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07/24/08 3:12 AM ET
CC pushes Brewers to seventh straight
Lefty blanks Cards, tosses third straight complete game
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- There's no designated hitter, but navigating a National League lineup is still no easy feat. CC Sabathia just happens to be making it look that way. "It's a lot easier to catch [Sabathia] than it is to hit," Brewers catcher Jason Kendall said. "I know that. I've faced him before." Kendall was happy to be on the receiving end Wednesday night, when Sabathia pitched his third consecutive complete game, a three-hit, 3-0 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium that preserved his perfect record in four starts since a trade from Cleveland to Milwaukee. The Brewers were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position, but J.J. Hardy broke a scoreless tie with a fifth-inning home run against Cardinals starter Braden Looper (9-8) and Sabathia (10-8) took it the rest of the way. He worked a no-hitter into the sixth inning and struck out seven to improve to 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA since his July 7 trade. "I didn't really have any expectations," Sabathia said when asked if he's exceeding them. "I knew we had a good team. I knew we scored runs and if I kept us in some games, I could win some games. You don't try to go out and throw 'CGs' [complete games] all the time." Yet that's just what he's doing. He is the first Brewers pitcher to work at least three consecutive complete games since Cal Eldred went the distance in four straight in 1994. The Brewers' record is six straight complete games, set by right-hander Larry Sorensen in 1978. The Blue Jays' Roy Halladay pitched four consecutive complete games earlier this season, a mark Sabathia will look to tie when he starts the opener of a four-game showdown between the Brewers and Cubs on Monday at Miller Park. "It doesn't surprise me," Brewers manager Ned Yost said of Sabathia's remarkable start to his NL career. "One, he's a fierce competitor. I knew that he was durable as can be. I knew that he filled up the strike zone with three different pitches. So it doesn't really surprise me what he's capable of doing." Milwaukee has won seven straight games -- Sabathia has won three of them -- and moved to 15 games over .500 for the first time since finishing a 95-win 1992 season. The Brewers are 6-0 since the All-Star break and have won six straight road games for the first time since '99. Yost is quick to point out that his team was winning games well before the trade, and they own the best record in the Majors since May 20 at 38-19. He conceded that Sabathia's arrival certainly provided a boost. "As good as he is, we knew that he couldn't carry us," Yost said, who drew an ejection in the fifth inning for arguing a check-swing third strike on Prince Fielder. "We have to continue playing our game like we've done since he got here. We've played very good as a team, and he's a big part of it." How has Sabathia made such an easy transition? "The reason why I'm pitching well is because I'm comfortable," Sabathia said. "Everybody has been great to me here. I keep saying that, but that plays a big role in it." The Cardinals rarely made Sabathia uncomfortable on Wednesday. He walked Brendan Ryan leading off the bottom of the first inning, and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa elected to bunt Ryan into scoring position with All-Star outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who the night before had hit the longest home run in the history of new Busch Stadium. Sabathia escaped that jam in the midst of retiring 17 straight Cardinals hitters. Ryan ended the no-hit bid with a two-out single to right field in the sixth inning, and Ludwick followed with an infield hit that gave St. Louis its first runner in scoring position all night. Sabathia induced an Albert Pujols flyout to preserve the shutout. "That was as well as anyone's pitched against us all year," La Russa said. "From the first pitch to the last one." Said Ryan: "A lot of us had a real hard time up there. Anytime Albert's battling like that, you've got to tip your hat a little bit." Sabathia recorded the final out on his 106th pitch. "They were hacking early," he said. "I threw some good offspeed pitches there and was able to keep my pitch count down. They did that to [Jeff Suppan on Tuesday], so I figured they were going to come out and be aggressive, and I just had to mix it up. Jason called a great game. ... I probably shook him off three times since I've been here." Rickie Weeks lifted a sixth-inning sacrifice fly and finished with three hits. Ryan Braun had four hits including a ninth-inning solo homer, but Milwaukee's offense was held mostly at bay by Looper and two relievers. Corey Hart flied out with runners at second and third base to end the first inning and flied out again with two outs and the bases loaded in the third. Milwaukee was already 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position by the end of the seventh inning. Sabathia made sure it didn't matter. "He's been as good as advertised," Hart said. "You go out and get the best guy you can, but you still never know what's going to happen. He's turned out to be everything we thought."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.