The game started out smoothly for both the Cardinals' offense and Wells. In the top of the first, Wells forced the Brewers into three quick outs, including a strikeout of first baseman Prince Fielder. The Cardinals got an offensive lift in their half of the inning when Chris Duncan singled. He then attempted to steal second base, but Milwaukee catcher Johnny Estrada overthrew the second baseman into centerfield, allowing Duncan to advance to third base on the play. Scott Rolen struck out swinging to end the inning.
Wells continued to pitch his way out of a few jams, and did not allow a run until the third inning, when he loaded the bases and gave up a sacrifice fly to Fielder. He got three quick outs in the top of the fourth - giving a little bit of momentum to the St. Louis offense, which put their first run of the ballgame on the board in the bottom half of the fourth inning. It started off with a two-base hit off the bat of Duncan, and after first baseman Albert Pujols struck out, Scott Rolen singled, bringing in Duncan and tying the game.
Unfortunately, Wells was not able to hold the Brewers to just one run, giving up a two-run home run to second baseman Rickie Weeks in the top of the fifth inning. It was the last real trouble spot the Cardinals' pitching staff got into. Relievers Russ Springer, Tyler Johnson, and Brad Thompson came in and allowed no hits in two innings of work. Wells finished with four strikeouts and was charged with all three runs in his seven innings.
The Cardinals would go on to score one more run, an RBI single off the bat of pinch hitter Aaron Miles, scoring centerfielder Jim Edmonds, who had reached base via his own base hit to lead off the seventh inning.
Former Cardinal Suppan (1-2) picked up the win for the Brewers (6-4 on the season), while offseason acquisition Wells (1-2) took the loss for St. Louis (now 5-5 on the season).
- Suppan received his World Series ring on Saturday in St. Louis, and he also picked up a victory over his former team. While some may be quick to say that this shows General Manager Walt Jocketty that perhaps keeping Suppan was the better move this offseason and that maybe Suppan got the better of the deal, I beg to disagree. Suppan has not pitched as well this season as Wells has, and Suppan had the emotional advantage of trying to get the better of his former team. When the season is over, I believe that Wells will be the better pitcher. He didn't pitch badly on Saturday, he just had no run support. Remember, Suppan is also 1-2 on the season, and his ERA is 3.72, a steep incline over Wells' 2.25 earned run average.
- Albert Pujols was 0-for-4 on Saturday. It is starting to look like that home run he hit in Houston was a bit of luck - just a matter of the ball hitting his bat, not the bat hitting the ball. He has a .158 batting average now, and it is absolutely necessary that he break out of this cold spell in order to get the Cardinals rolling. If one thing is obvious, it's that when Pujols hits the ball, the Cardinals win games. As of right now, the team is going to struggle a little bit, just because Pujols is not seeing the ball well.
- Duncan was the lone bright spot for the Cardinals on Saturday, going 2-for-4 with one run scored. For whatever reason, he's the only player on the team that seems to be seeing the ball very well at the present time. Scott Rolen did have an RBI, and Aaron Miles has hit the ball well in his last few games (one start and one pinch hitting appearance), while Duncan has a stellar .345 batting average so far.
- The Cardinals can take back their share of the division lead with a victory Sunday over the Brewers. On the mound for St. Louis is Braden Looper (1-1, 2.08 ERA, six strikeouts). His counterpart is right-hander Ben Sheets, who threw a two-hitter in his first game this season. He has a record of 1-1 with six strikeouts as well, but his ERA is 3.60, considerably higher than the Cardinals' first-year starter.
Brady Holzhauer can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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