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STL@MIL: Roenicke breaks down loss to Cards

MILWAUKEE -- Opening Day at Miller Park began with promise. Miss America threw a perfect first pitch in front a sellout crowd that ignored the fact she calls herself a lifelong Cubs fan. Ryan Braun received a huge ovation during introductions and another, even louder, when he stepped to the plate. The Brewers jumped to a lead in the first inning.

The Cardinals spoiled the party, making it feel like Game 6 of the National League Championship Series all over again.

Less than six months after St. Louis' ended Milwaukee's season with an offensive barrage in Game 6, the Cardinals smashed four home runs off an ineffective Yovani Gallardo, including three homers in a four-batter span in the third inning, for an 11-5 win that sent home early the second-largest crowd in Miller Park history.

"It's hard when you work so hard to get to this point, Opening Day, and then you have a game like this," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I don't know if it's easier to lose in heartbreaker like we did last year or lose one when we're really not in the game. Both are bad ways to lose. This was a bad game."

Last year, Gallardo pitched six quality innings on Opening Day in Cincinnati, but the Brewers lost the game in the bottom of the ninth.

On Friday, there was no such drama.

Lacking rhythm -- a problem that occasionally dogged Gallardo in his Spring Training starts -- he struggled to command the baseball. That led him to "guide" pitches to the plate, which led to a noticeable drop in velocity.

The troubling combination led Gallardo to surrender six runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. The Brewers were in an 11-2 hole in the bottom of the ninth inning before George Kottaras delivered a pinch-hit, three-run home run, but it was still the third-most lopsided Opening Day loss in Brewers history. They lost, 12-0, to the Angels in 1970 and fell, 10-0, to the Orioles in '73.

"Today, I just stunk," Gallardo said. "That's all you can say."

Someone forgot to inform the Cardinals that Gallardo is one of baseball's best young pitchers. In 13 starts against St. Louis, including last year's postseason, Gallardo is 1-9 with a 6.24 ERA.

Twice in 116 career regular-season starts has Gallardo surrendered more than two home runs in a game. The first was a four-homer outing against the Cardinals last Sept. 1. The second came Friday.

"I wish I would have thrown the way I did in the 'pen," Gallardo said. "It was the total opposite. It was one of those things where you go out in the game, we get the lead in the first inning and I can't give up the lead after that. I have to go out there and shut them down. I wasn't able to do that."

Gallardo was in trouble in each of the four innings he pitched. He walked a pair of batters in the first before escaping the jam. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina led off the second with a home run to cut a 2-0 Brewers lead to 2-1. Then came the third, when three of the Cardinals' first four hitters went deep.

Gallardo fell behind Cardinals newcomer Carlos Beltran, 3-0, before Beltran belted a fastball for a long home run and a 2-2 tie. Matt Holliday hit the next pitch, a curveball, for another homer and the lead. Gallardo walked Lance Berkman and David Freese followed with a homer to make it 5-2.

Freese drove in three runs and has five RBIs in his first two games. His run-scoring single off Gallardo with two outs in the fourth inning was enough for the Brewers to tap their bullpen.

Gallardo touched 95 mph with multiple fastballs in his 2011 opener in chilly Cincinnati, but was more consistently in the 90-92 mph range on Friday. Molina and Freese hit 90-mph fastballs. The one Beltran hit registered 91 mph.

"When he doesn't have that rhythm, the ball doesn't come out well, doesn't have life on it," Roenicke said. "Then you start guiding the ball a little bit more, because you want to throw strikes."

"That wasn't the Yovani that we all know," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "I think it's good to get this one out of the way."

The Cardinals improved to 2-0 without Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa, and sit atop the NL Central. The Prince Fielder-less Brewers are 0-1 after dropping their fourth consecutive season opener.

Brewers bright spots came from center fielder Carlos Gomez, who hit an RBI triple off Cards starter Jaime Garcia in the first inning and scored on newcomer Aramis Ramirez's run-scoring groundout. Mat Gamel had two hits off left-handed pitchers in his first game as Milwaukee's first baseman. Corey Hart walked twice and legged out a double in his first meaningful game since knee surgery. Braun was 0-for-5, but he lined out in his first two at-bats, including a drive to left-center field in the third inning that was tracked down by former University of Miami teammate John Jay.

"Braun hit a couple of balls hard. You don't discount that," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It looks like his timing is pretty good. They've got guys that are going to hit the ball. They have a powerful lineup that you just can't take a breather on at all. We knew that going in."

The crowd of 46,086 fans was second-largest in Milwaukee since the Brewers made their move to Miller Park in 2001. The record was set Sept. 6, 2003, when 46,218 fans watched a Brewers-Cubs game.

"I'm looking for those things that give me a good feeling about [the game]," Roenicke said, "because when you get beat this bad, if I start thinking about all the negatives, it's a real downer." Comments