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An early blast from Freese leads Cards to win

2013-05-17T15:43:00Z 2013-05-27T20:46:33Z An early blast from Freese leads Cards to winBy Derrick Goold dgoold@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8285 stltoday.com

ST. LOUIS • Despite the one-man wrecking crew of Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez and his singlehanded attempt to upend the Cardinals' early lead, the home club held on for a 7-6 victory Friday night at Busch Stadium.

A grand slam from David Freese and two RBI singles from Matt Holliday helped craft an early 6-0 lead against Milwaukee and its starter Wily Peralta.

Two homers from Ramirez provided six runs for Milwaukee.

The winner proved to be Holliday's RBI single with two outs in the fourth inning, and that rewarded Jaime Garcia for his 5 1/3 innings of work, but it was the bullpen that made it happen. Trevor Rosenthal pitched a scoreless eighth, and Edward Mujica worked a scoreless ninth for this 12th save in 12 chances.

Six of Mujica's saves have been one-run, no-wiggle-room outings.

Freese staked the Cardinals to a 5-0 lead in the first inning with his first home run of the season. The one swing doubled his season total for RBIs, upping it from four coming into the game to eight when the ball landed in the grassy rectangle that is Busch Stadium's batter's eye.

Ramirez had a three-run homer in the fourth inning and the sixth inning. The Brewers got the tying run to third base in the sixth inning before Maness left the runner stranded. The Brewers got a runner on base again in the seventh and eighth inning only to have them stranded or erased. In the eighth, Yadier Molina and Rosenthal completed a strikeout/throw-out double play that helped Rosenthal to his hold.

The Cardinals are 7-1 against the Brewers this season and have won five in a row against the division rivals.

***

Ramirez's second homer bruises Garcia's outing

Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia was allowed to remain in the game for a rematch with Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

It went as well as the first time.

Ramirez hit his second three-run home run of the evening to again bring the Brewers back into to tonight's game at Busch Stadium. Ramirez's three-run bolt to center field in the top of the sixth inning cut the Cardinals' lead down to 7-6. It also hastened Garcia's departure from the game.

Garcia faced one more hitter -- Carlos Gomez -- and he reached to put the tying run on base. Gomez got as far as third base, but Garcia was gone by the time the Cardinals ended the inning without out him scoring.

Garcia pitched 5 1/3 innings. He allowed six runs, all of which came on Ramirez's two home runs in the game. Garcia struck out five and walked one. Rookie Seth Maness replaced him in the sixth inning with Gomez on base and retired both of the batters he faced.

Ramirez entered the game four-for-18 with no homers against Garcia.

He had struck out three times in those 18 previous duels.

The trouble for Garcia started long before Ramirez planted his second homer of the evening in the center-field seats. Leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki opened the sixth inning with a double. Jean Segura, the Brewers shortstop, continued the inning with an infield single. And still Garcia pitched on. A wild pitch moved Segura into scoring position. And still Garcia pitched on. He struck out Ryan Braun for the first out of the inning. And still he pitched on.

Garcia tried a slider and left the breaking pitch up and over the plate.

Ramirez didn't miss.

And still Garcia pitched on -- for one more batter.

The difference in the game through six innings is an RBI single in the fourth inning contributed by Cardinals' No. 3 hitter Matt Holliday. The elft field is two-for-two with two RBI singles in two at-bats tonight with runners in scoring position. He poked a single in the fourth that scored leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter from third base.

Carpenter has reached base three times in his first four at-bats.

***

Ramirez powers Brewers back from the brink

Cardinals center field Jon Jay laced an RBI single to left field in the third inning that scored Allen Craig and brought the Cardinals' lead to 6-0 through the first third of the game.

A rout appeared to be afoot.

Aramis Ramirez changed the look of the scoreboard with one swing.

The Brewers' third baseman, who was a non-factor in the four-game series between these rivals earlier this month, pounded a 3-1 pitch from Jaime Garcia over the wall in left field. Ramirez's second home run of the season -- he spent some time on the DL -- cleaved the Cardinals' lead in half, to 6-3.

Garcia invited trouble in the fourth inning with a walk and a single ahead Ramirez. Garcia's walk of former MVP Ryan Braun brought Ramirez up with two runners on base and one out.

Ramirez's home run cleared the wall in left and landed on the lip between the outfield wall and the Dobbs Tire & Auto Center advertisement.

***

Ice-cold Freese slams Cards to a 5-0 lead

Since returning from the disabled list for the home opener this season, Cardinals third baseman David Freese has been, in the descriptive words of his manager, "chasing a ghost" at the plate.

There was a time when he couldn't pick up the pitch.

There was a time when the timing of his swing was off.

Recently, there have been times when he fouls off the best pitch he gets to drive in any given at-bat.

With one swing, Freese unloaded on the Brewers and took a load off his shoulders.

