New-look Cards deliver same old pain to Crew
MILWAUKEE — One game does not make a baseball season. One opponent does not fill out an entire schedule.
The Milwaukee Brewers players should feel fortunate on both fronts because the sight of the St. Louis Cardinals recently has been enough to make them feel sick to their stomachs.
Nearly six months had passed since the Cardinals crushed the Brewers' hopes of a World Series appearance last season, two games shy of capturing a National League pennant. St. Louis celebrated the night away on Milwaukee's home field in October after securing the NLCS in six games, leaving the Brewers bitter despite a record-setting campaign.
As fate would have it, Milwaukee received another crack at its division rival during the Brewers' season opener at Miller Park on Friday. Much like last October, however, St. Louis left the Brew Crew feeling blue, easily handling Milwaukee in an 11-5 victory.
Opening Day at home may be only as important as any of the other 161 regular-season games, but it certainly tends to take on a magnitude all its own. Given the opponent and the sellout crowd of 46,086 -- the second-largest in Miller Park history -- this was a game the Brewers clearly wanted to show last year's regular season was no fluke.
Instead, St. Louis served up an early knockout punch and left Milwaukee reeling until the end. Again.
"It's hard to watch bad ballgames," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We played a bad ballgame."
Perhaps no player better epitomizes the Cardinals' recent dominance against the Brewers than Milwaukee pitcher Yovani Gallardo.
The Brewers' Opening Day starter was torched for six earned runs on seven hits -- including four home runs -- in 3-2/3 innings pitched. The four home runs allowed tied a career high from Sept. 1, 2011, which also came against St. Louis.
Gallardo is now 1-8 with a 6.17 ERA in 12 career regular-season starts against St. Louis. He is 52-27 against the rest of major league baseball.
"I haven't even thought about it, to be honest," Gallardo said. "I know they mentioned it to me last year. You can't think about those types of things. It could be a whole different story if I was ahead of hitters, throwing the ball where I wanted to. The outcome could have been a lot different. ...
"Today, I just sucked. That's all I can say."
Friday's result left the Cardinals brimming with confidence. The defending World Series champions moved to 2-0 this season after soundly beating the Miami Marlins on Wednesday, already putting them 1-1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee. And the long ball clearly fueled the hot start on Friday.
"Every time when you come to a city like Milwaukee as a hitter you think you may have a chance to hit a home run," said Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, who belted a solo homer in the third inning.
Last season, Milwaukee won a franchise-record 96 games to take the NL Central by six games over St. Louis. Yet the Cardinals, who earned the wild-card berth, still sent the Brewers home from the playoffs.
The makeup of this St. Louis team was supposed to be different. Future Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa is gone. So is sure-fire Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. What hasn't changed is the Cardinals' success rate.
"They're still a good lineup," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "I never sold them short just because Albert was gone. You've still got to make pitches and execute because if you don't, they're going to hurt you."
Before the game, Milwaukee players spoke openly about how much better they believed they'd be this season despite Prince Fielder's free-agent departure to Detroit. With the additions of Aramis Ramirez at third base, Mat Gamel at first and Alex Gonzalez at shortstop, players said they would have enough to make up for his absence.
On Friday, the trio finished 2 for 12, with Gamel collecting the only hits.
Of course, one game does not make a baseball season. Brewers players know better than to think like that. Besides, there are 14 more games remaining against the Cardinals to prove which club is better.
"We're going to face these guys however many more times this year," Lucroy said. "We're going to play them a lot. In September, we're not even going to be thinking about today."
Maybe not. But if things continue to go poorly against St. Louis this season, at least Milwaukee can play 147 games against everybody else.
Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.