ST. LOUIS (AP) David Freese waited a long time for this curtain call. He was impressed with the patience of St. Louis’ fans.
Freese hit a grand slam for his first homer of the season, and the Cardinals used a five-run first inning to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6 on Friday night.
“That’s the biggest thing about this, you want to join the fun,” Freese said. “Fortunately enough, I haven’t done squat this year and we’ve got a heck of a record.”
The Brewers made it close on a pair of three-run homers by Aramis Ramirez off Jaime Garcia before losing for the 13th time in 15 games. The bottom four spots in the lineup were a combined 0 for 15.
“Nice to see Rammy get a couple,” Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. “I think he’s been swinging the ball really well and hasn’t had much to show for it.”
The Cardinals had five hits and a walk while batting around against Wily Peralta (3-4) in the first, but the right-hander was still in the game when Garcia (5-2) was chased with one out in the sixth. Milwaukee got one hit in 3 2-3 innings against three relievers, with Edward Mujica working the ninth for his 12th save in 12 chances.
“The bullpen did a great job, they picked me up basically,” Garcia said. “I didn’t do my job.”
Ryan Braun reached on a leadoff single in the eighth, but was caught stealing for a double play after Trevor Rosenthal struck out Ramirez. Carlos Gomez then popped up a bunt to end the inning.
Freese entered with a .209 average, four RBIs and a .287 on-base percentage, struggling to find his stroke after starting the season on the 15-day disabled list with a back injury from chasing a foul ball in spring training. He batted .293 last year with 20 homers and 79 RBIs, the first time he played more than 100 games in the majors.
Freese didn’t think failing to produce in his hometown made it any tougher, mentioning numerous helpful suggestions. He thought the best advice came from those who told him to just be himself and forget about his numbers.
“You hear the crowd when it went out, that shows how much they care about their team,” Freese said. “It’s cool to come out here every day. That curtain call was definitely probably more special than the home run.”
Peralta said Freese hit a changeup that was supposed to be down and away but hung over the middle. The Brewers thought Peralta had some bad luck earlier in the inning.
“We hit three ground balls in the first inning, they’re outs,” Roenicke said. “They hit ground balls, they’re hits, so you get a little frustrated.
“I don’t want to say that’s why he made the bad pitch to Freese, he just got one up and Freese did a nice job of hitting.”
Matt Holliday had two hits and two RBIs for St. Louis, which has won 13 of 16 and leads the National League at 27-14. Allen Craig had three hits and a walk and leadoff man Matt Carpenter had three hits and scored twice.
Ramirez lined a pitch into left-field stands in the fourth for just his second hit in four starts, and cleared the wall in center in the sixth for his third homer of the season. It was his 26th career multihomer game and left him with 32 homers against the Cardinals, tied with Adam Dunn for second-most among active players.
The first inning has been by far the Brewers’ best this season. They had outscored opponents 35-9, the most runs in the majors and fewest allowed.
Peralta appeared to have a good shot at escaping the inning down just a run when he struck out Jon Jay for the second out. Jay entered with a .440 career average against Milwaukee, and Freese had been in a season-long slump with just one extra-base hit and one RBI this month.
Freese then hammered a 1-1 pitch to straightaway center with a stroke reminiscent of the 2011 postseason when he was World Series and NL championship series MVP. Freese made a curtain call responding to a sellout crowd, but struck out his last two trips against Peralta.
Jay got an RBI single in his second trip to make it 6-0 in the third.
Garcia retired nine in a row on 28 pitches before Norichika Aoki slapped a single to open the fourth. Braun walked with one out and Ramirez cut the deficit in half, lining a 3-1 pitch into the left-field seats.
Garcia was charged with six runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings. NOTES: Roenicke called his first team meeting of the year Thursday after getting outscored 10-2 in consecutive losses at Pittsburgh. … Roenicke plans to rest Ramirez every third game or so for now while the veteran, who returned in early May from a left knee sprain that knocked him out a month, regains strength and form. “I don’t think I can’t say that in a week from now, I can leave him out there and not worry about. I know I’m not there,” Roenicke said before the game.