ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Ryan Braun reached 200 hits for the first time on a two-run homer in the first inning, and the Milwaukee Brewers went on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4 on Saturday to ensure the NL Central champions will open the postseason on the road.
Kyle Lohse (6-10) worked six innings in his final bid to make the St. Louis postseason rotation, allowing five runs but only two earned. The Cardinals will pick between 42-year-old John Smoltz and Lohse for their fourth starting spot in the playoffs.
Second baseman Julio Lugo had two of the Cardinals' three errors, which matched a season high. His throwing error on Alcides Escobar's two-out, bases-loaded grounder allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to score in the sixth as the ball sailed over the heads of first baseman Albert Pujols and Lohse when both scurried to cover the bag.
The Cardinals have lost five of six since clinching the division, falling to the third playoff seed ahead of only the wild-card winner, and the last two have been sloppy. The bullpen coughed up a 6-1 seventh-inning lead, costing Adam Wainwright his 20th victory, while uncorking five wild pitches in Friday's 12-6 loss to Milwaukee.
Braun leads the NL with 201 hits and is the fourth Brewer to top 200, joining Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor and Robin Young. Cooper did it three times and Molitor twice. With one more steal in Sunday's finale, Braun will become the second Brewer to hit 30 homers and steal 20 bases.
Carlos Villanueva (4-10) won his first game as a starter in six attempts, allowing four runs in five innings. He had been 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA as a starter, and was filling in for Dave Bush (triceps).
Trevor Hoffman worked the ninth for his 37th save in 40 chances.
Pujols tied the major league single-season record with his 184th assist at first base on a flip to reliever Blake Hawksworth that beat pinch hitter Corey Patterson in the eighth. He matched the mark set by Boston's Bill Buckner in 1985.
Brendan Ryan doubled twice while going 3 for 3 with an RBI, and kept himself alive in a rundown long enough to allow Pujols to get to second on a groundball in fifth. Ryan Ludwick had a two-run single in the first.
The Brewers had two hits and two walks against St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin but didn't score, after Counsell was caught stealing on Braun's strikeout and Prince Fielder was out at the plate on Mike Cameron's third hit of the day.
NOTES: The Cardinals are 14-15 since Sept. 1. ... Rick Ankiel struck out all three times against Villanueva, leaving two on in the first and the bases loaded in the fifth. He's 1 for 14 with eight strikeouts against the right-hander. ... Brewers pitcher Braden Looper has allowed 39 homers, by far the major league high. He allowed six runs in six innings Friday in the Brewers' comeback 12-6 victory, but no long balls. ... Braun leads the NL with 63 multihit games.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)