Weaver plays winning role in romp
Starter's six solid innings, RBI double sparks Cards' uprising
MILWAUKEE -- Among the many attributes of a good playoff run is a capability to win games on the road and receive key base hits from unlikely sources. Jeff Weaver is cool with that.
The Cardinals right-hander knocked an RBI double to accompany his six solid innings on the mound as St. Louis inched closer to the National League Central title with a 12-2 win over the Brewers at Miller Park on Tuesday. Ronnie Belliard also scored a career-high four times in support of Weaver (4-4), who improved to 4-1 on the road with his new team.
"Obviously you want to be out there, that's what it's all about," Weaver said when asked if he felt he was auditioning to be a central member of the playoff rotation. "But I wish I could say that was my only motivation. What I've gone through during the course of the season is motivation in itself -- to right the ship. If things fall into place where it works out, I'm ready for the challenge."
Weaver, who was 3-10 with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before being ousted and picked up by the Cards, allowed two earned runs on five hits with four strikeouts during his tenure. His two-out double in the sixth scored Yadier Molina from first base and gave St. Louis all the cushion it would need behind his pitching, not that it would stop the offense from seeking more.
"He was matched against Ben Sheets, who's really tough, and he pitched very well," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I think he inspired our guys [with the hit], and they just kept cranking and cranking and we broke it open. The key to our game was Jeff Weaver."
Belliard finished a triple shy of the cycle, hitting his second Cardinals homer in the second. He also walked and scored in the middle of a floodgate-opening seventh, in which 11 batters came to the plate and six runs scored.
"That's the Ron Belliard we traded for," La Russa said. "He's playing a great second base, and he's been working on it. He's not happy with where his average is [.242 in 153 at-bats], and a guy like that has a lot of hits coming. Tonight was an example."
Belliard, a member of the Brewers organization until 2003 who hit .264 in parts of five seasons, took the first pitch from Sheets over the left-field wall in the second and reached four times.
"I know I'm not hitting well, but I play good defense and I'm trying to help our team win as many games as I can," Belliard said. "Sometimes you get lucky. I'm not a power hitter, but he gave me a fastball and I put a good swing on it."
Against relievers Derrick Turnbow and Dan Kolb, St. Louis used four singles, three walks, an error and a sacrifice fly to notch the additional six tallies in the seventh. A two-run double by Aaron Miles in the eighth capped the scoring and tied Belliard with Albert Pujols (April 16 vs. Cincinnati) for the Cardinals season-high of runs in a game.
|"I think he inspired our guys [with the hit], and they just kept cranking and cranking and we broke it open. The key to our game was Jeff Weaver."|
|-- Tony La Russa|
Bill Hall homered for the Brewers, but he later left the game with back spasms and little else went right for Milwaukee, which hit into three double plays in the first five innings and got a mediocre outing from Sheets (5-7). The right-hander allowed four runs on 10 hits in six innings, despite eight strikeouts and just one walk.
St. Louis received its own injury scare in the fourth inning when Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder grounded into a double play, one of three turned against the Brewers. The throw from Miles at short pulled Albert Pujols off the bag, and after twisting to make a tag on the baserunner, Pujols had his wrist examined on the field by trainers.
"His whole left side got yanked," La Russa said. "It was scary. Against a big guy like Fielder, there's a lot of man there."
After a shaky start to his career in a Cardinals uniform, Weaver has now allowed 10 earned runs in his last 23 innings (3.91 ERA) with a pair of wins in the four starts. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in five of his last nine outings.
"Like I've said before, I'm just trying to continue building on each outing, and this was one to build off of," Weaver said. "We just have to keep it rolling to the postseason."
The team's magic number to clinch the division is now six, with Cincinnati also defeating Houston earlier in the evening.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.