Brewers win third straight
Right-hander Suppan limits Cards to two runs in 6 1/3 innings
ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Suppan begrudgingly admits that he's a bit of a pack rat, at least when it comes to baseball stuff.
The new Brewers right-hander says he inherited the practice from his dad, who started saving memorabilia when Suppan was growing up. He's continued it into his pro years, saving small keepsakes from various milestones in his career.
"I hate to admit it," Suppan said with a smile, "but I tend to frame everything."
He needs another frame after Saturday night, following what Suppan kept insisting was just another game. Suppan, whose Game 7 performance in last year's National League Championship Series carried the Cardinals into the World Series, earned his first win with his new team by beating his old one, leading Milwaukee to a 3-2 win over St. Louis at frigid Busch Stadium.
Suppan (1-2) pitched 6 1/3 innings and held his former teammates to two runs while scoring a run of his own after a third-inning walk from Kip Wells (1-2) -- the right-hander whom St. Louis signed over the winter to help fill Suppan's absence. Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks had a big night on defense and his go-ahead, two-run home run in the fifth inning provided the winning margin as the Brewers won their third game in a row.
"This kid pitched Game 7 of the NLCS -- that's where the pressure is," Brewers manager Ned Yost said of the hullabaloo surrounding Suppan's St. Louis homecoming. "This is nothing. This was a regular-season game.
"I think it makes for a nice story, but I don't think it matters to Jeff who he's pitching against. He's that type of professional. He's going to go out and do his job."
Still, Suppan's first Brewers win meant enough that he kept a game ball and the official lineup card. He also got a congratulatory phone call afterward from the guy paying his club-record, four-year, $42 million contract. Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio phoned from Hawaii, where he was on a family vacation.
"I wasn't really expecting that," Suppan said. "I told him, 'I think it's a little warmer there than it is here.'"
That was a safe bet, since the game-time temperature at Busch Stadium was 41 degrees. The 32-year-old Suppan, who agreed to terms with Milwaukee on Christmas Eve, got a mostly positive reaction from the crowd in St. Louis, where rains forced Friday's series opener to be postponed and Saturday's start time to be pushed back six hours. Suppan spent the last three seasons with the Cardinals, and was presented with his 2006 World Series ring before the bad weather arrived on Friday.
"Surprisingly, I felt OK," Suppan said. "The first day coming in was odd for me. But actually going out there [to pitch], I was just getting ready for a game. I was just focused on hitting my spots."
"He seemed really focused on getting a 'W,'" catcher Johnny Estrada said. "I don't think he had his best stuff tonight, but on a night like that, with the weather being what it was, it was a tough night to play. He was pretty good."
Added Weeks: "It just seems like he makes the perfect pitch at the perfect time."
Suppan drew a one-out walk from Wells in the third inning and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Prince Fielder, who went hitless for the first time in 10 games this season. The Cardinals tied the game in the fourth inning on Scott Rolen's RBI single, but Weeks put the Brewers ahead for good when he smashed a 2-1 pitch from Wells in the fifth inning into the Brewers' bullpen.
Weeks also made a number of slick defensive plays, including a backhanded stop of Scott Rolen's smash up the middle to end the sixth inning. Earlier in that frame, first baseman Prince Fielder made a diving stop and fed to Suppan covering first base for the first out.
Suppan and the Brewers dodged a bullet in the seventh. Suppan surrendered a pair of singles and was lifted with one out in favor of left-handed reliever Brian Shouse, who retired pinch-hitter Preston Wilson on a lineout to left field.
With another pinch-hitter, Aaron Miles, due to hit, the Brewers turned to Greg Aquino, who surrendered a bloop RBI single and then walked David Eckstein, loading the bases. But Aquino retired Chris Duncan, who had two hits in the game, on a popout to foul territory in front of the third-base dugout. Derrick Turnbow worked through the heart of the St. Louis batting order in a scoreless eighth inning, and Francisco Cordero worked a spotless ninth for his fourth save.
Yost called it a tough call to pull Suppan. But the Brewers bullpen has been sharp, allowing one run over its last 21 1/3 innings including 2 2/3 scoreless frames on Saturday. The four relievers who pitch against the Cardinals have yet to surrender a run this season.
"He was starting to get the ball up a little bit," Yost said of Suppan. "He was at 95 pitches, and he had pitched so well to that point. I felt good with our 'pen."
Said Suppan: "I was missing some spots. I was trying to pitch through it, but in that situation it was the right call."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.