A source of both comfort and success to the Cardinals for five months of the season the ninth inning has been thrown into uncertainty as closer Edward Mujica struggles at the finish and the club must consider alternatives.

Given a two-run lead by Matt Adams’ ninth-inning home run Mujica failed to complete the save Friday night at Miller Park. It was the second time in as many days that the Cardinals played into extra innings because Mujica cratered. Carlos Beltran’s sacrifice fly in the 10th inning proved the difference as the Cardinals reset after Mujica’s struggles and won 7-6 against Milwaukee.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny stuck with Mujica as four of the five batters the righthander faced reached base and the winning run got to second base. Only with one out and the bases loaded did Matheny who talked about giving Mujica a confidence boost before the game remove his closer with the save unfinished.

“I don’t know exactly what the next step is” Matheny said. “Too fresh right now. We’ve got some challenges here to figure out what we’re going to do. I always have the optimistic view. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to make him think we don’t have faith in him. There are some days where it just isn’t working.”

The club’s other closer options shined all around Mujica.

Trevor Rosenthal the understudy struck out two in a perfect eighth inning of work and would have been the winner had Adams’ homer stood as the difference. John Axford the former Brewers’ closer returned to the ballpark he called home as a lifeguard rescuing the Cardinals from the mess in the ninth inning by allowing only one inherited runner to score.

And rookie Carlos Martinez sizzled after a message from catcher Yadier Molina to overwhelm the Brewers in a scoreless 10th inning. Martinez collected his first career save.

Who gets the next one for the Cardinals is the question confronting them.

After Axford (7-7) got a double play to end the ninth inning with the score tied 6-6 pinch-hitter Kolten Wong worked a leadoff walk in the 10th. Matt Carpenter got Wong to third base with his 53rd double of the season – tying Stan Musial’s club record for a lefthanded batter set in 1953. Wong scored on Beltran’s sacrifice fly to deep right for the difference.

A loss would have created a logjam in the standings. But a victory tilted the race for the National League Central division title again toward the Cardinals. Cincinnati (88-66) rallied to win in the 10th inning at Pittsburgh and tie the Pirates (88-66) in the standings. In the pole position the Cardinals (90-64) have a two-game lead on both chasers and five of the Reds’ and Pirates’ final eight games are against each other. The Cardinals can capitalize on their two chief rivals pounding on each other in the season’s final week.