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Stavinoha's homer in 9th lifts Cards over Brewers

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CHRIS JENKINS
April 10, 2010
— How about this for a mismatch: Baseball's career saves leader against a player with 31 hits scattered over two seasons who was making his first plate appearance of the year.

With two outs, a 1-2 count and the game slipping away.


So Nick Stavinoha smacked Trevor Hoffman's pitch into the left-field grandstand, powering the St. Louis Cardinals to a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.


"I came through in a spot that everybody dreams to be put in," Stavinoha said. "Obviously, I'm really happy about that."


It was a memorable moment for Stavinoha, a midseason call-up by the Cardinals each of the past two years. And it was the first blown save of the season for Hoffman (0-1), who converted his first two chances for a bullpen that had been surprisingly strong so far.


"The bottom line is, you've got to execute with two strikes in that situation," Hoffman said. "I didn't do that."


Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Stavinoha has shown his talent in limited chances to play the last two seasons.


"That's about as tough as it gets, ninth inning with Hoffman pitching," La Russa said. "But he's got a reputation of taking tough at-bats. We saw it tonight."


Matt Holliday also hit a two-run homer for St. Louis. Dennys Reyes (1-0) got the win and Ryan Franklin earned his second save.


With St. Louis trailing 4-1 in the sixth, Holliday drove a 3-2 pitch from starter Dave Bush to left field for a two-run shot. That was the end of the night for Bush, who allowed four hits and struck out six with two walks.


Brewers manager Ken Macha then turned the ball over to his bullpen, which combined for five scoreless innings in a victory over Colorado on Wednesday.


In the eighth, LaTroy Hawkins allowed a one-out double to Skip Schumaker that glanced off the glove of left fielder Ryan Braun. Hawkins got Ryan Ludwick to strike out looking, and Milwaukee intentionally walked Albert Pujols to put the potential go-ahead run on base and pitch to Holliday.


Macha said Pujols had hit Hawkins better than Holliday in the past, and remained a threat even on an off night; Pujols was 0 for 3.


"He had swung the bat pretty well, even though he hadn't had any hits," Macha said. "And he's got a knack for coming through with the big hit."


Hawkins ran the count to 2-2, then got Holliday to whiff on a 96 mph fastball to end the inning.


The Brewers squandered scoring chances in the eighth, when Braun led off with a single but was picked off and Gregg Zaun grounded out to end the inning with two runners on.


Hoffman began the ninth by walking Colby Rasmus, then got back-to-back flyouts and appeared ready to put the game away. But Stavinoha came off the bench and gave the Cardinals the lead.


"We've got the best closer in the game out there for us," Bush said. "So he's not going to be perfect every time, but I think we'll all take our chances more often that not with him out there."


Until Holliday's homer, Bush's outing was reminiscent of his solid start to last season.


The right-hander began last year 3-0 in his first nine outings eight starts and a relief appearance but took a line drive off his arm in June, eventually ending up on the disabled list with a micro tear of his right triceps muscle. He wasn't the same pitcher after the injury, finishing the season 5-9 with a 6.38 ERA.


NOTES: Brewers RHP Jeff Suppan threw 4 1-3 innings in a rehabilitation start at the Brewers' Class-A affiliate in Appleton, Wis. He gave up seven hits and a run. Barring an injury setback, Macha said Suppan will start at Chicago next Thursday. ... It was Stavinoha's second career pinch-hit homer; his first came against Arizona on July 17, 2009. ... Jim Edmonds has started three of the Brewers' first four games ahead of Corey Hart in right field.



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