MILWAUKEE -- In less than a month, Mike Fiers has jumped from minor league starter to playoff-race stopper.
Scooter Gennett drove in three runs and Fiers pitched into the seventh inning to lead Milwaukee past St. Louis 6-2 on Friday night, snapping the Brewers' nine-game losing streak and trimming the Cardinals' lead in the NL Central to three games.
Fiers (5-2) gave up two runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, improving to 5-1 in six starts since being called up from Triple-A Nashville on Aug. 9 and giving him half the Brewers' 10 wins in 28 games since then. He struck out five and walked one.
"It's big. We needed a win here pretty soon," said Fiers, who also helped himself with a pair of key sacrifice bunts. "I just wanted to give them a quality start, keep the runs as low as possible and give our team a chance to win. It's a big relief, but we have more work to do tomorrow."
Milwaukee moved one game ahead of Atlanta for the National League's second wild-card spot. The Braves lost 11-3 at Miami.
Cardinals starter John Lackey (2-2) gave up all six runs and nine hits in six innings as St. Louis snapped a six-game winning streak.
"Kind of a weird one tonight," Lackey said. "Felt like I threw a lot better than the line score. I felt like I had good stuff. They got a couple big hits, and then kind of had a little bad luck to start a couple of those innings. It happens."
The Brewers took a 2-0 lead in the third on Gennett's two-run single. Milwaukee doubled the lead in the fifth on Gennett's RBI double and Jonathan Lucroy's run-scoring single.
"We haven't really had that early lead in a while," Gennett said. "Especially against a team like this, you want to get ahead early. It was just nice to keep it and keep adding to it."
The early runs marked the Brewers' first two-run lead since Aug. 27 at San Diego, when they blew a 2-0 lead in the ninth en route to a 3-2 loss in 10 innings. During the nine-game losing streak, Milwaukee scored two runs or fewer in eight of them.
Jhonny Peralta snapped an 0-for-10 streak and cut the lead to 4-1 in the sixth with his 19th home run, but Khris Davis answered in the bottom of the inning with his team-best 22nd homer to make it 6-1.
"You look at the two-run homer, didn't see the pitch again but it looked like it caught a lot of the plate," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "But, if that doesn't happen, we are in a 4-2 game and it would be a typical John Lackey start. The home run really kind of put it out of reach for him."
Fiers has gone at least six innings in each of his six starts, returning to the form he showed in the first half of 2012 with Milwaukee. That season, he was 8-6 with a 2.89 ERA in his first 16 starts but 1-4 with a 7.09 ERA in his final six starts.
His struggles continued into 2013, when he was 1-4 with a 7.25 ERA in 11 games with the Brewers and was sent down twice. Fiers' season ended in mid-June at Triple-A when he suffered a broken right forearm when he was hit by a line drive.
Now, he is keeping the Brewers' playoff hopes alive.
"All those losses in a row, we didn't play well, but I think we've turned it around and are playing some good baseball right now," Fiers said. "We're hitting the ball, we're pitching. It's only a matter of time before it turns around for us."
REALLY SMALL BALL
Brewers shortstop Jean Segura had three hits -- all infield singles.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Gennett stole second with one out in the third, but Matheny challenged the call, which was overturned after a review that lasted an estimated 52 seconds.
Brewers: CF Carlos Gomez, expected to miss a week more with a sprained left wrist, is progressing faster than anticipated. Gomez has not started the past five games since injuring his wrist on a swing against San Francisco on Sunday. He took light batting practice in the cage before Friday's game, although he did not swing all-out. Gomez, who pinch ran Thursday, went into center field in the ninth inning Friday as a defensive replacement.
Gennett, who missed several games in August with a right quad muscle injury, left the game in the seventh inning with what Brewers manager Ron Roenicke called a little tightness. "It's good. I haven't been on base in a while, so I think a lot of was just a little tired," Gennett said. "Five runs at the time for a lead, it was just keep it safe."
PROUD PAPA RETURNS
Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun returned from paternity leave after missing two games for the birth of his daughter, Celine Elysse. Braun went 1-for-4 with a single in the seventh inning.
Cardinals: Lance Lynn (14-8, 2.85 ERA) is 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA in six games at Miller Park, including five starts. With a win, he will join Max Scherzer as the only two pitchers with 15 victories in each of the past three seasons.
Brewers: Kyle Lohse (12-8, 3.68 ERA) gave up seven runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings in his last start, a 15-5 loss to San Francisco. In two starts this season against St. Louis, Lohse is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA, allowing 10 earned runs in 10 innings.