ST. LOUIS (AP) — Eric Thames would like to erase the last six weeks from his memory.
The Milwaukee Brewers infielder took a big step in that direction on Wednesday. Thames homered and drove in three runs, Matt Garza pitched five innings in his first start after a short stint on the disabled list, and the Brewers held on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-6.
Eric Sogard added a two-run double to lead a four-run second inning as Milwaukee improved to 18-13 on the road.
Thames came into the contest in a 1-for-15 skid. He was hitting just .108 in June and posted a .221 mark in May. Signed as a free agent in November after three seasons in Korea, Thames was one of the hottest hitters in the National League in April and set a franchise record with 11 home runs.
But May and June have not been that kind.
“The last month and a half, it’s just been a grind,” Thames said. “But that’s baseball. I’m going to keep fighting, keep plugging away, keep adjusting.”
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell was happy to see Thames break out.
“Two big hits, he got us out to a big lead,” Counsell said.
Aledmys Diaz hit a two-run homer for the Cardinals, who nearly recovered after falling behind 6-0. St. Louis has lost two in a row after winning four straight.
Closer Corey Knebel came on with two outs in the top of the eighth after a one-hour rain delay and got the last four outs for his 10th save in 13 chances.
Thames ripped a two-run homer in the first and an RBI double in the second against starter Mike Leake (5-6).
Garza (3-2) allowed four runs and five hits. He suffered a chest contusion while running into teammate Jesus Aguilar on June 3 and missed one start.
“I was just telling myself, “slow down, catch your breath, keep going,” Garza said. “They barreled a lot more balls up than I wanted them to. But that’s the nature of the beast.”
Milwaukee tallied six runs on six hits over the first two innings against Leake, who dropped his fourth successive decision. Leake bounced back with four scoreless innings after the rough start.
“He figured it out and sailed,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.
Diaz’s blast off reliever Jacob Barnes in the eighth brought St. Louis to 7-6.
The contest was delayed twice by rain, with the delays totaling 1 hour, 50 minutes.
FIRST INNING MAGIC
The Cardinals had given up a total of just two runs in the opening inning during their first 34 home games. Thames doubled that total with his two-run homer.
St. Louis INF Kolten Wong was removed before the sixth inning due to right forearm tightness.
Wong, who went 1 for 2, has hit safely in six consecutive games since coming off the disabled list June 6 with a left elbow strain.
“He was favoring it, he couldn’t really throw,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “I think it happened on (a) check swing. We’ll have him looked at closely.”
Brewers: RHP Garza was removed from the 10-day disabled list in time for the start. RHP Neftali Feliz was designated for assignment to make room for Garza.
Cardinals: LHP Marco Gonzales was returned to Triple-A Memphis after he started the second game of the day-night doubleheader on Tuesday. Gonzales gave up five runs on six hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Brewers: RHP Zach Davies (7-3, 4.74) will start in the final game of the four-game series on Thursday. Davies is 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in five career starts against St. Louis.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (3-3, 4.50) will start for the Cardinals in the finale game of a seven-game homestand. Wacha has gone six innings or more in eight of 11 starts this season. He has a 4-0 career mark against the Brewers.