Cardinals 6, Brewers 3
ST. LOUIS (AP)—Even after getting a home run, single and double in his first three at-bats, Mark Grudzielanek wasn’t thinking about hitting for the cycle until teammate Albert Pujols began rooting him on.
“He was saying ‘You’ve got to do it, you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to go for it,”’ Grudzielanek said after helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 6-3 on Wednesday. “I didn’t think the opportunity would come, but it sure did. It’s weird how it happens.”
Grudzielanek became the first Cardinals player to hit for the cycle in nine seasons and Chris Carpenter equaled his career best with 12 strikeouts for St. Louis, which has won 11 of 12.
Jim Edmonds had two RBIs for the Cardinals, who at 14-5 are off to their best start since the 1968 team opened with that record. The first four in the batting order were 7-for-9 in the first four innings against Victor Santos (1-1) while building a 5-0 lead.
The Cardinals won their fifth straight over the Brewers, with their current streak beginning with a three-game sweep at Milwaukee April 15-17. It was the first game for St. Louis since closer Jason Isringhausen, who’s 7-for-7 in save opportunities, went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right abdomen muscle.
“The Cards have had success against everybody this year, not just us,” the Brewers’ Geoff Jenkins said. “You have to be on top of your game.”
Julian Tavarez, who entered the season with 17 career saves—four last year, struck out the side in the ninth for his first save. But he made it clear he’s just holding the job for Isringhausen.
“I know I can’t get too comfortable out there,” Tavarez said. “It belongs to the big man, Jason, one of the best closers in the game. And I hope he can come back soon.”
Grudzielanek, batting in the No. 1 spot for the second time this year, hit the second leadoff homer of his career to kick-start a three-run first. He singled and scored in the second, had an RBI double in the fourth and tripled off Jorge De La Rosa in the sixth.
Grudzielanek might have been the least likely Cardinals player to hit for the cycle: He entered Wednesday’s game with just two triples in 1,333 at-bats over the past four seasons.
Grudzielanek, who grounded out in the eighth to wrap up a 4-for-5 day, is the first Cardinals player to hit for the cycle since John Mabry on May 18, 1996, at Colorado. Daryle Ward of the Pirates was the last to do it at Busch Stadium on May 26, 2004.
The first three hits came off Santos, against whom he’s 10-for-19 for his career.
“I’ve hit him well in the past and was just trying to have the same approach,” Grudzielanek said. “I must have been feeling pretty good at the times I’ve faced him. The next time I see him, he could own me.”
Santos said Grudzielanek had an “unbelievable day.”
“It seemed like everything I threw to him, he was right on it,” Santos said. “As soon as I made a mistake, boom, he was right on it.”
Carpenter (4-1), who signed a two-year contract extension earlier this month that guarantees him $13 million, beat the Brewers for the second time in three starts, allowing three runs on eight hits in 7 2-3 innings and tying his career high for strikeouts set Sept. 4, 2001, against the Yankees. Pitching on his 30th birthday he struck out the side in the first, fanned Jeff Cirillo three times and walked none.
“Mixing them up and pitching, that’s the name of the game,” Carpenter said. “No matter how hard you throw or what you do, if you execute pitches down in the zone on both sides of the plate and keep them off balance, you’re going to have success.”
Santos was shaky in his first start since throwing his first career complete game in a victory over the Giants, giving up five runs on seven hits in four innings. The first five batters reached in the first against him.
Russell Branyan hit a two-run home run in the sixth and Chad Moeller had an RBI single in the fifth for Milwaukee.
Cardinals pitchers had 16 strikeouts. … Grudzielanek is only the third Cardinals player to hit for the cycle at 40-year-old Busch Stadium, which is being demolished after this season. The others were Ray Lankford on Sept. 15, 1991, against the Mets and Lou Brock on May 27, 1975, against the Padres. … So Taguchi’s steal in the fifth was only the fourth attempt—a major league low—for the Cardinals. They’ve been successful three times. … Wes Obermueller, whose double on Tuesday was the first of the season by a Brewers pitcher, grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. … Pujols was 2-for-3 with an RBI and is batting .438 (14-for-32) during an eight-game hitting streak. … Carpenter gets $5 million in 2006 and $7 million in 2007, and St. Louis gets an $8 million option for 2008 with a $1 million buyout in the extension he signed on April 15.