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Cards brew up another victory
MILWAUKEE -- Ben Sheets was pitching too well for his own good.
With Sheets having thrown just 65 pitches against St. Louis on Wednesday, Milwaukee manager Ned Yost chose not to pinch hit for his ace when the Brewers -- trailing by a run -- had runners at the corners with one out in the seventh inning.
The strategy backfired as the Brewers failed to score.
That paved the way for St. Louis' 3-0 win behind Jeff Suppan's stellar performance that gave the Cardinals their second straight three-game sweep at Miller Park.
"The way I was throwing the ball, I felt that it made a lot of sense," said Sheets, whose sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third before Chris Magruder flied out to end the inning. "If we get a base hit after, it's the greatest move ever."
Sheets (8-8) gave up two earned runs and five hits in his second complete game of the season. He struck out nine and didn't walk a batter.
Yost wouldn't second-guess himself for not pinch-hitting Wes Helms or Russell Branyan for Sheets even though the Cardinals couldn't have countered the move because they had nobody up in their bullpen.
"If the situation would have gotten right, we probably would have squeezed but the first pitch he threw for a strike, and Benny bunted it," Yost said. "We're still OK. Because we've still got runners at second and third, a chance to take the lead and then still have Benny out there throwing as good as he was."
Yost acknowledged it was a risky move.
"But it's rolling the dice the other way, too, because Suppan's a groundball pitcher," Yost said. "The way they play, a ground ball's a double play. You don't get anything out of that. Suppan's painting the corners in those situations, so you're kind of in a Catch-22 right there."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa called it sound strategy.
"I was hoping they'd pinch hit for him. But he didn't, and quite frankly, I wouldn't have, either," La Russa said. "He was so efficient with his pitches."
So was Suppan (11-8), who allowed four hits and four walks over seven innings as the Cardinals improved to 10-3 against Milwaukee this year.
"I had no idea 'Supe' was going to pitch that well, but I had a feeling Sheets was going to pitch that well," La Russa said.
That's why La Russa had his No. 3 hitter lay down a squeeze bunt in the first inning.
Sheets made just two mistakes, and both came against David Eckstein. The Cardinals' leadoff man opened the game with a double, took third on John Rodriguez's sacrifice bunt and scored on a squeeze bunt by So Taguchi.
"I don't think anybody sensed that [coming]," Sheets said of the first-inning squeeze.
Sheets retired 19 straight batters before Taguchi hit a single with one out in the seventh.
Eckstein added a two-run double off Sheets in the eighth.
Bill Hall led off the bottom of the seventh with a double and took third on Damian Miller's groundout. J.J. Hardy drew a walk, bringing up Sheets to the surprise of many.
Sheets said he didn't hold up his end of the deal by allowing Eckstein's two-run single the next inning.
"We were down one and a big base hit away from being up 2-1. I've just got to go out and throw up another zero if he's going to let me hit right there," Sheets said. "I can't give them two the next inning."
Jason Isringhausen closed out St. Louis' eighth straight win at Miller Park, including six this year, pitching the ninth for his 31st save in 34 chances.
Milwaukee's Brady Clark left the game after bruising his right rib cage trying to break up a double play in the third inning. Clark slid hard into second baseman Hector Luna.
* Clark, who leads the NL with 45 multi-hit games and ranks second with 147 hits, was replaced by Magruder. The team said Clark was day to day.
* The Cardinals optioned rookie RHP Anthony Reyes back to Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday just hours after his major league debut, a 5-2 win over the Brewers. The Cardinals also recalled outfielder Skip Schumaker from Memphis, where he was batting .296.