Cards get taste of own medicine in historic loss
MILWAUKEE -- In the span of two pitches, Cardinals reliever Dominic Leone found himself on the losing end of baseball history.
After St. Louis started the game with back-to-back home runs from William Fowler and Tommy Pham to lay the foundation for a four-run lead, the Brewers rallied for a 5-4 victory on consecutive homers by Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun with two outs in the ninth inning off Leone.
It was the first time in Major League history that a game started and ended with back-to-back home runs.
"I'm just glad we were on the finishing end of that accomplishment," said Braun, who is 4-for-4 in his career against Leone with three homers and seven RBIs. "You want to be on the back end, not the front end. Pretty special win for us tonight. We were down 4-0, and it felt like 7-0 or 8-0 the way it was going."
Fowler hit his 24th career leadoff home run and his first homer of the season on the first pitch from Chase Anderson. Two pitches later, Pham drove a 1-0 pitch to center to make it 2-0.
Marcell Ozuna made it 4-0 in the third with his first homer as a Cardinal, a 479-foot, two-run shot to left. It was the second-longest homer in the Major Leagues this season and second-longest in the 18-year history of Miller Park -- just one foot shy of a 480-foot blast by Milwaukee's Russell Branyan off Greg Maddux of the Cubs in 2004. According to Statcast™, Ozuna's homer was both the hardest hit (117.2 mph off the bat) and longest by a St. Louis batter since the tracking system debuted in 2015.
The Brewers pulled within 4-3 with two runs in the eighth off Tyler Lyons before powering their way into the record books in the ninth.
"I was being aggressive. My mindset didn't change," said Leone, who came on to record the final two outs in the two-run eighth. "It literally can come down pitch-to-pitch, and unfortunately tonight, for us, it did in the wrong way."
The collapse by the Cardinals' short-handed bullpen wasted a solid effort from the club's No. 2 prospect, Jack Flaherty, starting in place of injured Adam Wainwright. Flaherty, in search of his first career victory, allowed one run in five innings, giving up six hits overall with a career-high nine strikeouts and walking just one.
"That's what we'd hoped for," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "You stack up strikeouts like that, you're going to run up your pitch count, which ran him out of the game, but I liked everything he did today."
St. Louis signed All-Star closer Greg Holland -- who recorded a National League-best 41 saves last season -- on March 31, but he is still at the Minor League complex in Jupiter, Fla., and is not expected to join the Cardinals until Monday.
Veteran reliever Luke Gregerson, also signed during the offseason, is on the 10-day disabled list with a hamstring strain, and Brett Cecil, who appeared in 73 games with St. Louis last season, is on the DL with a shoulder strain.
"We've got three pieces missing from the bullpen right now," Matheny said. "We've got a guy who closes games on the way, a guy who's set up and closed a lot of games in Gregerson and Cecil. All three are veteran guys that are not a part of what we have, but what we have right now, I like. It was just one of those games that got away, and it's not going to happen very often with this group."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Missed chances allow opportunity: The Cardinals finished 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners stranded, which helped the Brewers stay in it. Lyons started the key eighth inning by allowing a leadoff double and a pair of singles, one an RBI by Travis Shaw, before Leone entered and allowed the Brewers to pull within one on Jonathan Villar's single. The Brewers sent seven men to the plate to set the stage for the ninth.
Out at home: It was a 2-0 game in the bottom of the second inning when Manny Pina's two-out double gave the Brewers their first threat against Flaherty. Villar followed with a sharp single to center fielder Pham, and Brewers third-base coach Ed Sedar chose to wave Pina home. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was waiting at home plate to apply an inning-ending tag after a strong throw from Pham.
"Come out of the box and score two as quick as it could happen. We did have chances to add and didn't, and once again, those seem to bite you when you have a team like this that you know can jump the ball out of the ballpark, in a ballpark that's conducive to the home run." -- Matheny
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The last time the Cardinals led off a road game with back-to-back home runs, Sandy Koufax was a 22-year-old still finding his footing in the big leagues. Koufax started the first game of a doubleheader in Los Angeles on Aug. 17, 1958, when the Cardinals' Curt Flood and Gene Freese went deep against the Dodgers.
Molina stole his first base of the season in the eighth inning, when it appeared Pina's throw beat Molina to second base, but Villar whiffed on his attempt at a tag. The Brewers challenged, but the call stood and Molina had career steal No. 57.
Right-hander Carlos Martinez (0-1) starts Wednesday in the series finale at 6:40 p.m. CT. He allowed five runs (four earned) in 4 1/3 innings on Opening Day to take the loss against the Mets. Martinez is 5-4 against Milwaukee, but his 2.18 career ERA is the second-lowest against the Brewers with a minimum of five career starts.
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