MILWAUKEE -- Inning after inning, the St. Louis bullpen got into tough jams in a one-run game.
Marco Gonzales and five fellow relievers staved off every advance, getting a huge boost from a game-saving catch in center field by Peter Bourjos.
The bullpen combined for six innings of one-run ball and the Cardinals held off the slumping Milwaukee Brewers 3-2 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.
"We had guys picking each other up all night," manager Mike Matheny said.
The Cardinals moved to a season-high 14 games above .500 and extended their lead to four games in the NL Central over the Brewers, who lost their ninth straight
St. Louis used the bullpen early after Michael Wacha was limited to three innings in his first start off the disabled list. Gonzales (2-2) went 2 1-3 innings for the win.
"The bullpen came in there and shut the door for those last six innings," Wacha said. "That was fun to watch."
The Brewers stranded potential tying runs in scoring position from the sixth through the ninth, the latest frustrating loss for a team that was in first place just 10 days earlier.
Manager Ron Roenicke at least he liked the fight he saw in his club.
"We hit a lot of balls hard. Either they made a really good play on it or we hit it right at `em," Roenicke said.
Seth Maness got the Cardinals out of the sixth by inducing Logan Schafer to fly out in foul territory with a runner on third. Carlos Martinez got third-place hitter Jonathan Lucroy to pop out to end the seventh with another runner on third.
In the eighth, the Brewers put runners on first and second with nobody out against Pat Neshek. The side-arming right-hander bounced back by getting Martin Maldonado to pop up a bunt attempt before Schafer hit a hard-hit fly that was tracked down by Bourjos at the center-field wall for the second out.
"I thought that ball was gone. I did. I thought it was out. Just an incredible catch. He's not just fast - he's got good instincts and great jumps," Matheny said.
Schafer thought the ball would get over Bourjos' head. He was surprised when Bourjos tracked it down, though Schafer knows Bourjos is an excellent fielder.
The eighth inning exemplified the recent difficult stretch for the Brewers.
"We were in it the whole time," Schafer said. "Again, we're just waiting for that big hit."
The Cardinals used six relievers in all, with closer Trevor Rosenthal issuing two walks to put runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth. Rosenthal got pinch-hitter Jason Rogers to fly out to the edge of the warning track in right for his 42nd save.
Cardinals: Wacha threw 50 pitches and struck out three. He allowed three hits, including Lucroy's RBI single in the first. The right-hander had been on the disabled list since June 18 with a right shoulder injury.
Brewers: Carlos Gomez pinch ran but remained out of the starting lineup with a left wrist injury. Roenicke said his leadoff hitter was feeling good, and the team doctor would re-evaluate Gomez in the hope that he might be able to return soon. Gomez has been sidelined since Monday.
Cardinals: John Lackey (2-1) gets the start Friday, when he hopes for a repeat performance of his first start with the Cardinals after being traded from Boston. He gave up two runs in seven innings in a 3-2 victory.
Brewers: Mike Fiers (4-2) is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in two career starts against the Cardinals, both coming in 2012.
Ryan Braun missed a second straight game following the birth of his daughter Wednesday night. The right fielder appears likely to return for Friday's game.
"I'd like (him) and Gomey in the lineup," Roenicke said. "But you've got to do what you've got to do. This is obviously the most important thing in his life."