Greinke bests Carpenter to lift Brewers over Cards
Greinke outpitched fellow Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter for his sixth consecutive victory and Rickie Weeks hit a go-ahead, two-run homer to lift the Brewers over the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 on Saturday night.
"So far, it's better than I ever could've imagined. We're playing great, it's fun to watch us play and it's been working out good," said Greinke, who was traded in the offseason after being the ace for seven losing years in Kansas City. "We're scoring a lot of runs, I haven't put up a bunch of zeros, but it's been good enough to keep us in the game."
Milwaukee is the hottest team in baseball since Greinke won his first game on May 9 and the Brewers have pulled within a half-game of St. Louis for the NL Central lead.
"I know it's close," Greinke said.
Prince Fielder hit his seventh homer in the last eight games and Corey Hart added a two-run double for the Brewers, who keep improving on their major league-best home record.
"That's what's great about this place, it gets rockin' and rollin' and it's nice to see on June 11th what it's like. Hopefully we'll give them something on September, October 11th to see how loud they can get," Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee said. "Win this series, sweep this series, get swept, there's still a whole lot of baseball left."
Lance Berkman homered off Greinke (6-1) to give St. Louis a 2-1 lead in the sixth, but Milwaukee scored four times in the bottom of the inning off Carpenter (1-6) on Weeks' shot and Hart's double.
Daniel Descalso's run-scoring double cut Milwaukee's lead to 5-3 in the seventh, but reliever Kameron Loe pitched a quiet eighth and John Axford converted his 14th straight save opportunity and 17th overall in the ninth.
"Whether it's because they're in first, whether it's just because they're a great team we're playing, it's just a little different atmosphere," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
Milwaukee is off to its best start in franchise history at Miller Park at 24-9. St. Louis came into town with the most road wins in the majors at 20, but the Cardinals will try to avoid being swept out of first place on Sunday.
"The good thing is we've still got a lot of time left in the summer, so we have got to keep on playing hard," Cardinals right fielder Jon Jay said. "There's a bunch of games left. There is still plenty of baseball to be played, and there are going to be more close games like tonight, so we just have to stay positive."
Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner who started 6-0 that year, missed the first month of the season with a cracked rib and lost his first start against Atlanta. Since then, he's 6-0 in his last seven appearances coinciding with Milwaukee's ascent in the standings.
Greinke was sharp again with nine strikeouts over seven innings, helping the Brewers (37-28) reach nine games over .500 for the first time in more than two years.
"He's an exciting player," Hart said. "The fans see him out there, they get into it a little more and we play well behind him. I don't know if it's a coincidence, but we all know since he got here we've been a really good team."
Fielder put Milwaukee ahead in the second on a 420-foot solo homer, his 18th this season. The ball ricocheted so hard off the outfield railing that shortstop Ryan Theriot retrieved it in shallow center field. Greinke has been impressed by Fielder's power surge.
"If you're being consistent, and then you have hot streaks, too, that's pretty unheard of. That's what he's done so far," Greinke said. "Prince is just good and then better so far."
St. Louis answered with Yadier Molina's two-out, run-scoring double in the fourth and Berkman's solo shot in the sixth to go ahead 2-1, setting the stage for Milwaukee's big inning.
Greinke started with a single and Weeks followed with an opposite-field homer to right. Hart's two-out double made it 5-2 after Carpenter uncharacteristically walked Fielder and McGehee.
Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, has lost his last four decisions and is off to his worst start since beginning his career 1-7 in Toronto in 1997.
"I'm fine," Carpenter said. "I've been around too long to concern myself with what my record is and what I'm doing."
Jay made an over-the-shoulder diving catch near the right-field wall to end the fourth, banging awkwardly into the lower padding. The extraordinary effort left Carpenter with a smile of disbelief as he walked toward the dugout, but the good times for the Cardinals wouldn't last long.
"We scrapped all the way," manager Tony La Russa said. "It was well-played, well-pitched. They pitched a little better, they hit a little better. That's the difference."
NOTES: Brewers SS Yuniesky Betancourt is expected to return to the lineup Sunday after Craig Counsell got two straight starts. Betancourt is hitting .230 with three homers and 20 RBIs. ... Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols doubled in the first to extend his hitting streak to nine games. ... Both teams wore special uniforms as part of the sixth annual Cerveceros Day to honor the Hispanic community. The Brewers wore gold jerseys with the Spanish translation "Cerveceros." The Cardinals' uniforms said "Cardenales." ... Greinke's bobblehead day is Sunday.