Cards fall to 'Bruisers'

Friday, April 9, 2004
Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan watched as the Brewers' Brady Clark rounded third base after hitting a two-run homer in the third inning Thursday at Busch Stadium.

ST. LOUIS -- In their opening series, the Milwaukee Brewers looked like a changed team.

Brady Clark homered in his first two at-bats and Keith Ginter hit a three-run homer to help power the Brewers' backups over the St. Louis Cardinals 11-5 Thursday.

Milwaukee, which got four hits from Scott Podsednik, scored 30 runs in the four-game series.

"Everything's upgraded for me," said manager Ned Yost, whose team has the major leagues' lowest payroll at $27.5 million. "Our bench is upgraded, our bullpen is better, our starting pitching is better, our offense is better."

Last year, Milwaukee began 0-6, including three losses in St. Louis at the start of the season, and finished 68-94 for its 11th consecutive losing season. The Brewers went 3-13 against the Cardinals.

"We handled them now," Yost said. "There's going to be a point where these guys are going to catch on fire. They're going to erupt for a bunch, a bunch, of runs."

That was of no consolation to Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

"We just can't talk about it, you've got to fix it and you've got to do better," La Russa said. "If we play like this the rest of the year, we're not going to be very good. I just don't believe that's true."

Albert Pujols hit his first two home runs of the season for the Cardinals, including a three-run shot in the fifth.

"I wouldn't say it's real frustrating," Pujols said. "We still have 158 games. Just because you lose a series, you can't let it get to you."

Chris Capuano (1-0) gave up four runs, one earned, and four hits in six innings. Hector Luna homered off him in his first major league at-bat.

Dave Burba pitched three innings for his second career save, his first since 1991 with Seattle.

Jeff Suppan (0-1) threw 86 pitches in four-plus innings, giving up six runs and eight hits. All four Cardinals starters struggled in the series, allowing 19 earned runs in 18 1-3 innings.

Cody McKay, a backup catcher, pitched the last two innings for the Cardinals after entering as a pinch hitter in the seventh and flying out. McKay walked one in two hitless innings -- he threw the Cardinals' first 1-2-3 inning of the game in the eighth, needing only three pitches to retire the first two hitters.

McKay made three relief appearances in 2002 for Triple-A Sacramento, pitching a total of 2 2-3 innings. He befuddled the Brewers with a knuckleball.

"I hope I never have to go out there again," McKay said. "I can't say I didn't enjoy it. Playing's fun. But I'd do it again if I had to."

Clark, who entered the season with 12 homers in 533 at-bats, made his first start of the year and hit nearly identical two-run drives to left in the second and third innings. It's the first multihomer game for Clark, who set a career best with four RBIs.

"I put good swings on them and they had enough to get out," Clark said. "It was almost the same pitch."

Cardinals reliever Jason Simontacchi allowed a home run to the first batter he faced for the second straight outing, with Ginter connecting in the fifth to make it 7-1.

Ginter, making his first start, scored on his first four plate appearances, also walking, singling and getting hit by a pitch.

"We've just got to take advantage of the starts we get and do the best we can on that given day," Ginter said.

Junior Spivey added his first homer of the season in the sixth off Simontacchi, and Craig Counsell had a run-scoring single in the seventh off Ray King.

Notes: The Cardinals are not setting off fireworks to celebrate home runs this year because of the proximity to the construction site of the new ballpark, set to open in 2006. ... The Cardinals trailed in all four games in the series. ... The Brewers were 1-6 at Busch Stadium last year. ... McKay became the first Cardinals' position player to pitch since Bobby Bonilla against Arizona on April 17, 2001.

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