything we can to win them.”
Braun and the Brewers have been here before.
“As a group, it feels similar to what we went through last year,” Braun said. “There’s so many guys stepping up, so many guys contributing, and this relentless belief that we’re going to find a way to win.”
Milwaukee set a franchise record with 232 homers, one more than in 2007.
The Cardinals’ nine-game streak without an error, the team’s longest since June 2017, ended when Bader bobbled a long drive to center by Moustakas in the eighth.
From the infirmary
Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez spent Saturday night in a hospital due to respiratory issues and was not at the ballpark.
Brewers right-hander Zach Davies (9-7, 3.77 ERA) will take on San Diego right-hander Garrett Richards (0-0, 0.00) on Monday in the opener of a four-game series at Miller Park. The Brewers are 16-12 in his starts this season.