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Saenz shines vs. Cardinals04/24/2004 4:56 PM ET
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Dave Burba, who calls himself a "mutt" because of his ever-changing roles over 15 Major League seasons, was wowed Saturday by a puppy.
"I'm in awe right now," Burba said. "I think it's unbelievable."
In one of the better Brewers rookie debuts ever, 22-year-old right-hander Chris Saenz jumped all the way from Double-A to the big leagues. He pitched six shutout innings and out-dueled Cardinals veteran Woody Williams for a 3-1 Brewers win in front of 22,222 fans at Miller Park.
Saenz (1-0), who had pitched only three regular season games in the minors above Single-A, held the suddenly struggling Cardinals offense to two hits and struck out seven in six-plus innings.
A sleeper in baseball's top-rated minor league system, according to Baseball America, Saenz was promoted all the way from Double-A Huntsville to replace injured left-hander Chris Capuano. Fifty-eight of Saenz's season-high 93 pitches Saturday were strikes.
"That's my whole approach," said Saenz, whose mother, Cheryl, and girlfriend, Jackie, traveled from Tucson, Ariz. to watch him pitch. "I didn't try to focus on the names that were coming up."
That was a good thing, because those names comprised baseball's most potent offense. St. Louis was averaging 6.75 runs-per-game entering the series, but scored two runs in two Brewers wins. Ben Sheets will aim for a Brewers sweep on Sunday.
For Milwaukee, Junior Spivey and Lyle Overbay drove in first-inning runs against Williams (0-2), who took a tough-luck loss after allowing three hits in six innings. Scott Podsednik finished with two hits, including his second triple, and scored the Brewers' first and third runs.
That was enough for Saenz and a trio of Brewers relievers including Burba and Dan Kolb, who pitched the ninth for his fifth save in as many chances.
"I was impressed from the first pitch of the game," Kolb said of Saenz. "I don't think I've ever seen a rookie throw a first-pitch breaking ball. He showed some poise and composure."
That first pitch -- a slider -- was strike one to Cardinals leadoff man Bo Hart, who whiffed three times and was Saenz's first and last victim. Saenz loaded the bases with a Ray Lankford single and a pair of walks, but escaped damage when Podsednik nearly collided with Geoff Jenkins in left-center field to catch Edgar Renteria's deep fly ball.
"Our gloves hit," Jenkins said. "That could have been the game."
Saenz hit Albert Pujols with a pitch in the third inning but otherwise did not allow a baserunner until Pujols singled with one out in the sixth.
Saenz became the first Brewer to win his Major League debut since 21-year-old Nick Neugebauer struck out nine Cincinnati Reds and allowed one run in five innings on Aug, 19, 2001 at Cinergy Field.
"He wasn't [pitching from] the stretch very much," manager Ned Yost said. "He was in the wind-up the majority of the day. He was moving his fastball in and out and he had a nasty slider which was buckling them. What he did out there today ... that's phenomenal."
He walked the leadoff man in the seventh and was replaced by another rookie, 23-year-old rookie Jeff Bennett, who eventually induced an inning-ending double play.
"He was awesome," Bennett said. "He has unbelievable stuff and he has a real good head on his shoulders."
What was Saenz throwing well?
"Everything," catcher Chad Moeller said. "A fastball that he had pretty good command of. A lot of breaking balls for strikes that really had a lot of the guys buckling. And he was able to use his changeup effectively, too.
"You've got to dream it like that," Moeller said, "but it doesn't always happen that way."
Saenz said he did not sleep much after learning about the promotion from Huntsville manager Frank Kremblas on Thursday night. He spent Friday in the Brewers bullpen, available for an emergency relief call that never came.
With off days coming Thursday and again on Monday, and Capuano due off the disabled list May 4, Saenz may be headed back to Huntsville. Yost said the team would have a plan by Sunday.
"He needs to stick around," Jenkins said. "Against that lineup, what he did? That's incredible."
Saenz struck out eight in each of his two starts for Huntsville this season. Last Sunday, he held Montgomery scoreless on one hit for six innings and allowed only three fair balls out of the infield. He retired the first 13 batters he faced and did not issue a walk.
St. Louis briefly made it a one-run game in the eighth when Marlon Anderson scored on a Luis Vizcaino wild pitch. But Burba got out of the jam when he induced an inning-ending lineout by Renteria to strand runners at the corners.
The Cardinals left a man at third base three times on Saturday.
The Brewers scored in the first when Podsednik walked, moved to third on a hit-and-run single by Bill Hall and scored on Junior Spivey's single. Overbay hit a sacrifice fly two batters later to re-tie Spivey for the team lead with 14 RBIs.
Overbay's out came in a streak of 15 Brewers retired in order by Williams until Podsednik's leadoff single in the sixth. He tripled in the eighth and scored on Julian Tavarez's wild pitch.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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