ST. LOUIS - Twice, Shelby Miller struck out the hardest man to fan in the major leagues. The rest of the time, the rookie threw more off-speed stuff than usual, let the St. Louis Cardinals defence do its job, and waited for the offence to show up.
Norichika Aoki fanned three times for the first time in his two major league seasons, twice against Miller, and Matt Holliday's two-run homer broke up Wily Peralta's no-hit bid in the sixth inning of a 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night.
"He's an amazing hitter and he's definitely a little different, how he swings and stuff," Miller said. "That's one of the main things I looked at it, going in and seeing how I needed to get him out.
"I got him with a changeup and a backup cutter."
Aoki struck for the third time against another rookie, lefty Kevin Siegrist, with a runner on second to end the seventh. Aoki entered the game as the toughest batter to fan in the majors this year, averaging one per 17.2 at-bats.
"Against Siegrist, I think the ball hit the mitt before he even swung," Miller said. "I think he throws 97-98 mph. Not fair, not fair."
Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams added RBIs in the seventh and eighth for the NL Central leaders, who are 4-0 to begin a nine-game homestand. After a day off, the Cardinals built on momentum from a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh.
"We know what's at stake," Miller said. "We're watching the other teams, we're keeping up with it all. I think it makes it more fun for us."
The 22-year-old Miller (13-9) kept the pitch count down and allowed five hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 6 2-3 innings. He's 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA in four starts against Milwaukee, the other two wins coming on the road.
"Look at his numbers; he's a great young pitcher," Brewers manager Ron Roenicks said. "The first time we saw him, he just threw high fastballs and blew us away. He's really pitching now."
Peralta (9-15) was significantly improved over his first two starts against the Cardinals, both in May, in which he allowed 12 runs and 22 hits in 9 1-3 innings. In 6 2-3 innings he was charged with three runs and three hits with seven strikeouts.
The Brewers avoided getting shut out for a third time by St. Louis on pinch-hitter Logan Schafer's two-run homer off Edward Mujica in the ninth.
Peralta struck out five of the first seven hitters and the Cardinals had two baserunners the first five innings: a walk by Holliday in the fourth and first baseman Jonathan Lucroy's error on a dropped throw in the third. Aoki kept the no-hitter going with a sliding catch down the right field line that robbed David Freese of a hit opening the fifth.
Holliday fouled balls off his left foot or ankle three times in the first two at-bats, near where he's wearing a guard from previous occurrences. Carpenter walked to open the sixth and Holliday saw just one pitch his third time against Peralta, hammering a fastball an estimated 424 feet to left-centre for his 19th homer.
Holliday left during manager Mike Matheny's post-game news conference after speaking briefly to a few reporters.
Catcher Martin Maldonado said the pitch was supposed to be inside.
"We threw like eight sinkers and he didn't hit them," Maldonado said. "But that one didn't break. It wasn't a mistake.
"If that ball sinks, he might hit his foot again."
Siegrist, a 41st-round draft pick, has worked 18 consecutive scoreless innings and has held left-handed hitters to just four hits in 53 at-bats.
Rookie Scooter Gennett of Milwaukee had two hits and is batting .394 his last 30 games.
Brett Hull chucked a side-armed ceremonial first pitch, a day after the hockey Hall of Famer rejoined the St. Louis Blues as an executive vice-president.
NOTES: Matheny said there was "no timetable or any better guesstimate" on when Allen Craig might return from a sprained left foot. Craig is batting .396 against Milwaukee with two homers and 10 RBIs. ... Roenicke picked the Cardinals to prevail in the Central because they're "probably the most well-rounded team," and also thought all three teams would be contenders for years to come. "And that's a tough thing for us," he said. "You don't have all these veterans who are going to be free agents and they're going to be losing all these guys." ...The Brewers played the first of 20 straight days, the maximum allowed in the collective bargaining agreement, to end the season. They'll use a six-man rotation the rest of the year, getting an extended look at youngsters Tyler Thornburg and Johnny Hellweg, the PCL pitcher of the year at Triple-A Nashville, and give extra days off to the rest of the rotation.