Cards’ comeback attempt thwarted by Brewers
By COLIN FLY
AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) Trevor Hoffman is concerned and embarrassed by his last two performances. This time, Casey McGehee quickly bailed out baseball’s career saves leader.
McGehee homered in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Milwaukee Brewers an 8-7 victory over St. Louis on Sunday night after the Cardinals rallied for three runs off Hoffman.
“Hoffy’s human. I think sometimes we get spoiled that sometimes he appears to be Superman out there. It’s going to happen and he’s going to be fine,” McGehee said. “He’s going to bounce back and be Trevor all over again. It’s just one night.”
Actually, it’s been two.
Hoffman was protecting a 7-4 lead with two outs in the top of the ninth when he came unraveled for the second straight appearance. Albert Pujols hit his second two-run homer of the game to cut the lead to one, and Matt Holliday followed with a tying shot.
“If you throw 85 mph right over the middle of the plate, that’s usually what happens. Not to be funny about it, but it’s embarrassing,” said Hoffman, whose last four blown saves have come against the Cardinals.
But McGehee connected off Kyle McClellan (0-1) with one out to give Hoffman (1-1) an unlikely victory and help the Brewers avoid a three-game sweep.
“He got me off the hook personally and lifted the ballclub up in a situation where we needed a win,” Hoffman said. “It’s a big win.”
McClellan took the blame for a fastball down the middle.
“As far as I am concerned, one pitch cost our team that fought and clawed to get back in it,” he said. “Our bullpen pitched their butts off and I come in and I blow it on one pitch.”
Milwaukee tagged Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter for seven runs – five earned – in five innings. Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and Ryan Braun homered off Carpenter, who has allowed five homers in two starts after allowing seven in 192 2-3 innings last year.
“I left the ball in the middle of the plate to Braun, he hit it out. I left the ball in the middle of the plate to Weeks, he hit it out. Middle of the plate to Hart, he hit it out,” Carpenter said. “All the pitches I left in the middle of the plate, they hit them out.”
But Pujols struck late to rally the Cardinals.
In the seventh, he sliced a drive inside the right-field foul pole with two outs to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 7-4 and chase starter Randy Wolf, who pitched well in his second start since signing a $29.75 million, three-year contract.
Hoffman again ran into trouble with two outs in the ninth after allowing Nick Stavinoha to hit the go-ahead homer in the same situation on Friday night.
This time, the 42-year-old right-hander allowed a one-out double to Felipe Lopez and got Stavinoha to pop up as a pinch hitter for the second out.
But Pujols hit a homer to left field that Braun could only watch for his first career hit against Hoffman. Holliday added one high off the batter’s eye in center, handing Hoffman consecutive blown saves for the first time since the end of the 2007 season.
Those two flops three years ago cost San Diego a playoff spot.
“I think it has to concern everybody, to be honest with you, but the bottom line is you’ve got to regroup and be ready to go tomorrow. Quick turnaround,” Hoffman said.
Carpenter left his third pitch up in the zone for Weeks, who hit a line-drive homer into the Brewers’ bullpen to lead off the game as Milwaukee scored first for the first time this season.
Hart homered in the second, Milwaukee scored two runs on two errors by Cardinals third baseman David Freese, and Braun hit a two-run homer in the fifth to give the Brewers a 7-2 lead that wouldn’t last.
Pujols said the Cardinals’ rally was impressive, especially against Hoffman.
“We’re never going to quit,” he said. “It’s tough to score one run against the guy, imagine three.”
They did, but McGehee made sure it still wasn’t enough.
NOTES: Milwaukee plays the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Monday afternoon, while St. Louis plays its home opener against the Astros. … Cardinals CF Joe Mather made a spectacular diving catch in the third that saved two runs. … Cameras caught Brewers 1B Prince Fielder smacking the dugout padding in frustration after striking out in the third. … The visiting team had won the last nine games in this series. … Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he sent Fred Couples a text message wishing him luck before Couples’ final round at the Masters.
Updated April 12, 2010