Cardinals 6, Brewers 5

Friday, April 12th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Patience at the plate is helping Tino Martinez justify all those standing ovations.

It's been a quiet start for Mark McGwire's replacement, batting just .138 with four RBIs and a lot of innocent groundouts. St. Louis Cardinals fans have made sure Martinez feels welcome by getting on their feet and chanting, ``Tino, Tino!'' virtually every at-bat.

He delivered Thursday with a tiebreaking bases-loaded walk in a 6-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

``That was the exact at-bat he needed, because that's when he's going to concentrate the best,'' manager Tony La Russa said. ``He got the game-winner, and I think the fans know how good he's going to be for us.''

Even though he's coming off a 34-homer, 113-RBI season and has six 100-RBI seasons the last seven years, Martinez has been pressing all spring to replace the man who hit 135 homers over two seasons in 1998-99. He said he doesn't deserve the cheers, not yet, although he also drew a bases-loaded walk in the series opener on Tuesday to tie the score in the seventh.

``I deserve to be getting booed right now, no matter where I'm playing,'' Martinez said. ``I'm sure I'd be booed in many other cities besides St. Louis.

``It's definitely nice that they support me, but I'd still like to go out there and produce.''

The Cardinals won all three games by 6-5 scores. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the first time that's happened since the Dodgers beat the Expos by three straight 3-2 scores on May 14-16, 1990. It's happened 11 times in major league history.

The Brewers rallied from a 5-1 deficit, but lost their fifth in a row.

``It was frustrating,'' said Richie Sexson, who hit a two-run homer. ``We were close the entire series but couldn't get a win. We could have won all three games if our hitters would have gotten the job done.''

J.D. Drew walked off Jose Cabrera (0-2) with two outs in the eighth, Albert Pujols doubled and Jim Edmonds was intentionally walked to bring on Mike DeJean. Martinez took three straight balls before a called strike, and crushed a 3-1 pitch foul to the loge level in right field before taking ball four well outside.

``You're basically in the driver's seat in those situations,'' Martinez said. ``He's got to throw the ball over the plate, and if he falls behind, even better. I just relaxed and got good pitches to hit and saw the balls out of the zone.''

Mike Matheny hit a three-run homer, and Drew also connected for the Cardinals, who have won five of six. Cabrera also took the loss in the series opener, allowing a go-ahead sacrifice fly to Fernando Vina in the eighth inning.

Dave Veres (2-0) pitched 1 1-3 innings for the win, leaving with two men on in the ninth. Steve Kline got two strikeouts for his first save with closer Jason Isringhausen unavailable after pitching two innings on Wednesday.

Bud Smith, called up earlier in the day to replace the injured Woody Williams in the rotation, lasted 5 1-3 innings for St. Louis. He gave up three runs, two earned, and four hits.

The Cardinals stranded five runners the first two innings, settling for Vina's RBI single in the second. They broke through against rookie Nick Neugebauer in the third on leadoff walks to Pujols and Edmonds, and Matheny's one-out homer for a 4-1 lead.

Neugebauer threw 71 pitches in 2 1-3 innings and allowed four runs, four hits and four walks.

St. Louis made it 5-1 in the fourth on Drew's first home run, off Mike Buddie.

The Brewers scored three in the sixth on Richie Sexson's two-run homer and a sacrifice fly by Jeffrey Hammonds, both off Gene Stechschulte. They tied it against Stechschulte in the seventh on a double by Mark Loretta and Eric Young's sacrifice fly.

A throwing error by Pujols on Young's leadoff grounder in the first led to the game's first run. Young went to second on the play and scored two batters later on Hammonds' first sacrifice fly.

Notes: To make room for Smith, the Cardinals optioned RHP Mike Crudale to Triple-A Memphis. Crudale pitched a perfect ninth Wednesday. ... Young, who went 1-for-4, is 3-for-28 on the season.