MILWAUKEE -- There's something about the history between Craig Counsell and the St. Louis Cardinals that manager Tony La Russa can't explain.
Counsell earned the start Friday night in the Brewers' 8-0 win against St. Louis at Miller Park, and the shortstop proved once again that when he's in the lineup against St. Louis, more often than not he's bound to have success. Add in a season-high eight-inning performance from Brewers starter Chris Narveson and La Russa's Cardinals were dealt their third shutout of the season.
"He's a very useful, winning-type player," La Russa, who managed his 5,000th game on Friday, said of Counsell, who improved to 14-for-29 with four extra-base hits and two walks against Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse. "He doesn't have to keep proving it, he's already earned it enough, so he can back off."
With the win, the Brewers continued their season-long streak of not dropping back-to-back home games and pulled within 1 1/2 games of the National League Central-leading Cardinals.
Counsell went after Lohse in the third inning and led off with a stand-up triple. It was Counsell's first triple since Aug. 29, 2009, when he hit one against the Pirates. The third inning has been problematic for Lohse for most of the season, as he's given up eight of his 27 earned runs during the frame. Friday proved no different, as Counsell's triple paid off when Narveson laid down a safety bunt that set up a play at the plate.
The outstretched glove of Yadier Molina wasn't enough to block Counsell from sliding head first into home, as his finger tips eluded Molina's reach and gave the Brewers their first run of the night. The shortstop made the most of his start, as he went 3-for-3 with a triple, double, single, walk and three runs scored.
"I've had some success off Lohse, so when he's pitching, I just try to be aggressive. I've had some success off him -- I don't know why," Counsell said. "It's one of those things you don't understand or explain, but it's a good thing."
Lohse (7-3, 2.67 ERA) pitched five innings and allowed four earned runs on five hits. The right-hander was dealt his shortest outing of the season and also surrendered a two-run home run to Ryan Braun. In his career, Lohse is 3-8 with a 5.10 ERA against the Brewers. La Russa said Lohse didn't "stink up the joint," but that since the pitcher had won three of his last four outings entering Friday's game, his performance simply, "wasn't quite as good."
Narveson rebounded after giving up four earned runs in his last start and surrendered just six hits to go with his six strikeouts against his former team. The win was Narveson's third of the season and his first since May 14. The win helped the Brewers' starting pitchers improve to 17-5 over the last 32 games, and Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum are slated to close out the three-game series.
"I think you always need an outing like this," Narveson said. "It's definitely a good feeling to go out and get back to Base 1 and get yourself set. There's always a little bit more focus, a little bit more energy, when you're playing the Cardinals. They're a pretty big rival, and obviously you know a win is going to get you a point in the standings."
Lohse said he felt like he fell behind in the count too many times and he left too many pitches elevated. The slider he threw to Braun in the fifth inning was on the outer corner, but Lohse said it was elevated enough that the left fielder could get under it and connect for a homer, extending Milwaukee's lead to 4-0.
The Brewers loaded the bases in the fourth inning when Counsell walked, but Milwaukee was unable to score. Lohse got out of the inning without allowing a run, even when Prince Fielder came running toward the plate on a ball hit to Albert Pujols, whose throw reached Molina in time. Though Lohse said he didn't think beyond his one-pitch-at-a-time mentality during the inning, Counsell was able to get under his skin.
"Yeah, I was flustered," Lohse said about Counsell's performance. "He's a guy that, at this point, now I'm just happy to let him get the at-bat over earlier in the count, because in the past it's been six, seven, eight pitches, and you know it just runs your pitch count up. And I don't know what it is, but certain guys have more success against you than others."
Lohse was replaced by Ryan Franklin in the sixth, but Franklin initially didn't fare much better. The right-hander allowed a leadoff homer to Corey Hart, which extended the Brewers' lead to 5-0. Counsell followed up with a single to left field and came around to score when Rickie Weeks doubled through the hole at second base.
Franklin settled down to record four strikeouts during two innings, but the three hits accounted for two runs. La Russa said Franklin's last inning, in which he struck out Braun, Casey McGehee and Hart, was "outstanding" and proved that Franklin is on his way back.
Reliever Brian Tallet was also charged with two earned runs when Josh Wilson scored Counsell, who doubled to lead off the eighth inning, with a double, and came around to score on Nyjer Morgan's single.
"That's why people pay attention to the matchups," La Russa said. "If you get enough at-bats in there, then one guy's confident, the other guy's not confident."
Audrey Snyder is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.