St. Louis Cardinals

August 3, 2014

Cardinals' seventh-inning rally makes a winner of Lackey

For six innings Sunday afternoon, Milwaukee right-hander Matt Garza silenced the St. Louis Cardinals' offense.

But Garza's departure with a left oblique strain provided the springboard for the Cardinals' come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Brewers that gave them two out of three in the series.

St. Louis scored three runs in the seventh against Zach Duke and Jeremy Jeffress, giving John Lackey a victory in his first start with the team.

"It worked out good. We got a win," said Lackey, acquired from Boston on Thursday for right fielder/first baseman Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly. "It wasn't a huge deal, honestly, as far as butterflies. It was maybe something like Opening Day or something like that. Just a new start."

Lackey, 35, who collected his 150th career win, allowed two runs (earned) on seven hits in seven innings, with no walks and four strikeouts. He threw 109 pitches, 77 for strikes. After Ryan Braun's single in the third, he retired 12 of 13 hitters.

"He had a great day for us," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "He was bearing down. I thought he had good movement on his fastball when he wanted it. He had good life; you saw that right from the beginning in the first.

"The ball was jumping out of his hand nice and easy. And you have to admire his disposition out there. He felt like he was in control of the game."

Pat Neshek pitched a scoreless eighth before Trevor Rosenthal worked the ninth for his major league-leading 34th save, striking out the side and stranding runners at first and second.

The Cardinals (59-51) climbed within one game of the first-place Brewers (61-51) in the National League Central. They lead third-place Pittsburgh by one-half game.

Lackey's performance would have been for naught had the Cardinals been unable to put together their second big inning in the last two games. St. Louis, whose five-run second paved the way for its 7-4 win Saturday, got within 2-1 on Matt Holliday's 442-foot home run to center against Duke, his 12th of the season.

Holliday, who batted .348 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs in the second half of last season, is hitting .294 (15-for-51) with six homers and 13 RBIs in 14 games since the All-Star break.

After the home run, Matt Adams singled, and Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke summoned Jeffress (0-1) from the bullpen.

Jhonny Peralta and A.J. Pierzynski followed with singles, with Pierzynski's hit scoring Adams to tie the game at 2. Taveras then singled to right-center to make it 3-2. Taveras is 4-for-13 with five RBIs since taking over in right field for Craig.

"I feel the same," Taveras said through interpreter Roberto Espinoza. "I keep working hard. I'm doing my job. Thank God I'm getting the opportunity and I'm getting good results."

Garza, who had been 0-2 with a 9.56 in four career games at Busch Stadium III, blanked the Cardinals on one hit in six innings --a double in the fifth by Adams. Garza walked none and struck out four, using just 71 pitches, 45 for strikes.

"(The Cardinals) dodged a bullet today," said Garza, who injured himself on his next-to-last pitch. "It was like, 'Son of a gun.' You put a bullpen in that situation and everybody is caught off-guard. Your starter has 70 pitches, nobody assumes he's coming out."

Pierzynski wasn't certain whether it was Garza's absence that sparked the Cardinals in the seventh.

"We were just grinding it out," Pierzynski said. "Garza pitched really well. I saw Zach Duke's numbers and he had like a one-something ERA (1.43), so it's not like guys have been hitting him all over the yard, either. Then the other guy came in with a zero ERA (in 4 2/3 innings). So it wasn't like those guys were struggling.

"It was a good win. It was a really good game. It was a fun game to be a part of."

Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead in the first on Aramis Ramirez's RBI single. Ramirez was 8-for-13 with four RBIs in the series.

Mark Reynolds' bases-empty homer in the second, his 19th of the season, came on a slider by Lackey and put the Brewers ahead 2-0. Lackey made no more mistakes.

"It helps that I've caught him a whole bunch of times this year," said Pierzynski, who also caught Lackey in Boston. "It's an advantage, but he deserve the credit. He pitched his tail off."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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