MILWAUKEE • The Cardinals' three-game series with the National League Central Division-leading Milwaukee Brewers this week portended to be a contest among the Nos. 3 through 5 starters of each club. Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha of the Cardinals and Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse of the Brewers were sitting this one out.
The takeaway from the first two nights of the series is that the Cardinals' rotation has the better depth but, then again, it is better than most.
After Lance Lynn fanned 11 and held the Brewers to three hits over seven innings in a 4-0 win over Matt Garza on Monday, Shelby Miller gained his first win of the season tonight. Miller also held the Brewers to three hits and struck out seven while allowing only two fly-ball outs in six innings.
Miller, 4-0 in his young career against Milwaukee, allowed just one run as he outpitched Marco Estrada in a 6-1 victory that moved the Cardinals, winners of four straight, to one game back of the Brewers, who had won nine straight before the Cardinals arrived at Miller Park. No. 5 starters Joe Kelly of the Cardinals and Wily Peralta of the Brewers will be matched this noon.
The only blemish on Miller was Aramis Ramirez's fourth-inning home run. Veteran righthander Pat Neshek worked a perfect seventh, lefthander Kevin Siegrist a hitless eighth (except for plunking Carlos Gomez) and Seth Maness finished up with an overpowering ninth, striking out both Ryan Braun and Ramirez.
Mark Ellis drove in two runs in his first Cardinals game and Matt Holliday launched his first home run over the center-field wall in the ninth off Jim Henderson. That was followed in turn by Jhonny Peralta's second homer in two nights, a two-run shot off Henderson.
Ellis knocks in second run without hit
The reputation of new Cardinals second baseman Mark Ellis was that he was a fundamentally sound player, able to do all the little things besides making an occasional big contribution. Ellis, in his first game as a Cardinal, has affirmed anything said about him.
After knocking in a run with an infield out in the second, Ellis delivered another on a sacrifice fly in the fourth as the Cardinals extended their lead over Milwaukee to 3-0 at Miller Park, where it's 62 degrees inside and 35 outside.
Matt Adams led off with a single to right, which would have been a double if the ball hadn't banked off umpire John Tumpane. Adams made second soon enough on Marco Estrada's wild pitch and, after hesitating, got to third as Yadier Molina, 13 for 22 against Estrada, looped a single to center.
Jhonny Peralta hit a smash to the left of third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who made a diving stop. Unsure what to do, Adams went toward home and eventually was run down for the first out but he stayed in the pickle long enough to let Molina and Peralta gain third and second bases.
Ellis drove in his second run of the night on a fly to left. Peter Bourjos then cracked a hard grounder to the left of shortstop Jean Segura, who kept the ball from going to the outfield with a diving play.
Bourjos was safe easily but Peralta had gone too far past third and had to commit to going home when Segura threw to Ramirez at third. As Peralta was being tagged out, he made contact with catcher Jonathan Lucroy with his elbow but he already was out anyway, so the home-plate umpire didn't have to decide whether Peralta went too far.
Shelby Miller had held the Brewers hitless for three innings but longtime Cardinals killer Ramirez fixed that with a solo homer with two out in the fourth. The Cardinals led 3-1 entering the seventh with Miller having fanned seven through six.
CRAIG GETS FIRST EXTRA-BASE HIT
Allen Craig, the major leagues' top hitter with men in scoring position last year, didn't qualify in that category tonight. But he did stroke his first extra-base hit of the season, a double to left center, chasing home Matt Carpenter, who had walked, to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the third inning.
The run batted in was the fourth for Craig, who, after being moved to second in the batting order, had flied deep to left in his first at-bat. His euphoria was dampened a bit when he was picked off second to end the inning.
Manager Mike Matheny debated the call briefly with umpire Jeff Kellogg and although television replays indicated Craig might have beaten the tag on the throw from pitcher Marco Estrada, Matheny apparently did not think he had enough information from the Cardinals' technology to challenge the out call.
Righthander Shelby Miller, 3-0 with a 2.03 earned run average against the Brewers in his rookie year, held the Brewers hitless in the first three innings.
ELLIS MAKES MARK EARLY
Mark Ellis didn't hit safely in his first Cardinals at-bat but he did the next best thing. He drove in run on an infield out tonight as the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the second inning.
With one out, Yadier Molina, a .571 hitter against Milwaukee righthander Marco Estrada, was hit above the left elbow with a 1-2 pitch. Molina was stopped at third as Jhonny Peralta doubled into the left-field corner but came home on Ellis' grounder to short.
Defensively, Ellis also made his mark early in the game. Carlos Gomez was on first with one out in the Milwaukee first when Ryan Braun hit a hard grounder to shortstop Peralta, who had to retreat a step to get a better hop. After gloving the ball, Peralta was near second but decided to shovel to Ellis, who stood firm at the bag, turned his body from Gomez's slide and relayed to first for the inning-ending double play.
Ellis, coming off patella tendinitis in his left knee, then was slid into and knocked off balance in the next inning as he took catcher Molina's throw to cut down Jonathan Lucroy, who was trying to steal after drawing a walk. Lucroy had a huge jump but Molina's true throw erased that. Ellis appeared uninjured.
OPENING NIGHT FOR ELLIS
Cardinals second baseman Mark Ellis not only was removed from his rehabilitation option at Class AAA Memphis and the 15-day disabled list today, he also was inserted into the starting lineup for tonight's game against the Brewers.
Ellis, who played just one game at Memphis and was rained out of another, has been dealing with patella tendinitis in his left knee.
"I feel healthy. I feel a lot better than I did a couple of weeks ago or a week ago," said Ellis, who played with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year.
Ellis, 36, wasn't ecstatic about a minor league assignment anyway and when Memphis was headed for Nashville this morning after Monday's rainout, the decision was made to bring him here.
"I'm not here to play rehab games," said Ellis. "I'm not here to watch. I'm here to play."
Bothered by the knee for much of spring training, Ellis slipped on a wet field in Jupiter, Fla., with just a few days to go in the exhibition season.
"That kind of put it over the top," said Ellis, who then was placed on the disabled list.
Saying he was close to 100 percent, Ellis now must deal with the probability he will be a part-time player. When he has been healthy in his career, Ellis has been a regular since 2002.
"(Playing part time) is something I've never really done," he said. "You wish you were 23 years old and being able to run out there every day. But the realization is I'm going to be ready to play every day, whether it's hitting in the seventh inning or playing defense in the sixth or start that day.
"That's what I signed up for. That's what I knew coming in here."
With rookie Kolten Wong out of the lineup, slumping Allen Craig (.133) will be moved up to second in the order between Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday. Craig started the season batting fourth but recently had been shifted to No. 6.
The major leagues' top hitter with men in scoring position the last two years, Craig had no extra-base hits in the club's first 13 games.
But Matheny said, "He's fighting just to get the barrel on the ball, let alone thinking about driving it. That's the next step. I anticipate that's going to happen very soon."
Pete Kozma, the Cardinals' starting shortstop last year, was optioned to Memphis hours after he got his first hit of the season as a late-game replacement on Monday.
General manager John Mozeliak, asked how Kozma would be employed at Memphis, said, "I see him playing shortstop and second base. I wouldn't characterize him as a utility player. We want to make sure he gets everyday work. A utility player you think of as a part-time player, but he will get a lot of at-bats."
As for bringing back Ellis after only one game, Mozeliak said, "We were looking for him to get ready with as many plate appearances as possible. But the weather made that not possible.
"Even though they got rained out (Monday), he was able to get his pre-game work in. He said he felt great. We felt it was time."