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04/16/08 1:10 AM EST

Brewers drop opener to Cardinals

Fielder pitched around with Braun out of lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers pitchers couldn't put Cardinals hitters away. Brewers hitters never got going at all.

That was a bad combination on Tuesday, when slumping Brewers slugger Ryan Braun was out of the lineup and the Cardinals essentially removed Prince Fielder, too. Fielder walked four times but never scored as Milwaukee mustered only three hits in a 6-1 loss at Busch Stadium.

The first four Cardinals runs scored on two-out hits, including three against Brewers starter Dave Bush (0-3), who lasted six innings but lost for the third time in as many starts.

He did not get much help.

"I think we feel very fortunate where we are," third baseman Bill Hall said of the 8-5 Brewers. "We have a lot of guys doing some damage every now and then but not feeling great at the plate. Nobody is exceptionally hot. That goes to show how good we can be."

Corey Hart continued his mini-surge, following a four-hit game on Sunday with two hits and an RBI, but Joe Dillon's single was the only other Brewers hit. Fielder drew four walks, including three of the five free passes issued by Cards starter Braden Looper (3-0), but he never moved past second base and twice was erased on Hall double-play grounders.

Looper limited Milwaukee to a run on three hits in five innings for the win.

"They're struggling," Brewers manager Ned Yost said of his hitters. "But this is a very good offensive team, and they're working hard to get out of it. Prince had a big night tonight in terms of staying patient and having good at-bats. I was really proud of him."

Yost is trying to stay patient, too.

"The thing that you don't do is you don't magnify it as a coaching staff," Yost said. "You let them go through their ins and outs, ups and downs, resting assured that they are a very, very good offensive team. They've got enough confidence in themselves that they are not going to fall prey to somebody talking about them."

The Brewers entered play Tuesday ranked 10th in the 16-team National League with a .254 batting average and 13th with a .308 on-base percentage. Their average fell 10 points to .244 and their on-base mark dropped to .306.

The Cardinals were not going to let Fielder beat them. Looper walked Fielder leading off the second inning then issued free passes to Fielder with Dillon on base in front of him in the fourth and sixth.

"We've walked him a lot the last couple, three games," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "You can't throw the ball down the middle. So it's a credit to his patience. But we're trying to go after him. We're just trying not to give him something down the middle."

Meanwhile, Bush struck out the first two hitters he faced in the first inning, then surrendered a run on a pair of singles and a wild pitch. In the fifth inning, after the Brewers had tied the game at 1, Bush had a runner at second base with two outs before Skip Schumaker and Chris Duncan knocked consecutive RBI singles.

"Good hitters get base hits at critical times," Bush said.

The Brewers could not break through in the same way, and twice Bush was the culprit. Since Yost bats the pitcher eighth when catcher Jason Kendall starts, as he did Tuesday, Bush was the batter with two outs and two runners on base in both the second and fourth innings. Both times, he was retired by Looper.

Hall had a particularly tough night. He struck out twice and grounded into a pair of double plays, including one in the sixth inning against Cards reliever Kyle McClellan after Looper walked the first two hitters in the inning.

"We had a lot of guys on base today and couldn't get the hit when we needed to," Bush said.

Yost praised his starter.

"He pitched a great game -- kept us right in the game," Yost said. "Any time you pitch six innings and give up three runs, especially against a team like St. Louis, you've done a great job. He's working on some mechanical things and needs to be a little more consistent with them."

Yost then amended his review to say Bush pitched a "very, very good game." Bush then amended the manager regarding his mechanical tweaks.

"Actually, I'm just going back to the way I'm comfortable throwing," Bush said. "At times I have been guilty of listening to too many different bits of advice -- kind of losing track of what I like to do and how I like to do it."

The Brewers now face a decision in regard to starting pitching. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo will be ready to return to the rotation as early as Sunday, and either Bush, Wednesday starter Carlos Villanueva or Thursday starter Manny Parra will be bumped out. Yost said he won't make a decision until later in the week.

"I'm not worried about that," Bush said.

Schumaker added an RBI double off reliever David Riske in the seventh inning, again with two outs. The Cardinals tacked on two more runs in the eighth inning, when Derrick Turnbow surrendered four hits and a walk before Schumaker's inning-ending double play.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.