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Big League Stew

John Lackey and A.J. Pierzynski making selves at home with St. Louis Cardinals

Big League Stew

ST. LOUIS — Right-hander John Lackey compared his first start with the St. Louis Cardinals, in terms of nerves, to opening day.

"It wasn't a huge deal as far as butterflies — just a new start," Lackey said Sunday afternoon. "Obviously you want to do well in your new place, for sure."

Lackey did very well at Busch Stadium against the Milwaukee Brewers, limiting them to two runs and seven hits over seven innings in a 3-2 victory, one that might be a turning point in the National League Central race. Milwaukee, still in first place for the moment, lost more than a two-run lead and a ballgame after right-hander Matt Garza left having allowed one hit over six innings. In ruining an otherwise brilliant 71-pitch start, Garza tweaked his left oblique, manager Ron Roenicke said, and could be out for a while.

By the time Milwaukee's relief corps came on, Lackey had long settled down. He allowed a run in the first inning on an RBI single by Aramis Ramirez and a solo homer to Mark Reynolds in the second. Overall, Lackey had given the Cardinals exactly what they were looking for when general manager John Mozeliak traded Allen Craig and Joe Kelly to the Boston Red Sox for him Thursday.

Having his once-and-again teammate A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate helped make it seem like just another start, Lackey said. Pierzynski caught Lackey's first 18 starts with the Red Sox before he was released July 16.


"It definitely was some familiarity there that helped me feel comfortable," Lackey said.

Pierzynski said communicating with Lackey is easy.

"We kind of speak the same language," Pierzynski said, meaning beyond English. "So it’s easy for us to talk. When we go out there, I know what he wants to do most of the time. It’s nice, it’s an advantage."

Pierzynski also contributed a tying RBI single against Jeremy Jeffress in the deciding seventh-inning rally. He's been with the Cardinals just over a week, and already had a big game in his pocket before coming through against Milwaukee's bullpen.

Pierzynski's next order of business: finding a place to live for the rest of the season. He'll use the team's day off Monday to look.

"My family got here today," Pierzynski said, with his young son, Austin, peering up from the floor of his locker. "It’s nice to spend time with them. They’ll get to see St. Louis with me for the first time."

Lackey got the feeling St. Louis liked what it saw of his first time pitching for their team.

"It was great," he said. "It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come over here. I know it’s a great baseball town and the atmosphere’s awesome."

With the Red Sox coming to St. Louis for a three-game series starting Tuesday night, it was possible the Cardinals could have waited for Lackey to make his Redbirds debut — when the figurative circus was in town. This way not only avoids that, but it helps manager Mike Matheny line up the rest of his rotation by giving it, more or less, equal amounts of extra rest.

Not that Lackey would have minded pitching against the Red Sox.

"That wouldn’t matter much to me, honestly," he said "I already did that once with the Angels. Once you leave a place for the first time, you kind of lose that [emotion] a little bit."

Pierzynski was blasé about playing the Red Sox, though he was looking forward to seeing Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and other former teammates.

"They don’t have the same team," Pierzynski said. "They got rid of everybody that was there. It’ll be nice to see some of those guys, to see Pedey and David and Nap and those guys, and the coaching staff. I was only there a few months, but you spend a lot of time with those guys. I respect those guys. There’s no hard feelings from me toward them, and I hope there’s none toward them."

Pierzynski, who spent eight seasons with the Chicago White Sox until 2012, is with his fourth team over the past 2 1/2 years. At age 37, what he wants out of baseball is simple.

"I’m not chasing the Hall of Fame, or anything, and I’m not chasing any numbers," Pierzynski said. "I’ve come here, and there’s an opportunity to go and play with a chance to win."

He and Lackey are on the same page with this topic, too.

"I talked to him when he came here," Pierzynski said. "And that’s the first thing he said: ‘Let’s go chase a ring.’ That’s why you play. When you get older, that’s the main thing."

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David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at and follow him on Twitter!

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