Cardinals 6, Brewers 5

Wednesday, April 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Eli Marrero began the year as the St. Louis Cardinals' third catcher and spare outfielder. He's earning playing time as a hitting machine.

Marrero, a .229 career batter entering the season, was 3-for-4 to raise his average to .733 Tuesday night in a 6-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. He also scored the winning run.

``He's swinging the bat real well right now, so we'll ride him a little longer,'' fill-in manager Jose Oquendo said. ``If he keeps swinging, he might keep playing.''

The Cardinals were without manager Tony La Russa, whose father died Tuesday.

Marrero, who batted .266 last year, is 11-for-15 with a home run and five RBIs and has played all three outfield positions, first base and catcher. He had 23 RBIs in 203 at-bats all last season.

Marrero, the eighth-place hitter on Tuesday, had a two-run double in the second, singled and scored in the fourth and singled and scored in the eighth on Fernando Vina's sacrifice fly off Jose Cabrera (0-1).

``I can't even imagine it,'' Marrero said. ``I'm not going to think about it, I'm just going out there when he gives me a chance and having fun.

``That's all I'm doing, going out and having some fun, trying to play hard, and see what happens at the end of the game.''

In spring training, batting coach Mitchell Page said he convinced Marrero to quit going for the long ball.

``I can't swing for home runs,'' Marrero said. ``If I do, I'll strike out. So I just have to put the ball in play and see what happens.''

The Cardinals' bullpen couldn't hold a 4-0 lead in the seventh as the Brewers rallied for five runs to take the lead.

``At least we showed some signs of life,'' said Richie Sexson, who had an RBI single in the seventh. ``We're been struggling and to rally and come back, that's one positive thing.''

St. Louis tied it in the bottom half on four walks by Takahito Nomura, the last coming on four pitches to Tino Martinez with the bases loaded.

Marrero led off the eighth with a single and went to third when Cabrera slipped and fell fielding pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo's bunt and then bounced a wild throw to first for an error. Marrero barely beat the throw from right fielder Alex Ochoa on Vina's sacrifice fly.

Dave Veres (1-0) got the victory after allowing the go-ahead run on Raul Casanova's sacrifice fly. Jason Isringhausen struck out three batters _ on a total of 10 pitches _ for his first save after Geoff Jenkins' leadoff double against Steve Kline.

The Brewers, who struck out an NL-two-game record 33 times in losing to Arizona's Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling over the weekend, didn't get a hit off Garrett Stephenson until Alex Ochoa singled with two outs in the fifth.

Ronnie Belliard doubled and Jeffrey Hammonds singled to start the seventh and chase Stephenson. Sexson singled off Gene Stechschulte for a run. Jenkins doubled off Mike Matthews and Ochoa followed with a two-run double off Veres. Casanova's sacrifice fly put the Brewers in front.

Stephenson, a 16-game winner in 2000, gave up four hits and two runs in six-plus innings with four strikeouts and one walk.

The Brewers rescued Ruben Quevedo, who has failed to make it out of the fourth in both of his starts. Quevedo, who has allowed eight earned runs in seven innings, allowed four runs _ three earned _ five hits and four walks in 3 2-3 innings.

Albert Pujols and Mike Matheny walked and scored on Marrero's two-out double in the second. Pujols' single made it 3-0 in the third and Marrero singled and scored on Edgar Renteria's two-out double in the fourth.