Kapler comes through for Brewers

Kapler comes through for Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- It took a whole lot longer than anyone would have liked, and it even managed to stretch the limits of baseball's only 14-deep pitching staff.

"But the biggest thing is we got a win," Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks said.

Gabe Gross walked and stole second before Gabe Kapler lined a winning single to right-center field, giving the Brewers a 9-8 win over the Cardinals at Miller Park on Tuesday that lasted 12 innings and ended four hours and 28 minutes after it began.

"This team needed that," said Gross, who then needed his luggage. He was traded to Tampa after the Brewers' fifth extra-inning win this season.

It was a happy exit for those of the 23,478 fans who stayed late for the end of the Brewers' only Tuesday afternoon game this season. The crowd was not so happy back in the ninth, when Weeks botched what that manager called a routine double-play relay that would have ended the game and instead cost closer Eric Gagne his fourth blown save this season.

The Brewers led, 8-3, after Weeks hit a three-run triple and scored on Prince Fielder's sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, but the Cardinals staged a comeback. They answered with four runs in the top of the seventh inning against three Brewers relievers to make it 8-7 entering the ninth, when Gagne tried to recover from a blown save in his previous outing Sunday in Cincinnati.

He hit the first batter with a 3-and-2 pitch and surrendered a Skip Schumaker single that left runners at first and third with no outs. Gagne struck out Rick Ankiel, then induced what looked to be a double-play grounder by Albert Pujols.

Third baseman Bill Hall made a clean feed to second base for the second out of the inning, and Weeks had all the time in the world to relay to first to double up the lumbering Pujols. But his relay bounced well in front of Fielder and got away as the tying run scored.

What happened?

"I just had a bad throw," Weeks explained.

He's been working on it. Weeks committed 21 errors in 2005 and 22 in 2006 while playing fewer than 100 games in the field, but cut that total to 13 errors in 115 starts at second base last season.

Weeks still has not committed an error this season -- you cannot assume the double play, after all -- but this was a twin-killing that needed to be turned, according to manager Ned Yost said.

"Gagne threw the ball good. He was out of [the inning] but we didn't turn a double play for him," Yost said. "He's facing the best hitter in the National League and got him to hit into a double play. We just didn't turn it. The game should have been over right there."

The Brewers stressed defense throughout Spring Training and entering the brief, two-game series against the Cardinals, it had paid off. They were tied with the Astros for the fewest errors (seven) and the best fielding percentage (.990) in the National League.

They fell to second in both categories after right fielder Corey Hart was charged with an error when he lost a fly ball in the lights Monday night.

"We know what we are," Yost said of his team's defensive shortcomings. "And it's not only Rickie, it's all of us. We all continue to work defensively."

Offense was not in short supply for either team on Tuesday, as the Brewers and Cardinals combined for 17 runs on 31 hits against 15 pitchers. Weeks scored twice to go with his three RBIs, Fielder had three hits and left fielder Ryan Braun had two hits including a two-run double. Braun also saved a run when he threw out Pujols at home plate in the third inning.

If not for Weeks' throwing miscue, Milwaukee left-hander Manny Parra would have notched his second Major League win despite allowing nine hits and two costly walks in five innings of work. The 25-year-old limited the damage to three Cardinals runs and helped his cause with an RBI double in the fourth inning that gave the Brewers a 4-2 lead.

He was not happy after the game.

"I'm off," said Parra, who has not pitched more than 5 1/3 innings in any of his four starts. "I'm very inconsistent right now. I'm in a rut. It shouldn't be that difficult. ... A starter goes five innings, that's putting a lot on the bullpen."

Seth McClung (1-0) was Milwaukee's eighth pitcher of the afternoon and got the win thanks to a spotless inning in which he caught a pair of batters looking at fastballs for Strike 3. Cards closer Jason Isringhausen (1-1) took the loss after hanging a curveball to Kapler.

"We had chances. They had chances. Nobody could get a run across the board," Isringhausen said. "And then just a lazy curveball. He slapped it to the outfield. [It] wasn't that hard."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.