Baseball / Sports

After winning nine games in a row, Brewers turn cold in two losses in a row

MILWAUKEE -- How do you stop a team that's threatening to run away and hide at the start of the season?

You shove the bats down their throats.

That's what St. Louis has done in the first two games of the three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. The Cardinals' pitchers dominated again Tuesday night, allowing just three hits for the second consecutive game to pull away to a 6-1 victory.

The Brewers, who had won nine in a row entering the series, are 6 for 58 (.103) in the two games with one run scored and 23 strikeouts in 18 innings. Other than a fourth-inning home run by Aramis Ramirez, the Brewers never advanced a runner past first base.

Following seven brilliant innings by Lance Lynn in the series opener, St. Louis right-hander Shelby Miller stifled the Brewers for six innings, allowing three hits with seven strikeouts. But overpowering the Brewers is nothing new for Miller, who boosted his record to 4-0 with a 1.95 ERA in six career starts against them.

Never mind that Miller was cuffed around for 13 hits and eight runs in 111/3 innings in his first two starts of the season.

"He's got a good, live arm, 95-96 (mph)," said Ramirez, who turned one of those fastballs around for his home run. "He locates his pitches well. He did it tonight. Actually, he's been doing it every time he has faced us, since last year, so we have to do something different."

Unlike Lynn, who fired cutter after cutter against the Brewers, Miller basically shows you his fastball and dares you to hit it. He pitched up in the zone effectively, taking advantage of the Brewers hitters' over-aggressiveness at the plate.

"That's the hard part with him and it's what he did to us last year," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "The high fastball is hard to lay off and he's got such high velocity on it, you're not going to catch up with it.

"We were swinging the bats well before these guys came in. We've faced two good pitchers. (Miller) was good tonight. He's got some nice weapons."

Though it's only two meetings this season, the Cardinals continued their domination of the Brewers since knocking them off in the 2011 National League Championship Series. In 36 games since, St. Louis has gone 25-11 against Milwaukee, including 14-5 last season.

Any suggestion that the Cardinals have gotten firmly in the heads of the Brewers was quickly dismissed by Roenicke, however.

"I don't think we're so concerned about it," said Roenicke. "You guys are more concerned about the Cardinals than we are. We're concerned about winning ball games, whoever it's against.

"It doesn't matter. We have to win games. Whether it's them, whether it's Pittsburgh or whether it's the Cubs, we don't care. We need to win."

That doesn't mean frustrations aren't mounting over the constant losing to the defending NL Central champs, however. Right-hander Marco Estrada, who showed up without his usual command and had to battle every hitter to limit St. Louis to three runs over six innings, was well aware of the lopsided nature of the rivalry since the start of the 2012 season.

"It's frustrating that they keep winning these series against us," he said. "I do remember in 2011, it was basically roles reversed. We were the better team.

"All of a sudden things changed, and they've been winning most of the series. But it's a new year. Obviously, they've won this series already but it's early. We're a pretty good team over here and we're very confident in ourselves. I think things are going to change for us, for sure."

The Brewers entered the game with a 1.97 team ERA, tops in the major leagues. The starting rotation's 2.46 ERA was third-best in the majors and the bullpen's 0.97 ERA was tops.

Yet, in the first two games of this series, the Cardinals have distinctly out-pitched the Brewers.

"They've got a good staff," said Estrada. "We know it. But so do we. We can definitely keep up with them if not beat them. I feel like our staff is just as good if not better than theirs, not only the starters but the relievers.

"We've got a team to go very far. Obviously, we didn't show it too much today but you're going to have those games. You're not going to win every single game. Tomorrow is a new day."

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