It's safe to say few had Jeff Bianchi on the list of potential extra-inning heroes for Milwaukee Saturday night.
But the second baseman delivered a much-needed win for the struggling Brewers when he grounded a two-run single into center field in the top of the 10th inning, giving them a 6-4 win over National League Central leader St. Louis.
It was just the second hit in nine at-bats this year for Bianchi, who started the season on the disabled list with bursitis in his left hip and wasn't called up from his minor-league rehabilitation assignment until May 2.
"I was trying to be aggressive and I got a first-pitch fastball over the middle of the plate," Bianchi said. "It's what I was looking for."
The hit scored Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Gomez, making a loser of Joe Kelly (0-2), the Cardinals' sixth pitcher of the 3-hour, 48-minute endurance test. It was just Milwaukee's second win in nine games against St. Louis -- both 10-inning contests.
John Axford pitched 1 1/3 innings to earn his first win in four decisions, while Jim Henderson worked a 1-2-3 10th for his eighth save as the Brewers (17-24) snapped a four-game losing streak.
Milwaukee started its half of the 10th with singles by Ryan Braun and Ramirez, putting runners at first and third. Jonathan Lucroy bounced to third with the infield in for the first out, advancing Ramirez to second.
After an intentional walk to Gomez filled the bases, pinch-hitter Logan Schafer bounced into a 6-2 forceout, Braun getting nailed at home. But Bianchi's clutch hit lifted the Brewers' spirits and deflated a crowd of 42,410.
"We finally got a big hit," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke.
To make that hit possible, Axford had to pull quite an escape act in the bottom of the ninth. After retiring the first two hitters, Axford yielded a ground-rule double to Matt Holliday and walked Allen Craig.
That was followed by an intentional walk to Yadier Molina, loading the bases for pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso. Axford got Descalso to swing over a 2-2 slider, punching his glove in delight as he exited the mound.
"I was excited," said Axford, who lost his closer's job to Henderson less than two weeks into the season. "I've looked in the mirror and gone inside myself the last couple of outings ... it's great to come out on top."
St. Louis (27-15) scored first for the sixth straight game, touching Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada for two runs in the bottom of the second inning. Kozma's RBI single scored Craig and Estrada walked Matt Carpenter with the bases loaded to force David Freese home.
The Brewers formulated a two-out response of their own in the third against Lance Lynn. Jean Segura laced a two-run triple to left-center on the ninth pitch of his at-bat, plating Bianchi and Norichika Aoki, then scored on Braun's single to right.
Braun was at it again in the fifth, upping Milwaukee's lead to 4-2 with another sharp RBI single to the opposite field.
Estrada steadied after the rocky second, taking the two-run cushion into the sixth before the Cardinals pieced together four straight hits to even the score.
Carpenter knocked Estrada out with a run-producing single and Jon Jay greeted reliever Mike Gonzalez with a game-tying single.
The bullpens took over from there, with the Brewers finally prevailing thanks to their unexpected hero.
"It feels great," Bianchi said. "And the biggest thing was we won tonight."
NOTES: St. Louis Saturday placed LHP Jaime Garcia on the 15-day disabled list with a left shoulder injury that he said was worse than last year, when he had a 73-day stint on the DL. Garcia is 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in nine starts. ... RHP Mitchell Boggs will be recalled Sunday from Memphis of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League to replace Garcia. Boggs was 0-2 with a 12.66 ERA in 14 appearances before being demoted on April 29. ... Aoki has fanned just 11 times in 180 plate appearances (16.4), the best ratio in the National League.
Distributed by Internet Broadcasting and The Sports Xchange. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.