MILWAUKEE -- Edwin Jackson made last month seem like a lifetime ago.
Jackson turned in one of his best starts of the year in the same ballpark where, less than a month earlier, he made one of the worst of his career. He pitched seven strong innings to help the Cardinals to a skin-of-the-teeth 2-1 win over the Brewers at Miller Park on Tuesday.
The Cardinals pulled within 9 1/2 games of the Brewers in the National League Central with 27 games left in the regular season. The two clubs will meet five more times. It was the Cards' second win in seven games at Miller Park in 2011.
Twenty-seven days earlier, the last time the rivals met in Milwaukee, Jackson was on the losing end of a 10-5 thumping. He stayed in to allow 14 hits and all 10 runs over seven innings, taking one for the team on a day when the bullpen was tapped.
This time around, Jackson stayed in because he was dealing. He permitted six hits over seven efficient innings, needing 91 pitches to get 21 outs. Jackson struck out three, and didn't issue a walk for the first time since he's been with the Cardinals.
"That just shows you what he's capable of doing," manager Tony La Russa said. "To come into this situation and keep everything together, his concentration. ... He never had [a significant lead] to play with. It was really impressive."
Jackson located both his fastball and his slider with impressive accuracy, allowing his stuff to shine. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in five of his eight starts as a Cardinal. He also picked up his fifth base hit with St. Louis to boot, an RBI single that gave the Redbirds the lead.
"Outstanding," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "That's as good as I've seen him throw. He really pitched today. He threw a lot more breaking balls, had a nice cutter, had a nice slider and spotted his fastball well."
The one time Jackson did get in serious trouble, he made a stunning save to get out of it.
The Brewers opened the sixth inning with consecutive doubles by Corey Hart and Nyjer Morgan, bringing up the heart of their order. But Ryan Braun grounded out, Prince Fielder struck out and Casey McGehee flied out to left field to end the threat.
The strikeout of Fielder, an extremely dangerous left-hander, may have been the game's turning point.
"Definitely that's a guy, he's a threat to go deep any time, any count, any pitch," Jackson said. "You just have to come out and try to execute pitches and keep the ball down until you get in a count where you maybe can go for a punchout. I did it, and I was fortunate enough to do that. That was definitely a big inning."
The St. Louis bullpen took it home from there, with four pitchers combining to get the final six outs. Fernando Salas dodged trouble for his 23rd save of the year. He also benefited from a critical defensive play on a bunt attempt.
Walks by Marc Rzepczynski and Salas put two men on with no outs for Yuniesky Betancourt, who attempted a sacrifice. Albert Pujols charged, fielded the ball and made a throw to third base to get the lead runner. The Cards actually had a chance at a double play, but Ryan Theriot couldn't quite secure Daniel Descalso's throw in time.
However, the next batter, Mark Kotsay, grounded into a twin killing to end the game.
The Cards' offense didn't exactly light it up, but the visitors did take sufficient advantage of a couple of Milwaukee lapses. Two errors put the first two batters of the fifth inning on base for St. Louis. After Yadier Molina singled to load the bases, Jackson singled in the first Cards run, and a Jon Jay sacrifice fly made it 2-0.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.