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STL@MIL: K-Rod escapes a jam to secure Brewers' win

MILWAUKEE -- Rickie Weeks sent a scoreboard-denting home run 460 feet for the go-ahead run, Randy Wolf won for the first time in 2 1/2 months and Francisco Rodriguez logged a save for only the second time in a year.

This wasn't just an uplifting, 3-2 Brewers win over the Cardinals for that trio, it was something of an exorcism.

"There it is, the elusive third win," joked Wolf (3-6), who had been winless since April 30. "You usually say that in May, not July. It's been a long road to get this win."

Wolf, Weeks and Rodriguez were all allowed to savor a win over a division rival at Miller Park on Tuesday, a good, clean victory amid a spate of behind-the-scenes moves that were costing manager Ron Roenicke hours of sleep and hairs on his head. Starter Zack Greinke will be skipped a start. John Axford is out as closer, at least for now. All-Star left fielder Ryan Braun exited early Tuesday with a strained right groin.

If this was a team in need of a victory, it got one. All Rodriguez had to do, in his first night as the Brewers closer, was record three Cardinals outs while the tying runner stood at third base in the ninth inning of a one-run game.

"Especially after yesterday's game," Rodriguez said, referring to the blown save on Monday night that cost Axford his job, "there was no way in the world I was going to not do my best to [make] that happen."

Somehow, Rodriguez authored the sort of escape act that made him famous with the Angels and Mets to the tune of 291 career saves by the time the Brewers picked him up last July. Tuesday's save was his second as a Brewer and the 293rd of his career.

Rodriguez inherited a one-run lead after Weeks blasted his go-ahead homer in the fourth inning and Wolf combined with relievers Jose Veras and Manny Parra to hold the Cardinals at bay through the end of the eighth.

But David Freese greeted Rodriguez by poking an inside pitch for a double just inside of first base, and Yadier Molina moved the tying runner to third base with a single.

"My mentality was, 'Go for the strikeout,' " Rodriguez said.

He recorded the first out of the inning on a Matt Carpenter groundout that froze Freese at third base but moved Molina -- the potential go-ahead runner -- into scoring position.

Rodriguez got the strikeout he was seeking against pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker, then won the game by retiring another pinch-hitter, Daniel Descalso, on an infield pop.

"I've seen Frankie get out of stuff a lot of times, and he did it with really good pitches," said Roenicke, the former Angels coach who watched Rodriguez break into the Majors in 2002 and set the single-season saves record six years later.

With the win, the Brewers evened the series against their National League Central rivals at a game apiece and kept pace with the first-place Reds. The Brewers are eight games back, with the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline exactly two weeks away.

"It's a challenge, but not impossible," said Rodriguez.

The Brewers will need big second halves from players such as Weeks and Wolf, both of whom slumped before the All-Star break.

Wolf pitched 6 2/3 innings and limited the Cardinals to two runs, ending a 12-start drought that he termed a "nightmare." Seven times in that stretch of starts, Wolf left the game with a lead and saw it get away from a reliever.

He did not help his own cause, with a 5.45 ERA in those starts.

"I've had my own personal demons to deal with, my own frustrations," Wolf said. "It's been tough emotionally, more than anything."

Weeks provided the lead with his booming home run leading off the fourth inning off Cardinals starter Joe Kelly, a blast that smacked an advertisement to the side of the center-field scoreboard 460 feet from home plate. The hit pushed Weeks' batting average back to .200, and he is batting .283 (28-for-99) over his last 26 games with four home runs and 17 RBIs, closer to the sort of production the Brewers were counting on when they let his friend Prince Fielder depart via free agency.

Kelly said it was supposed to be a four seam fastball to Weeks, but he mistakenly threw a two-seamer. It was a bad mistake.

"I probably would have hit it out myself," Kelly said. "That's what everybody looks for, even pitchers, something down the middle, up. It's the easiest pitch in baseball to hit ... Right when I threw it, I was like, 'Please don't swing.' "

Said Roenicke: "I don't know if I've seen a ball hit that high up on the screen before."

The homer snapped a 2-2 tie, and the Brewers' lead extended into a tense seventh inning that saw Wolf in trouble after a pair of bloop singles. He escaped thanks to a sacrifice bunt and a Lance Berkman strikeout. Berkman disagreed with the check-swing call by plate umpire Brian Gorman and was ejected, but not before falling to 3-for-33 against Wolf with eight strikeouts.

Berkman was only the second out of the inning. Wolf made way for Veras, who retired Rafael Furcal on an inning-ending popout.

Parra, one of the relievers who will fill setup duties now that Rodriguez is the closer, worked a perfect eighth inning before Rodriguez danced into and out of trouble in the ninth.

"One of the things this club had coming into Spring Training was a good bullpen," Rodriguez said. "And unfortunately, we haven't gotten it done. Individually, we haven't gotten it done. Hopefully, that's behind and we can move forward and hopefully make a run."

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