ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals went 26 games without blowing a three-run lead before suffering an extra-inning loss on Monday that, a day later, was still festering for manager Mike Matheny.
"All day long," he noted Tuesday afternoon, "I felt sick."
Matheny couldn't have felt much better reliving that feeling a few hours later.
With unwelcome deja vu, the Cardinals again frittered away a three-run lead to fall to the Brewers in extra innings, as their bullpen could once again not hang with Milwaukee's. There were more late-inning run-scoring opportunities missed and an inability by the team's starter to sustain a lead.
It left the Cardinals, in front of 40,531 at Busch Stadium, hardened by a 5-4, 11-inning defeat to a Brewers club playing without a handful of starters. But nothing much is hindering Milwaukee these days as it reached 20 wins faster than any other club could get to 18. Milwaukee is 11-1 away from home, using the quick start to build a 6 1/2-game cushion in the National League Central.
"It's April," Matt Adams said when asked about his concern over the Brewers' early control of the division. "We're not happy that we're not winning right now, but we're going to continue to show up every day ready to compete, and things are going to turn in our favor."
Starter Lance Lynn, with a second shot at winning his fifth game of the month, lost his early cushion by giving up three runs in a 42-pitch fourth inning. Tyler Lyons, pitching in relief after the Cardinals decided to unplug him from the rotation, let the Brewers in front by serving up a two-out homer to Carlos Gomez in the seventh.
The unanswered Milwaukee run would come in the 11th, when, after the Cardinals' bullpen had strung together 10 consecutive outs, Kevin Siegrist slipped.
It started with leadoff double by Khris Davis, who had delivered Monday's game-winning hit after an 0-for-5 showing. He was hitless in four at-bats before this one.
Lyle Overbay twice tried to bunt Davis over, but then swung away with two strikes and lined a ball that caromed off Mark Ellis' glove and trickled far enough into center to allow Davis to score easily.
Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez then shut the door to earn his 13th save, matching the Major League record for most saves before May. He is the anchor of Milwaukee's bullpen, which has allowed one run in 11 innings this series.
"They've got a lot of confidence on their side, too," Matheny said. "They've had a lot of things go their way, and that tends to help as well. But they're a scrappy club, and they're fighting. You're seeing the good at-bats. You're seeing them do the little things right. They didn't get the bunt down, and they end up getting a big base hit. Those sort of things, when they're going right, they go right. We're seeing the other side of it."
The Cardinals, now 14-14, scored just once in the final 10 innings. That came in the seventh, as they evened the game at 4-4. But they should have had more.
Peter Bourjos opened the inning with a pinch-hit walk off lefty Will Smith and was replaced on first by Matt Carpenter after a forceout. Matheny considered challenging whether Jeff Bianchi's foot was on second, but he opted not to after getting feedback from his video coordinator.
Allen Craig followed with a game-tying triple, yet the Cardinals flopped in two chances to push him home from third. Adams struck out first.
"Just a bad at-bat," Adams later said. "He threw a first-pitch slier for a strike and then threw two more out of the zone."
Yadier Molina went down swinging next.
"We had a little hiccup," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "But you know something? Smith made some great pitches to keep them from scoring two runs."
Milwaukee's bullpen wouldn't allow another baserunner to reach scoring position.
"When you have those situations in these close games, it's the little things that are going to either help us or kill us," Matheny said. "We have had trouble getting guys over, a runner on third, less than two outs, getting him in. It's something that we've had a lot of confidence in ourselves getting done. It's almost a confidence issue now, because we're seeing the opposite of it."
St. Louis had pounced on old friend Kyle Lohse quickly to take the lead. Once his batterymate, Molina took Lohse's 1-1 sinker deep for a two-out, first-inning, three-run home run. The homer, Molina's fourth of the season, was his 10th hit in 17 at-bats off Lohse. Three of those hits have been over the wall.
"He's a tough guy to plan for, because I feel like he changes his approach from at-bat to at-bat," Lohse said of Molina. "I don't know if that's true, but that's the way it looks from the other side."
Lohse then settled in to pitch five scoreless innings.
The lead was Lynn's to hold, and through three innings, he looked relatively strong. The fourth then unraveled on him.
There was a leadoff single that nicked off Lynn's glove, and a wild pitch to set up Overbay's first RBI hit. Two walks sandwiched the second out, but Lynn fell behind, 2-0, on Lohse with the bases full and was then forced to make pitches over the plate.
Lohse took the seventh fastball he saw in the at-bat -- it was Lynn's 88th pitch of the night -- and dropped it into left field for a game-tying, two-run single. Lynn ended the inning without further damage, but he only had enough pitches to finish one more.
"I was right where I needed to be," Lynn said. "I let them right back in the game right there, and that's something you can't do. If you can't put the pitcher away with two outs and the bases loaded and a two-run lead, you deserve not to win the game."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.