(Darren Hauck ~ Associated Press)
MILWAUKEE -- As the St. Louis Cardinals prepare to remember a lost teammate, they'd just as soon forget about their last three games.
The Cardinals lost 4-0 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday, leaving them swept and dazed in their first series since the death of relief pitcher Josh Hancock.
St. Louis has lost five in a row overall, and spent much of its three-game series in Milwaukee looking lost in the field and crossed up at the plate.
"You've got to fight through it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "This club's proven it'll fight. That's why I'm confident we're going to improve."
(Darren Hauck ~ Associated Press)
La Russa said earlier that while attending the service won't be easy for the team, it's the right thing to do.
"It's hard to imagine that being a positive, but I think it's important to do," La Russa said. "I think it's important for his family and our organization to do it, but it won't be a positive day."
With three consecutive victories over the reigning World Series champions, Milwaukee has won nine of 11 overall and has the best record in baseball at 18-9. Prince Fielder hit a two-run single off Anthony Reyes (0-5) to help the Brewers earn their first home sweep of St. Louis since taking four games in April 2002.
"They have a pretty good team," Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols said. "They're young, but they know how to play the game and they can swing the bat. We knew that. Everybody knew that in the league coming into the season."
The Brewers won Wednesday despite getting only three innings from starter Chris Capuano, who took a sharp comebacker off his right calf in the second and pitched one more inning before he was taken out of the game.
Brewers manager Ned Yost made the decision to pull Capuano, who wanted to keep pitching. Yost expects Capuano to make his next start.
Carlos Villanueva (2-0) pitched four scoreless innings in relief for the victory, allowing two hits and walking two.
"For him to come in and throw up zeros was huge," Capuano said. "It helped the hitters relax and put the ball in play."
Villanueva loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, but struck out Scott Spiezio and got Gary Bennett on a deep fly to left.
"He came in and held down the fort, and got the 'W' for himself," Yost said.
Matt Wise tossed two scoreless innings to complete the five-hitter, Milwaukee's first shutout of the season. The Cardinals were blanked for the third time.
Reyes struck out a season-high eight, but gave up four runs -- three earned -- in six innings.
"He pitched well, didn't deserve to lose," La Russa said.
Reyes said he expects the team to snap out of its slump soon.
"We're not going to go on like this all season," he said. "These guys are professionals, and everyone works hard on the team. It's just one of those things we have to go through right now."
La Russa isn't allowing the team to use Hancock's death as an excuse for its poor play -- mostly because the Cardinals weren't playing particularly well beforehand.
"That's obviously always going to be in the back of your mind the rest of the year, and a lot of people, the rest of our lives," Cardinals outfielder Skip Schumaker said. "But once you step on the field, I think we've got to move on from that -- not put it past us, but we've got to compete when we're on the field. Before and after, obviously, you can dwell upon it. But during it, it's a competition out there and you've got to compete."
Pujols said the team has weathered tough times in the past. He was a member of the club when pitcher Darryl Kile died in 2002.
"Everybody knows the organization, we pull through," Pujols said. "I think the best thing is, you have a great group of guys here. It's not like you've got guys who don't care about what we're going through."
Reyes said he expects an emotional day today.
"It is, but I'm just thinking about baseball right now and trying not to think of anything else," he said.