Stuck in an extended and difficult slump -- unlike anything he had in his career previously -- the World Series MVP drilled the Cardinals to a 5-0 lead with his second career grand slam. Freese launched a pitch from Milwaukee's Wily Peralta to dead center field, where the grassy patch is for the batter's eye at Busch Stadium.

The bases-loaded homer doubled Freese's RBIs for the season in one swing.

The Cardinals sent nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning to take the five-run lead for starter Jaime Garcia. Matt Holliday drove home Matt Carpenter for the first run of the game. Allen Craig walked after Holliday and Yadier Molina singled to load the bases with one out. Jon Jay struck out to bring up Freese with two outs and the chance to blow open the game in the first inning.

Freese brought plenty of baggage to the at-bat.

He did not a home run this season and had gone 112 consecutive regular-season at-bats without one. His average bobbed around .200. After going hitless in three at-bats Thursday, the Cardinals' third baseman described how he's been getting hitting advice every where he went in the city. He described how he feels confident in his swing, how he's had some hard hit balls, and how he was just "searching for the right feeling" at the plate. He said that a big issue was swinging at the right pitches and not fishing for pitches outside of the strike zone. He was jumpy. He needed to calm down. He needed success.

Matheny said it would help if he had some production to boost his confidence.

The grand slam could provide both.

As an acknowledgement of the slump and the potential end to it, Freese received the first curtain call of the season at Busch.

Garcia ended the inning by bouncing into a forceout. The lefty has retired the first six batters he faced in the game. He retired the side in the first inning on six pitches, all of which were strikes.

***

Westbrook likely to miss another start

Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook said it is likely that he will miss another start because of continued discomfort in his elbow -- and symptoms that sent him for an MRI this week and a second cortisone shot.

Westbrook said that the scan of his right elbow revealed a buildup of scar tissue causing pain within the joint.

He received a shot Thursday to attack the soreness.

The shot requires that the joint be inactive for at least 48 hours. That nixed his planned throw for this afternoon at Busch Stadium. At the earliest, Sunday will be the first day he can throw. That was also the day of a scheduled start he was already expected to miss. The inactivity for another weekend means it is unlikely he'd be available when eligible to come off the disabled list later next week.

"The fact that I haven't thrown yet means it would be tough to gather up enough arm strength to do that," Westbrook said. "You never know. We did some more test and discovered some scar tissue that wasn't previously known about."

Westbrook is on the disabled list with irritation in his right elbow.

He has also been dealing with biceps tendinitis. The discovery of the scar tissue adds another layer to the trouble in his elbow. Westbrook said the MRI showed that the integrity of his elbow -- the previously repaired ligament, the tendon -- were all in fine condition. The scar tissue was the new factor.

"I think it's just a combination of the amount that I've thrown over my career and the surgeries that I've had," Westbrook said. "It's definitely not a new elbow. There are a lot of things going on in there. This is the best plan of attack. ... Everything looked great except for the scar tissue. If anything, I've got that going for me, which is nice."

Westbrook and the four other members of the rotation -- Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia and Lance Lynn -- took part in a Sports Illustrated photo shoot this afternoon for an upcoming issue of the magazine. The Cardinals' starters have the best ERA in the majors, nearly a run better than the next closest rotation.

***

Cardinals put the regulars back in play

After a day when manager Mike Matheny used the lineup to get some bench bats into the mix and change the look against a lefthanded starter, the Cardinals are back to the regulars.

A similar lineup to the one used most often against the Milwaukee Brewers during the Cardinals' four-game sweep earlier this month at Miller Park will greet the Brew Crew for their visit to Busch Stadium tonight.

The Brewers have had a little to do with the lineup they'll see.

It was up there in Miller Park that Jon Jay started his current surge after debuting a new swing at the plate. Jay had two hits in each of the four wins against the Brewers. Including that series, Jay is hitting .429 (18-for-42) with a .481 on-base percentage and a .643 slugging percentage in his previous 13 games. He has two homers, 12 RBIs, and five walks against eight strikeouts in that stretch. It's a sudden and steep improvement from his struggles earlier in the season.

When he walked into Miller Park on May 2, Jay had a .204 average.

This evening he starts the game with a .274 average.

And because of that he has moved up in the order to offer a lefthanded look to the middle of the order between the series of righties normally there.

Here is the lineup for today:

1. Matt Carpenter, 2B

2. Carlos Beltran, RF

3. Matt Holliday, LF

4. Allen Craig, 1B

5. Yadier Molina, C

6. Jon Jay, CF

7. David Freese, 3B

8. Pete Kozma, SS

9. Jaime Garcia, P

More throughout the afternoon and evening here at C-Beat as we bring you the latest from the clubhouse and, of course, coverage of tonight's game.

Derrick Goold covers the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for The Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @dgoold or on Facebook at Facebook.com/BirdLandPD

Copyright 2015 stltoday.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Baseball writers Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel cover the Cardinals for the Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com. They'll provide daily Cardinals updates here, from the start of spring training through the end of the season and beyond.

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