Brewers-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

The St. Louis Cardinals may have lost key pieces from their 2011 World Series championship team, but their title defense still has gotten off to a solid start.

The Cardinals seek their fourth straight win and first home sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers in nearly eight years when the teams meet Sunday.

St. Louis (14-7) has jumped out to an early lead in the NL Central despite losing Albert Pujols in free agency and manager Tony LaRussa to retirement prior to the season.

Under new manager Mike Matheny's guidance, the Cardinals' lineup continues to produce, outscoring the Brewers 20-4 through the first two matchups of this three-game series, including a 7-3 victory Saturday.

David Freese tied Carlos Beltran for the team lead with his fifth home run and drove in at least one run for the third consecutive game. His 20 RBIs rank among the league leaders.

Yadier Molina hit a two-run homer as part of his 4-for-4 performance. He's hitting .421 with two homers and six RBIs over his last 10 games versus Milwaukee, including playoffs.

"It feels good to get the win," said Molina, 6 for 8 in the series. "I don't look at my stats. I look at the end of the game. We got the win. That's a good day."

Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke knows how dangerous Molina can be at the plate.

"I'm seeing the same guy," said Roenicke, whose Brewers (9-12) have lost three straight. "He killed us last year. He battles you; he's very hard to strike out."

The Cardinals haven't swept Milwaukee at home since a two-game set July 21-22, 2004. Their last three-game home sweep in the series was March 31-April 3, 2003.

Freese is 5 for 12 with a homer lifetime against Brewers starter Zack Greinke (2-1, 4.56 ERA), who will look to help prevent the sweep.

Greinke allowed four hits in seven innings of a 6-0 win over St. Louis on April 7, improving to 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA in his last six regular-season starts against the Cardinals.

The right-hander has been solid in his last two outings. He allowed two runs in seven innings while not earning a decision against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 18, then beat Houston 6-5 on Monday after giving up two runs and striking out nine in six innings.

Greinke won Game 1 of last season's NL championship series before losing Game 5 as St. Louis went on to win in six games. He opposed Jamie Garcia (2-0, 2.49 ERA) in both of those outings, and the two will match up again Sunday.

Garcia lost Game 1 but didn't earn a decision in Game 5, and he was unable to get out of the fifth inning in either start while compiling a 7.27 ERA.

He's been much better against the Brewers in the regular season, though, beating them April 6 as he allowed two runs in six innings of an 11-5 victory.

The left-hander, 4-2 with a 2.76 ERA in eight regular-season starts against the Brewers, will be seeking his third consecutive solid outing. He allowed one run in seven innings of an 11-1 win over Cincinnati on April 18, then didn't earn a decision after giving up one run in 7 2-3 innings of a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Monday.

Corey Hart is 12 for 26 (.462) lifetime including postseason off Garcia, but is 1 for 7 through the first two games of this series.

St. Louis has won 14 of the last 18 overall meetings.

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