MILWAUKEE — Startled at the sight of his line drive hitting Brewers pitcher Jimmy Nelson in the head, Tommy Pham felt himself freeze for a moment.
"You see it go off his head, the first thing that went through my head was, 'Oh no, is he all right?'" Pham said. "I had to kind of remind myself to run."
Pham wound up with a double when the ball ricocheted off the back of Nelson's head and down the left field line, a scary sight in the St. Louis Cardinals' 6-3 win over Milwaukee on Thursday night.
Prone face down on the mound for about a minute, Nelson later walked off the field and was hospitalized overnight for observation. A CT scan showed a contusion, and Pham was relieved it wasn't a more severe injury.
"That's good news," Pham said. "I was expecting worse."
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell also was relieved.
"I don't think it's easy for anybody to see. It wasn't good. We're fortunate he was able to walk off the field," Counsell said.
John Lackey pitched seven shutout innings as the NL Central leaders completed a three-game sweep. The Cardinals extended their winning streak to four and now lead Pittsburgh by five games in the division race.
"It's always nice to be playing good baseball," Lackey said. "This series was a great group effort."
Pham tripled, doubled and singled, driving in two runs and scoring twice as St. Louis sent the Brewers to their sixth loss in a row.
Pham's liner struck Nelson in the third inning. Pham got prompted by first base coach Chris Maloney to keep running.
"I heard Hammer at first say, 'second base.' First time that's happened to me. It's kind of a big shock," he said.
Nelson (11-13) eventually got to his knees and stood up while Pham watched with a look of anguish.
There was a three-minute delay in the seventh when a fan was hit by a foul ball off the bat of St. Louis pinch hitter Matt Holliday. The fan got medical attention and was able to walk out of the stadium bowl.
Lackey (12-9) scattered five hits and two walks while striking out eight. He has a 2.23 ERA in his last 17 starts dating to June 15.
Matt Carpenter got three hits, including a home run. He singled to open the game and scored when Pham followed with a triple.
Carpenter doubled and scored in the third and hit his 23rd homer into the second level of the right-field bleachers in the sixth.
Jean Segura hit a three-run homer with two outs in the Milwaukee ninth off Mitch Harris.
Lackey reached 200 innings in a season for the sixth time, and the first since 2010.
"Two hundred innings is a big number, sure," Lackey said. "I'm proud of myself for going out there and giving the team a chance to win."
Leading 6-0, the Cardinals used three pitchers to record the final three outs of the game, drawing boos from what was left of the crowd of 23,734.
"People are in a hurry to get out of here, I can't control that," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "I've got to do, first of all what's best for our guys, and secondly what's going to give us the best chance to win. It has nothing to do with anything except what I think is going to give us our best chance, what's going to be best for our team, and I realize it's not going to necessarily be popular."
Cardinals: Holliday struck out in his first game since July 29. He had been sidelined because of a strained right quadriceps. He fouled the first pitch he saw from reliever Cesar Jimenez down the right-field line, striking a fan.
Brewers: RF Ryan Braun was back in the lineup after being scratched Wednesday with a back injury. ... Jonathan Lucroy remains out with concussion symptoms, but Counsell said he expects his catcher to play again this year. ... RHP Matt Garza left the team this week to be with his wife as she delivers twins and the team said he would not return this season. Garza was removed from the rotation earlier this month and refused to pitch out of the bullpen.
Cardinals: St. Louis plays a day game to open a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Lance Lynn (11-10) will start and is 0-2 with a 9.72 ERA in his last two starts, giving up nine earned runs in just 8 1-3 innings.
Brewers: Opens a three-game home series with the Reds, and Cincinnati's Brandon Finnegan will make his first major league start Friday night. Finnegan, the 17th pick in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft by Kansas City, was traded to the Reds on July 26 in the deal that sent Johnny Cueto to the Royals. Finnegan has pitched 2 2-3 scoreless innings over two relief appearances since joining the Reds.