MILWAUKEE -- After coming off a 15-inning loss at Colorado the night before, another extra-inning affair wasn't what a weary St. Louis Cardinals team needed.
Fighting to maintain control of the lead in the NL Central, the Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers Friday night on Carlos Beltran's sacrifice fly in the 10th inning, preserving their roost atop the division.
"Getting taken into extra innings isn't what we were looking for, but what a win," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "That would be a pretty tough one to eat when you have the two-run lead. It was just a great, great win."
The Cardinals hold a two-game lead over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The Reds downed the Pirates 6-5 in 10 innings to move into a tie for second place.
"That says a lot about this club the way we responded. It was a huge win and we needed that one," said Matt Carpenter, who had three hits and a walk in six plate appearances. "Every game is crucial."
Matt Adams, who has been plagued by right elbow soreness and was fitted for a brace before the game, smacked a towering two-run, ninth-inning home run to give the Cardinals a 6-4 lead, but the Brewers rallied for two runs in the bottom of the frame to tie the game.
"Coming back here to Miller Park, I was definitely nervous in the pen, but when I was out there on the mound I was calm," Axford said. "We needed that win."
Matheny was impressed with Axford's composure.
"He was sharp, looked good and (got) a real big double play ball for us. It was pretty impressive how he could maintain and do that under that kind of pressure."
Trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Brewers got a leadoff double from Jeff Bianchi and he later scored on a single by pinch-hitter Logan Schafer. The Brewers added another run on Aramis Ramirez's slow roller off Axford. Carlos Gomez grounded into an inning-ending double play to send the game to extra innings.
"I was just trying to get a groundball and get us back in the dugout," Axford said. "I would have preferred to have gotten the save as opposed to the win, but it worked out."
Axford came on in relief of closer Edward Mujica, whom the Brewers tagged for three hits and two runs in one-third of an inning.
"We are trying to get our closer right. We are one groundball away from turning a double play," Matheny said. "We turn a double play, he gets a save, we get a win and he is feeling pretty good about himself. It didn't happen tonight. We hurt for him."
The Cardinals jumped on Brewers' starter Johnny Hellweg for a run in the first inning on Matt Holliday's single.
Ramirez hit a three-run home run with one out in the Brewers' half of the first off Shelby Miller, who entered the game having given up just three earned runs over 25 innings in four previous starts against the Brewers this season.
"It was a hanging breaking ball that didn't finish," Miller said. "Obviously a bad way to start off the first inning. Other than that, we settled in and battled as much as we could. At the end of the day it was a huge win for us."
Miller surrendered seven hits and four runs in six innings. He walked two and struck out four.
Hellweg gave up seven hits and two runs over in an erratic five-inning stint. He walked five, struck out one, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.
"He looked pretty good today," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He faced a really good lineup. He also got ground balls when he needed them and got double plays. That's what he does."
The Cardinals ran their record to 7-1 at Miller Park this season and 13-4 overall against the Brewers. ... Shelby Miller became the first St. Louis rookie pitcher to start 30 games in a season since Rick Ankiel in 2000. ... With four strikeouts, Miller passed Harvey Haddix for third place on St. Louis' rookie strikeout list with 166. ... St. Louis wraps up its final regular-season road trip with the three-game series in Milwaukee.