MILWAUKEE -- Chris Carpenter's cutter was as good as it's been all season, but it'd be tough to tell judging by the final score.
The Cardinals' ace held his own for five innings, but a four-run sixth inning proved too costly as St. Louis lost to the Brewers, 5-3, Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd at Miller Park taking part in the sixth annual Cerveceros Day to honor the Hispanic community (the Cardinals sported "Cardenales" uniforms).
With the loss, the Brewers pulled to within a half-game of the Central-leading Cardinals.
"He made two mistakes in that inning," manager Tony La Russa said. "He left a ball up to [Rickie] Weeks and a ball up to [Corey] Hart, and that was four runs. Other than that, he pitched outstanding. Sometimes those balls get fouled off or hit at somebody."
Carpenter (1-6, 4.47 ERA) found himself in a bit of trouble early on in the sixth inning when Brewers starter Zack Greinke hit a single. He said he was aware that Greinke -- who has one home run this season -- was a decent batter, and that's why he kept throwing him cutters.
Greinke's single to left field hurt St. Louis when Weeks followed up with a home run to right field. Weeks' ball barely cleared the wall, as it landed in the right-field party zone that was added in 2006, but it gave Milwaukee a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
"He was throwing me a bunch of cutters, and they were all really nasty," said Greinke, who pitched seven innings, allowed three runs and improved to 6-1 with a 4.69 ERA. "One finally wasn't as nasty as the others, luckily, and I put a decent swing on it. But his cutter, there was no chance to hit it if he didn't throw a bad one."
Things got worse for Carpenter later in the inning, as back-to-back walks put Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee on base. McGehee is hitting .229 and has been shifted around the batting order while trying to come out of his slump, but Carpenter said he didn't attack the third baseman like he should have. The following batter, Hart, made Carpenter pay when he ripped a two-out double to right field that plated both baserunners.
"Those two walks obviously are not what you're looking for, and they kill you," Carpenter said. "Corey Hart hit a curveball in the gap, and it just happened like that, it happened fast. It was as good of stuff as I've had all year and I made a few mistakes."
Carpenter said he learned his lesson with Fielder early in the game when the NL RBI leader blasted his 18th home run of the season. Fielder's 420-foot bomb to center field in the second inning was Milwaukee's first run of the night. In the last nine games Fielder has 10 hits -- two doubles and seven home runs.
The right-hander met with home-plate umpire Angel Campos as Fielder circled the bases and said he wanted to know where the previous pitch missed. Carpenter met with Campos for a few moments, but said their exchange wasn't heated, as it was simply a misunderstanding of the pitcher wanting to know where the location was off.
"I'm fine," Carpenter said of his record, which comes a season after he went 16-9. "I've been around too long to concern myself with what my record is. I've got to go out and get ready to pitch the next time out. They expect me to go out there and to be ready to compete, and I will be."
St. Louis' offense didn't do much to help Carpenter's cause, as Greinke fanned nine batters. The Brewers right-hander avoided trouble for most of the night, but fell behind in the top of the sixth.
Lance Berkman, who played in left field for the second time in the series and struck out his first two at-bats, got the best of Greinke when the outfielder ripped the first pitch over the wall in left-center field. The solo shot gave St. Louis a 2-1 lead, but Greinke settled down and gave up just one run after that.
The Cardinals were aided by strong defensive performances from first baseman Albert Pujols and right fielder Jon Jay. Pujols made a leaping snag on a hard-hit ball by Ryan Braun in the sixth inning, while Jay threw caution to the wind in the fourth inning and caught McGehee's ball that was up against the right-field wall.
With first place in the division on the line heading into Sunday's game, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Saturday's performance by both teams didn't surprise him.
"This is the type of game [you get] when two really good teams are out there," Roenicke said. "I thought both sides played well today, and whether it's because they're in first or we're playing a great team, there's a little different atmosphere."
Audrey Snyder is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.