MILWAUKEE (AP) — Rhys Hoskins, Jake Bauers and Joey Ortiz each homered to cool Sonny Gray as the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the slumping St. Louis Cardinals 7-1 on Thursday night.

It was the fifth straight loss for the Cardinals, who opened a four-game series with the NL Central-leading Brewers. Milwaukee has won its last six against St. Louis, a streak that began last season.

Milwaukee’s William Contreras and Christian Yelich each went 3 of 4. Jared Koenig (4-1) pitched two scoreless innings of relief and worked his way out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth.

Gray (4-2) has been one of the last-place Cardinals’ few bright spots since signing a three-year, $75 million contract in the offseason, but the 2023 AL Cy Young Award runner-up couldn’t stop St. Louis’ slide.

Through his first five starts, Gray allowed a total of six runs, and only three were earned. His 0.89 ERA was the lowest since 1910 by any Cardinals pitcher in his first five appearances with the organization.

The Brewers scored six runs off Gray on Thursday during his five-inning stint. Gray had given up just one homer all year before the Brewers went deep against him three times.

“I thought we had the best approach we’ve ever had (against Gray), and I’ve seen him pitch against us many times,” Brewers manager Pat Murphy said.

That approach was apparent.

“They swung early at my fastball and didn’t miss,” Gray said. “That doesn’t happen a ton. It happened tonight.”

Milwaukee took the lead for good by scoring three runs in the first inning. It was the first time this season Gray had allowed a run before the fifth.

A two-out wild pitch from Gray brought home Contreras. Hoskins followed with a two-run homer over the wall in right-center field.

Hoskins’ dog, Mae, was watching from the stands as part of the Brewers’ “Bark at the Park” promotion.

“She’s coming back, I promise you that,” Hoskins said.

Bauers extended the lead to 4-0 by leading off the second with a 417-foot shot into the second deck of the right-field stands. After St. Louis’ Lars Nootbaar homered in the third, Ortiz made it 5-1 by delivering a 408-foot drive to center with two outs in the fourth.

Ortiz, who didn’t play in the Brewers’ 6-4 loss at Kansas City on Wednesday, has homered in each of his last two games.

Hoskins said the Brewers benefited from jumping on fastballs early in the count before Gray could turn to his outstanding breaking pitches. The homers by Bauers and Ortiz both came on first-pitch fastballs.

“I don’t know exactly what the numbers are off the top of my head about damage pitches he throws, but I’m going to guess they’re not breaking balls, just because of how well he can spin the ball,” Hoskins said. “We got some heaters that caught a lot of the plate. We didn’t get a lot of those the last time we faced him in St. Louis.”

The Cardinals wasted a couple of chances to get back into the game.

St. Louis brought the tying run to the plate with no outs in the fourth while trailing 4-1, but Dylan Carlson grounded into a double play and Masyn Winn struck out. The Cardinals then loaded the bases off Tobias Myers to start the fifth, but Koenig came out of the bullpen and got the next three outs without letting anyone score.

“Offensively, there just hasn’t been any consistency,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “We’ve got to figure out a way around that.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Marmol said “everything went well” in catcher Willson Contreras’ surgery Wednesday. Contreras broke his left forearm Tuesday when he was hit by a swing from J.D. Martinez in the Cardinals’ 7-5 loss to the New York Mets. Contreras is expected to return sometime after the All-Star break.

UP NEXT

LHP Robert Gasser is expected to make his major league debut for the Brewers on Friday. RHP Lance Lynn (1-0, 3.28) is pitching for the Cardinals.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb