Hazelbaker’s four hits spark Cards to 10-1 win over Brewers
ST. LOUIS — Jeremy Hazelbaker was starting to wonder whether he ever would get a shot in the major leagues.
Suddenly, the 28-year-old rookie is the St. Louis Cardinals’ hottest hitter and a fixture in Mike Matheny’s lineup. Batting .526 has that kind of an effect.
"I like watching him," the manager said Monday after Hazelbaker went 4 for 4 with a triple, double and sacrifice fly in the Cardinals’ home opener, a 10-1 rout of the Milwaukee Brewers. "So there’s a good chance you’re going to see him in there."
Hazelbaker made his first opening-day roster after shortstop Ruben Tejada injured a quadriceps in late March. Like fellow rookie Aledmys Diaz, who was recalled after Tommy Pham injured his left oblique in the opener and has impressed at shortstop and at the plate, the outfielder has been a difference-maker.
"It was definitely a good day, a good one for my parents to see," said Hazelbaker, who signed as a minor league free agent last season after being released by the Dodgers. "I knew I could do it; it was just about getting a chance."
Diaz is batting .533 after becoming the first Cardinals rookie with a two-double performance among his first five games.
Backed by a lineup that had 10 extra-base hits, Michael Wacha had a nine-run cushion in the third and allowed four hits in six scoreless innings.
"I was able to locate the fastball down in the zone on both sides of the plate," Wacha said. "I made too many mistakes last week and I was trying to stay under control."
Yadier Molina had three hits, two RBIs and an uncontested steal off starter Taylor Jungmann (0-1) in the second. Randal Grichuk drove in his first run of the season with a double.
"They hit fastballs, they hit breaking balls, they hit inside fastballs, they hit outside fastballs," Jungmann said. "It wasn’t just one pitch they were going after."
Manager Craig Counsell said he didn’t think the opening day ceremonies affected Jungmann, noting, "He didn’t ride a Clydesdale or anything."
Hall of Famer Lou Brock threw a strike to former teammate Ted Simmons on the ceremonial first pitch from halfway between the mound and the plate. The former basestealing champ’s left leg was amputated below the knee in October, and he wears a prosthesis, but walked without a noticeable limp.
"What a great story that is," Matheny said.
Matt Carpenter added two hits and two RBIs for the Cardinals, who have scored 10 or more runs in three straight games for the first time since 1980 and have won four in a row overall. They set a franchise record with 19 hits in the opener, one more than against the Pirates on April 5, 1974.
Chris Carter hit his third homer and Ryan Braun had two hits for Milwaukee, which has lost two of three.
Wacha (1-0) struck out seven and walked one, and gave up just four singles. In his first start of the year, he allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings at Pittsburgh.
Wacha is 7-2 with a 2.60 ERA in 12 career April starts, his most victories of any month. He’s 3-0 against the Brewers.
Jungmann faced 15 hitters and gave up eight runs and eight hits, seven for extra bases, in two-plus innings. The right-hander is 0-2 against St. Louis, allowing 14 runs and 14 hits in seven innings.
Hazelbaker made a diving catch in the left-center gap to rob Carter of extra bases in the second.
Attendance of 47,608 in 57-degree weather trails only a crowd of 47,875 for opening day last season at 11-year-old Busch Stadium.
Cardinals: SS Jhonny Peralta (left thumb) has improved and is wearing a splint instead of a cast, and has been rehabbing in St. Louis. He’s still likely out a few more months.
Both teams have a day off Tuesday. On Wednesday night, Mike Leake (0-1, 8.31 ERA) opposes Chase Anderson (1-0, 0.00). Leake didn’t get out of the fifth in his first start with St. Louis and Anderson worked five scoreless innings in his first start with Milwaukee.