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HOU@MIL: Greinke fans nine over six strong innings

The last time Zack Greinke took the mound at Busch Stadium, he was hoping to lead his team to a crucial Game 5 victory in last year's NLCS.

Instead, Greinke fell victim to a lack of run support and poor defense as the Cardinals beat the right-hander to take a 3-2 series lead before finishing off the Brewers one game later. On Sunday, Greinke will return to St. Louis for the first time since his NLCS struggles as he faces the Cardinals for the second time this season.

In his season debut, Greinke tossed seven shutout innings against the Redbirds, striking out seven while allowing just four hits and no walks. It was a far cry from his Game 5 performance in which he failed to record a single strikeout, marking only his second career start with no K's.

"He was outstanding," Cards first baseman Lance Berkman said after the April 7 meeting. "We faced him a few times last year and this was as good as I've seen him in terms of the late movement and the location. He just really didn't throw a lot over the plate to hit. He's just tough. We knew we were going to have our hands full, and we did."

This time around the stakes certainly aren't as high and both teams have a new look with Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols migrating to the American League. One detail for Sunday's start, however, will be identical to Greinke's last Busch Stadium outing -- the pitching matchup.

Left-hander Jaime Garcia will toe the rubber for the Cardinals just as he did in that Game 5 victory last October. Garcia pitched just 4 2/3 innings and was therefore saddled with a no-decision, despite allowing just one run, striking out five batters and walking none.

The southpaw was similarly effective in his debut against the Brewers this year, conceding just a pair of runs off five hits over six innings of work in an 11-5 victory April 6. On Sunday, Garcia will look to duplicate that start and become the fourth Cardinals starter with three or more wins already on the young season.

"I didn't put any expectations out there," manager Mike Matheny said of his rotation's early success. "We knew that we would need some guys to go deeper in the game, and it's nice when you're getting most of them doing that pretty consistently. Didn't really set a level of 'this needs to happen' or 'that needs to happen'. They've done a very good job so far."

Brewers: Ramirez turning the corner

Aramis Ramirez hit his second home run of the season Saturday and notched two more hits as he continues to improve on his early-season struggles.

Over his first 10 games as a Brewer, Ramirez hit just .103 with no home runs and not a single multi-hit game. In his 10 games since, the third baseman is hitting .361 with two homers and five multi-hit efforts.

"I think once you start squaring up a lot of balls you get confident and when that mistake is in that one area you like, you're able to swing at it a little different when you're confident," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Ramirez's turnaround. "When you're not, you're just really trying to put it in play somewhere. When you're confident, you're really trying to explode on it. We're starting to see a lot more of those."

Cardinals: Matheny to continue second base shuffle

Despite keeping Skip Schumaker's hot bat in the lineup for the first two games of the series, Matheny said prior to Saturday's game that he plans to continue rotating Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene in at second base, as well.

"I know my role on this team and it's to be ready to play every day," Schumaker said. "That's how I've always approached the game. I don't write the lineup card. I know that some days I'll be in there and some days I won't be."

Schumaker went 1-for-4 Saturday and is now 6-for-16 (.375) in three games this season.

Worth noting

• Current Cardinals players, excluding pitchers, are hitting a combined .319 (36-for-113) with four career home runs against Greinke.

• Since 2009, the Cardinals hold a two-game advantage in the head-to-head regular-season series, posting a 29-27 record over that time.

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