ST. LOUIS (AP) — Aramis Ramirez and the Milwaukee Brewers are peaking at the right time.
Ramirez went 3 for 3, including his 22nd home run, and reached base all five times to help the Brewers win for the 15th time in their last 19 games as they beat the Cardinals 6-3 Saturday night.
Not bad for a guy who spent the past two games on the bench with a lower back strain.
"It's hard to keep him out of the lineup when he does the things he does," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I want to take care of him when he's hurt. He came in today and told me he's playing."
Ramirez, who also walked twice, reached base all five times he batted and scored twice. After a slow start, he has raised his average over the past 89 games from .218 to an even .300.
He was ready to get back to action.
"I don't really like to be babysitted," Ramirez said. "I've been around long enough that I know when I can play and when I can't."
Though the Brewers (69-70) are still not at .500, they are not out of the race for a playoff spot, as Milwaukee has creeped within five games of the Cardinals for the second wild card in the National League.
"We've got a good shot," Ramirez said. "We've got to keep playing good baseball. We played good at home, we played good the last two road trips."
For inspiration, the Brewers only have to look across the field at the team they are facing. St. Louis was 10½ games back of Atlanta on Aug. 24 last season. The Cardinals, who have the same record as they did last year after 139 games (74-65), passed the Braves on the last day of the season and went on to win their 11th World Series title.
"Look at what the Cardinals did last year," Roenicke said. "If we get back to .500 and stay hot, this can be interesting."
St. Louis is one-half game up on the Dodgers for that spot with a four-game series against the Dodgers set for next weekend in Los Angeles. Pittsburgh (72-66) is also in front of the Brewers.
"We've been here before," said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny. "It's the stretch and everybody's got to be ready to go. We're going to get through it.
Rickie Weeks added a solo home run and Ryan Braun went 3 for 5 with a run scored for Milwaukee. Carlos Gomez went 2 for 4 and drove in two runs.
Mike Fiers (9-7) allowed one run and five hits in five innings and also got his first career RBI with a single in the second inning. He limited the Cardinals to five hits and three walks while striking out five. John Axford pitched a scoreless ninth for his 27th save.
Adron Chambers had an RBI triple for St. Louis. Jake Westbrook (13-11) went five innings and allowed three runs and seven hits.
The Brewers took a 2-0 lead in the second as Gomez's sacrifice drove in Ramirez, who had walked, and Fiers had his RBI single two batters later.
Daniel Descalso's two-out RBI single pulled St. Louis within a run in the bottom half of the inning.
However, Milwaukee regained its two-run lead in the third on a fielding error by Skip Schumaker on Corey Hart's grounder that scored Braun. Weeks' homer leading off the seventh off reliever Trevor Rosenthal made it 4-1.
The Cardinals pulled to 4-3 on Schumacher's sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Ramirez went deep with one out the ninth against Fernando Salas to make it 5-3, and Gomez's RBI single closed the scoring.
NOTES: Joe Kelly (5-6) will face the Brewers' Shaun Marcum (5-4) in the series finale Sunday. ... Weeks' home run gave Milwaukee an extra base hit for the 78th straight game. ... Carlos Beltran, who was hitless in the first five games of the homestand (0 for 9) was out of the lineup for St. Louis. . . . The Cardinals said afterwards that David Freese would not play Sunday after twisting his left ankle legging out a double in the eight inning.