Cardinals look to Lackey to improve MLB’s best record

John Lackey has gone a 1.78 ERA in 10 regular-season starts and one playoff outing at Busch Stadium since joining the Cardinals after a trade with Boston.

Billy Hurst/AP

John Lackey has been more than comfortable at Busch Stadium since the St. Louis Cardinals acquired him at last year’s trade deadline.

Then again, he’s often pitched well no matter where he’s taken the mound this season.

The right-hander looks to help the Cardinals improve the best home record in the majors Wednesday by taking two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers in a series during which runs have been scarce.

Lackey (3-3, 2.83 ERA) has gone 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 10 regular-season starts and one playoff outing at Busch since joining the Cardinals (34-18) after a trade with Boston. He had another solid effort Friday, striking out nine over seven innings of a 3-0 home win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 36-year-old improved to 3-1 with a 1.30 ERA in five starts at home this season and finished 2-2 with a 1.89 ERA in six May outings.

"We’re talking an elite-style pitcher for a long period of time," manager Mike Matheny said. "As far as what we saw at the end of last year and how well he’s throwing right now, it’s just much better stuff."

Lackey beat the Brewers 4-0 on April 16 in St. Louis, striking out eight over seven innings. He is 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in four career starts against Milwaukee (18-35), which dealt St. Louis a rare home loss with a 1-0 victory in Monday’s series opener.

St. Louis is 21-7 at home after winning by the same score Tuesday, as Mark Reynolds’ single in the second inning plated Randal Grichuk.

Matt Holliday went 0 for 3 before being ejected for arguing a called third strike in the seventh, snapping his NL-record 45-game streak of reaching base to start a season. It marked the longest such streak since Derek Jeter’s major league-record 53-game run in 1999.

The Brewers outhit the Cardinals 7-4 but lost for the eighth time in 10 tries. Adam Lind, who is batting .484 (15 for 31) with six doubles in his career off Lackey – the best average for any of the 84 hitters that have faced the 13-year veteran at least 30 times – had a hit and is 7 for 17 over his last six.

Milwaukee pitchers had a 19-inning scoreless streak snapped despite Tyler Cravy’s seven solid innings in his major league debut against St. Louis, which has scored five runs over its last four. The Cardinals haven’t had much trouble scoring against the Brewers when Jimmy Nelson is on the mound, though.

Nelson (2-5, 3.90) walked four, gave up 13 runs and 16 hits in 9 2/3 innings and took the loss in all three of his appearances – two starts – against the Cardinals last season.

The right-hander faces St. Louis looking to bounce back after a rough outing. He gave up four runs, two homers and hit two batters over six innings of Milwaukee’s 7-5 loss to Arizona on Friday.

He struck out eight and didn’t issue a base on balls after walking nine over his previous two starts, but he also threw his fourth wild pitch of the season and increased his number of hit batsmen to five, which is tied for third-most in the majors.

"You can be wild within the zone, too. Your command can still be off," Nelson said. "A lot of times it can be deceiving to just look at straight strikes and balls. I feel like I fell behind too many guys."

Jhonny Peralta is 1 for 6 in this series, but he went 4 for 7 with a double off Nelson last season.