BY ZACH HAYES
Special to ESPN Wisconsin
For one day, Lance Lynn did quite an impression of the man he’s replacing in the Cardinals rotation.
Subbing for injured St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter, Lynn flummoxed the Brewers over seven stellar innings, surrendering just two hits, one walk and striking out eight batters during the Cardinals 9-2 victory in front of 33,211 sequestered fans at Miller Park.
There was warranted anxiety from the Cardinals camp after Carpenter went down with nerve irritation in his right shoulder. Not only would St. Louis be without their ace for an indefinite period of time, but Lynn, who was so effective as a reliever during the Cardinals run to a World Series crown, was forced to re-locate to the rotation.
Any lingering concerns were surely tempered after Lynn’s sterling performance during Sunday’s rubber match. The burly right-hander mixed his slider, curveball and fastball to perfection, touching 95 miles per hour on the radar gun as late as the seventh inning.
“That's always an unknown whether he can maintain 95 for most of the game and he did,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “He’s a big guy, big strong guy and when he has command and the stuff like that, I don’t know if they plan to keep him as a starter, but he did a nice job.”
While Lynn stifled the same Milwaukee lineup that torched Cardinal pitching for three home runs on Saturday, his counterpart Randy Wolf failed to bring his best stuff to the hill. The southpaw labored through five innings of work, giving up nine hits, three earned runs, one walk and striking out seven over 118 pitches.
“If you don’t have those one or two pitch at-bats it adds up pretty fast,” Wolf said. “I had more strikeouts than I usually like to have and even those strikeouts, I think one or two of them were under four pitches. You do that, you’re going to have a lot of pitches. Every inning was a battle.”
Wolf’s trouble began in the opening frame when Nyjer Morgan failed to track down a Matt Holliday RBI double in the gap to hand St. Louis a 1-0 advantage. But Wolf’s most regrettable sequence came during an extended fourth inning after he retired the first two Cardinal batters. Wolf surrendered a single through the left side to number eight hitter Shane Robinson and Lynn fisted a 0-2 curveball into right field, giving Brewer killer Rafael Furcal, who went 3-for-5 on the afternoon, a chance to drive in Robinson with a run-scoring single to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead.
After Freese drove in the St. Louis’ third tally with a single in the fifth, newly minted right fielder Carlos Beltran all but clinched a Cardinal victory by lacing a hanging Marco Estrada changeup into the right field seats to make it 5-1 in the seventh. Robinson added his first career home-run off Kameron Loe to give the Cardinals a 9-2 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
A bright spot for Milwaukee continues to be Corey Hart’s hot streak at the plate. After pummeling two home runs on Saturday, Hart crushed a Lynn fastball 432 feet in the fifth inning to cut the advantage to 3-1 and briefly give the Brewers hope. Hart finished the opening series 4-for-8 with three home runs, putting to rest any concern that he isn’t fully recovered from early March knee surgery.
“If he felt a little sore, I wouldn’t have any trouble taking him out,” Roenicke said. “But he feels really good. That and the combination of the way he’s swinging, it does make it difficult to get him out of there.”
Ryan Braun also scorched the baseball during all four his plate appearances, the most memorable a tape-measure homer in the ninth inning off old foe Jason Motte. Even Braun’s two outs traveled a combined 800 feet to the warning track in center field only to land in Robinson’s glove.
"You always want to have good at-bats,” Braun said. “I felt all series I put together good at-bats. I swung the bat well. Sometimes you get hits, sometimes you don’t.”
The defending world champion Cardinals, even without Albert Pujols or Tony La Russa, certainly proved during this series they'll remain a formidable threat in the National League Central. The Brewers are relieved to move on to a different divisional foe as they embark on a four-game set 90 miles south against the Cubs.
“I don’t think anybody went into this series thinking they were going to be less of an offensive threat without Albert,” Wolf said. “They’re still going to be really good and their pitching is good too, so they’re going to be a tough team.”
“Three games into it, it’s no reason for us to panic, but it’s a good thing to where we can learn from any mistakes we had this series.”
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