A fiery Chris Carpenter pitched his way out of danger against bitter rivals Milwaukee to earn a 4-3 victory for St. Louis Wednesday that gave the Cardinals an edge in the National League Championship Series.

The Cardinals jumped out early with four runs in the first inning against Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo and veteran Carpenter held firm under pressure as St. Louis took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series heading into Game Four in St. Louis Thursday.

The first inning was huge tonight, St. Louis infielder David Freese told reporters. (The starters) battled, but they're not going to have their best stuff every game. Tonight was a big game.

With bad blood between Carpenter and Milwaukee stemming from a regular season confrontation, and fueled by disparaging comments from the Brewers prior to the series, the big right-hander was squarely in the spotlight.

After Carpenter allowed two runs in the second inning and a solo home run to Mark Kotsay in the third to cut the lead to one, he struck out Rickie Weeks with two outs and two men on in the fifth to put a stamp on his emotional night.

Carpenter walked three batters and allowed six hits during his five innings and the St. Louis bullpen dominated the rest of the way, closing with 12 straight outs to end the game.

Four different relievers contributed to the gem with Jason Motte handling the final 1 1/3 innings and striking out three batters.

When that phone rings we're ready, Motte said. We have that mentality that when we're called we get our arms ready and battle our butts off. (Carpenter) was able to keep it at 4-3 and the bullpen was able to shut it down from there.

WAYWARD GALLARDO

St. Louis blasted Milwaukee in a 12-3 rout Monday to tie the series after losing Game One, but Wednesday they did all their damage in the first inning.

The Cardinals took advantage of an unusually wayward Gallardo with Jon Jay, Albert Pujols and Freese all delivering RBI hits.

Freese finished 3-for-4 while Pujols went 2-for-2 to stay hot after he exploded with four hits and five RBIs in Game Two.

Gallardo had been a 17-game winner during the regular season and a strong performer in these playoffs but he struggled through five innings, walking five batters and surrendering eight hits.

The pitcher hit a sacrifice-fly in the second inning in which Yuniesky Betancourt had an RBI and finished with two hits, but it was far from enough as the Brewers find themselves trailing for the first time this post-season.