St. Louis Cardinals' Jon Jay hits an RBI double during...

St. Louis Cardinals' Jon Jay hits an RBI double during the first inning of Game 3 of baseball's National League championship series against the Milwaukee Brewers. (Oct. 12, 2011) Credit: AP

ST. LOUIS -- As the umpires huddled at home plate before the start of Game 3 of the NLCS Wednesday night, Chris Carpenter stood in front of the mound, raised his hand in the air and kept calling for a baseball.

The umpires ignored Carpenter until they finally split up, and only then did Sam Holbrook flip him a ball. Carpenter didn't keep it for very long, sticking around for only five innings, but the Cardinals scored all the runs they would need in the first for a 4-3 victory over the Brewers at Busch Stadium.

"It was a battle all night long," said Carpenter, whose seventh career playoff win tied him with Bob Gibson for the franchise record. "But that's what it's all about in the postseason."

Albert Pujols, Jon Jay and David Freese each had RBI doubles and the Cardinals scored another run on a double-play groundout for a 4-0 lead off Yovani Gallardo in the first inning. The Cardinals have scored in the first inning in five straight playoff games and six of eight.

"The key in the postseason is to get off to a fast start," Freese said. "Kind of show the other team that you're here and you're going to give it a hard nine."

Carpenter nearly gave his early lead back, allowing six hits and three runs, but the St. Louis bullpen didn't surrender a hit in four scoreless innings as the Cardinals took a 2-1 series lead. The bullpen also bailed him out in Game 2 of the Division Series, when Carpenter left after three innings and they followed with six scoreless.

"That's as good as you can do," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Get 12 outs against that offense."

Pujols, who went 5-for-6 in Game 2 with a home run and three doubles, started the night 2-for-2 before the Brewers intentionally walked him in his other two plate appearances. His seven doubles this October tie him with the Rangers' Nelson Cruz for the record in one postseason.

The Brewers, who had the best home record in the majors, became only the fifth team to have a postseason losing streak of eight or more games on the road. They joined the Cubs (1984-98), Red Sox (1986-95), Brooklyn Dodgers (1916-41) and Twins/Senators (1925-87).

Milwaukee's last road victory during the playoffs was exactly 29 years ago, on Oct. 12, when the Brewers beat the Cardinals, 10-0, in Game 1 of the World Series at old Busch Stadium.

In the Division Series, St. Louis rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat the supposedly unbeatable Cliff Lee in Game 2. This time, it was the Cardinals who handed their ace a 4-0 lead, then watched the Brewers chip away at Carpenter before knocking him out.

Carpenter, in his first appearance since the clinching Game 5 shutout against the Phillies, didn't look sharp. After stranding two in the first inning -- he got lucky when Mark Kotsay was foolishly doubled off second -- Carpenter allowed two runs in the second, one coming on Gallardo's sacrifice fly.

Kotsay earned some redemption by leading off the third with a long home run that pulled the Brewers to within 4-3. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke chose to start Kotsay over Nyjer Morgan in centerfield for the sake of another offensive weapon against Carpenter. Morgan, a superior defender to Kotsay, was hitting .150 (3-for-20) with nine strikeouts in six playoff games.

"I always feel good when Kotsay is in the lineup," Roenicke said. "Something good always seems to happen when he's in there. If Nyjer had been swinging the bat well, I wouldn't have even thought about this."

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