Lance Berkman, Cards cut Brewers' Central lead after Yadier Molina is ejected

MILWAUKEE -- Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols was hit by a high-and-tight pitch. Brewers All-Star Ryan Braun took one in the back a few minutes later. And St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina could face a suspension after making contact in a heated argument with plate umpire Rob Drake.

The NL Central race is certainly turning testy.

Lance Berkman singled in Matt Holliday with two out in the 11th inning to lift St. Louis over Milwaukee 8-7 on Tuesday.

St. Louis' first win at Miller Park in five tries this season snapped the Brewers' seven-game winning streak and trimmed their division lead to 2 1-2 games.

"We had a lot of heroes," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "One of the hardest earned wins of the year. It was a very competitive game from beginning to end. A lot of twists and turns, for us to hang in there like that; well, we've been doing it all year."

Pujols and Braun each were hit by a pitch in the seventh, and Molina became so incensed after he was ejected in the 10th that Drake had to wipe his face during the argument. The umpire declined to speak with a pool reporter after the game, but Molina said he didn't intentionally spit at Drake and believed the umpire bumped him first.

"He was pushing at me," Molina said. "I would never spit on any face of a man. That's not me. I was so sweaty, my face was so sweaty and I was yelling, yelling at him. I would never spit on anybody's face."

Holliday sparked the winning rally by beating out a grounder to shortstop with two out. Holliday then swiped second for his first stolen base of the season and scored when Berkman hit a shallow flare to left against Marco Estrada (2-7).

"Given the standings, I think it was a bigger game for us than it was for them," Berkman said.

Kyle McClellan (8-6) allowed a one-out single to Casey McGehee in the 11th, but earned the victory after Octavio Dotel got the final two outs for his first save in the NL this year and second this season.

Takashi Saito loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh after he hit Pujols on the left wrist that the slugger broke earlier this season. Holliday, who had homered in the second, followed with a double-play grounder that scored newcomer Rafael Furcal and tied it at 7. Berkman then grounded out to end the threat.

"That's part of the game, that's part of the game," said Pujols, who confirmed X-rays on his heavily iced wrist were negative.

Tempers began to flare in the bottom of the inning after Jason Motte plunked Braun with a 97 mph fastball.

"That's clearly intentional. I mean that's ridiculous," Lucroy said. "There's no way that we were trying to hit Pujols on purpose. You kidding me in that situation? If we wanted to put him on base, we would have walked him. That's ridiculous. We were trying to pitch inside and get a ground ball to third base."

Drake warned both sides, but didn't eject anyone as Molina walked Braun down to first. Prince Fielder moved forward from the on-deck circle, telling his teammates to stay back to keep the situation from escalating.

"We threw two balls in there real good just to send a message," La Russa said, raising his voice. "If he ducks them, it's all over and we don't hit him. The ball that they tried to throw on Pujols was aimed right where they aimed it. Did they try to hit him? No. But there's a small window there."

La Russa said the pitch that hit Pujols wasn't intentional, but he still hasn't liked the way the Brewers have thrown to his biggest star.

"Real scary. They almost got him yesterday. There's nothing intentional about it," La Russa said. "That's what all these idiots up there -- not idiots, fans are yelling and yell. Do you know how many bones you have in the hands and the face? That's where those pitches are. And Braun, we were trying to pitch him in, too, it's just a little stinger. I don't want to even hear about Braun getting a little pop in the back when we almost lose (Pujols) in several ways."

Molina acknowledged it looked bad.

"We're just trying to pitch inside and the ball took off," he said. "Bad moment, bad situation, timing, it looked bad."

Both teams had runners on in the ninth and shortstop Furcal saved the game with an over-the-shoulder catch with two on and two outs.

Drake tossed Molina for arguing a called third strike and the All-Star appeared to hit the umpire with spittle during his tirade. He had to be restrained by Descalso.

Molina said he saw the replay of the argument and didn't know what hit Drake.

"It's an exhausting day, he's trying really hard and his emotions got the better of him," La Russa said. "He did touch the umpire, so that's not acceptable."

Milwaukee held a 3-1 lead before St. Louis scored five times in the fourth against Shaun Marcum, capped when Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia hit a three-run shot for his first career homer. Garcia entered batting .068 this season.

The Brewers answered with four unearned runs in the fifth on a rally that started after an errant throw by Skip Schumaker at second and ended when Betancourt's three-run homer put Milwaukee ahead 7-6, setting up the wild final innings.

"Yesterday I thought we got some breaks," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We had a lot of chances to win the ballgame. It was an ugly ballgame."

Game notes
The Cardinals filed a complaint with the umpiring crew about the thin LED boards that surround Miller Park's second level, creating different lighting situations in Monday night's game, but would not discuss the matter further. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin also declined comment. ... Brewers LHP Randy Wolf (7-8, 3.44 ERA) will face Cardinals RHP Edwin Jackson (1-0, 1.29 ERA) in Wednesday's series finale. ... Wolf has four consecutive quality starts, but only one win in the stretch. ... Jackson was traded from Chicago last week as part of a three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays.