- Associated Press - Friday, October 14, 2011

ST. LOUIS — The way the Milwaukee Brewers bumbled defensively, another short start didn’t slow the St. Louis Cardinals.

Milwaukee made four errors that led to three unearned runs, and the Cardinals bullpen pitched brilliantly again to survive an early exit by Jaime Garcia in a 7-1 victory Friday night that gave St. Louis a 3-2 NL championship series lead.

The wild-card Cardinals have two tries in Milwaukee to return to the World Series for the first time since 2006.

“It’s a nice win,” St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said. “But we need one more.”

Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday had three hits each for St. Louis, which burst to a 3-0 lead in the second when Molina doubled in a run and third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. allowed Garcia’s grounder to go through his legs. Holliday capped the scoring with a two-run double in the eighth.

Milwaukee’s infield nearly had a cycle of errors, with second baseman Rickie Weeks and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt also committing miscues along with reliever Marco Estrada.

“We can play better than we have,” said loser Zack Greinke (1-1). “And I’m sure we will.”

Weeks had committed the Brewers‘ only two errors in the first four games of the series.

“It’s definitely not focus,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “These games, we do have them once in a while. We had one a couple days ago. I’m confident we’ll play a good game on Sunday.”

St. Louis can wrap up the best-of-seven series and its 18th NL pennant then. Edwin Jackson goes for the Cardinals against Shaun Marcum in a rematch of pitchers from Game 2, won by St. Louis 12-3 as neither starter received a decision.

“I haven’t really analyzed it. I try and stay in the moment, bro,” Prince Fielder said. “I’m not really looking back or forward, just trying to stay game to game. We have to win both of them, but we’ve got to win first.”

The NL winner hosts the World Series opener against Detroit or Texas on Wednesday.

“We’re having a good series right now and, hopefully, we can do it for one more game,” Molina said.

Led by Jason Motte, the Cardinals‘ fifth closer of the season, the St. Louis bullpen is 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA in 22 2-3 innings in the series. St. Louis starters are 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA.

Only one St. Louis starter has lasted long enough to qualify for a victory, with Chris Carpenter working five innings in Game 3. The previous team to have a starter not pitch into the sixth in the first five games of a postseason series was the 1984 San Diego Padres in the World Series, according to STATS LLC.

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