St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - John Lackey emerged a winner in his St. Louis debut, thanks to a three-run seventh-inning rally that lifted the Cardinals to a 3-2 decision over the Milwaukee Brewers in a key NL Central clash.
After mustering a mere one hit against a dominant Matt Garza through the first six innings, the Cardinals rocked the Milwaukee bullpen for five in the deciding seventh to claim Sunday's series rubber match and move within a game of the first-place Brewers in the division race.
Matt Holliday began the comeback with a mammoth solo home run, with A.J. Pierzynski and Oscar Tavares later delivering RBI singles against Jeremy Jeffress (0-1) to put St. Louis in front.
Garza had thrown just 71 pitches and allowed one hitter over the minimum prior to being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke stated afterward that the right-hander injured his left oblique near the end of the sixth inning.
"Hopefully, it's not bad," said Garza of the injury. "But it was bad enough where I had to take myself out of the game, and I don't do that.
"I could have kept on and made it worse, and then could have been out probably the rest of the year. I had to go with the smart play. It's one of those things where you don't like it and don't understand it."
Lackey (1-0) was tagged for a pair of early runs, but steadied himself thereafter to throw seven solid innings in his first start since being acquired from Boston at Thursday's trade deadline.
Mark Reynolds belted a solo homer for Milwaukee and Aramis Ramirez went 2- for-4 with an RBI in the loss, the Brewers' fifth in seven games. Ryan Braun also finished with two hits.
Garza had been in total command before being forced out with Milwaukee holding a 2-0 edge. He permitted just one baserunner -- hitting Matt Adams with a pitch in the second before erasing him on a double play -- through the first four innings, then stranded Adams following a leadoff double in the fifth to preserve the Brewers' two-run advantage.
That lead quickly evaporated when the Brewers' relief corps came on in the bottom of the seventh, however.
Zach Duke surrendered Holliday's blast and was then removed in favor of Jeffress after Adams followed with a single. Three consecutive Cardinal base hits ensued, with Pierzynski plating Adams with a grounder through the right side in front of Tavares' liner up the middle that scored Jhonny Peralta.
"We weren't really trying to do anything except get guys on base," Pierzynski said. "Matt hit the home run and then we just strung a bunch of singles together to kind of get us to a point where we were able to get a lead and then the bullpen did what they've done."
The Brewers did threaten against St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth, as a Khris Davis single and a walk to Elian Herrera put the tying run in scoring position with one out. Rosenthal, though, bounced back with swinging strikeouts of Scooter Gennett and Carlos Gomez to nail down his major league-best 34th save of the year.
Lackey's debut as a Cardinal got off to a bit of a rocky beginning, as Braun walloped a double in the top of the first inning and raced home on a Ramirez single to send the Brewers ahead. It was a 2-0 game shortly after when Reynolds clobbered a slider into the left-field seats in the second.
Lackey was sharp from that point on, with the Brewers failing to get a runner past second over the veteran hurler's final five innings of work.
"I think the first couple innings he was really excited and then he really settled in and does what he does," said Pierzynski. "He makes big pitches and gets guys out."
Lackey, who had spent his previous 11 1/2 seasons in the American League, improved to 19-10 in 38 career starts against NL teams ... Gennett and shortstop Jean Segura were both held out of Milwaukee's starting lineup with quad injuries ... Ramirez finished the series 8-of-13 with four RBI and is hitting .522 (12-of-23) during a six-game hitting streak ... The teams will meet seven more times in September, including a three-game set at Busch Stadium from Sept. 16-18.