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MILWAUKEE • When Miles Mikolas took his show on the road last year, he could take it anywhere. The righthander, in his first season as a Cardinals pitcher, went 10-0 on the road, becoming only the third pitcher in major league history to have 10 or more road wins and no losses in a season since at least 1908.

A similar streak won’t be happening this year. Mikolas was staked to a 3-0 lead in the second inning on back-to-back homers by Kolten Wong, who had two homers for the day, and Harrison Bader. But Mikolas couldn’t keep it in the ballpark himself and suffered a 5-4 loss to the Brewers in the 2019 season opener.

Mikolas, who had been 2-0 at Miller Park, gave up three homers in five innings Thursday, including one to opposing pitcher Jhoulys Chacin and a three-run drive by 2018 National League Most Valuable Player Christian Yelich, who erased a Cardinals lead in the third inning.

The Cardinals had just five hits off three Milwaukee pitchers and none off lefthanded relief Josh Hader, who worked the final two innings, striking out the side in the eighth with a dizzying display of 97 mph sizzling fastballs as sun mixed with shade at Miller Park.

But Hader had some help in the ninth as Milwaukee center fielder Lorenzo Cain went to the top of the right-center-field wall to steal a potential homer by pinch-hitter Jose Martinez — who was batting for Wong — for the final out of the game.

"I thought it had a chance, for sure," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said.

Wong said, "I thought (Martinez) had it. When you hit a ball like that off Hader, with how hard he's usually throwing, the ball is going to travel pretty far. 

"He hit it. We all thought it was gone. Cain made a helluva play."

Paul Goldschmidt, previously a .420 batsman at Miller Park in his career, struck out three times and walked in his first game as a Cardinal. Paul DeJong also whiffed three times. The only non-homers that were hits were singles by Bader and Marcell Ozuna.

Wong became the only Cardinal other than Albert Pujols (twice) to have two homers on opening day. "My confidence is pretty high," Wong said. "And my confidence in this team is pretty high.

"I know we're going to click eventually and things are going to start rolling for us." 

• BOX SCORE: Brewers 5, Cardinals 4


WONG GOES LONG AGAIN

The Cardinals were hitting home runs but not much else Thursday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Through seven innings, they had five hits but three of them were homers, two of them by Kolten Wong.

Wong, who swatted a two-run home run in the second inning against Jhoulys Chacin, connected again in the seventh off Junior Guerra, cutting the Milwaukee lead to 5-4.

The two-homer game was the second in his big-league career for Wong, who achieved his first on Aug. 7, 2014 against the Boston Red Sox.

CHACIN HURTS MIKOLAS AGAIN

It was bad enough that Jhoulys Chacin, the Milwaukee Brewers’ starter Thursday, singled in the third inning to ignite a three-run rally, highlighted by Christian Yelich’s home run. But then Chacin did more damage in the fifth, ripping his first homer in nearly six years to extend the Milwaukee lead to 5-3 over Miles Mikolas and the Cardinals.

Chacin’s homer, the second of his career, was the third Thursday off Mikolas, who permitted only 16 all last season.

'MVP' YELICH GIVES BREWERS THE LEAD

The shouts of “MVP!” rang out in the Milwaukee third inning at Miller Park on Thursday. For good reason.

The Brewers’ Christian Yelich, the National League’s Most Valuable Player last season, turned an early Cardinals lead into a 4-3 Milwaukee advantage with a three-run homer to center field off Miles Mikolas.

Yclich’s one-out homer succeeded singles by light-hitting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin and Lorenzo Cain.

Mikolas and Chacin both allowed two early home runs on misplaced fastballs.

WONG, BADER GO BACK-TO-BACK

Milwaukee righthander Jhoulys Chacin struck out the side in the first inning with little incident Thursday. But then on back-to-back pitches with two out in the second, the Cardinals' Kolten Wong and Harrison Bader created an incident.

No. 7 hitter Wong cracked the first pitch he saw from Chacin and ripped it over the right-center-field wall, following a walk to Dexter Fowler. On the succeeding pitch, Bader drilled a Chacin pitch over the left-field wall and the Cardinals had a 3-0 lead over the Brewers.

Milwaukee got one of those runs back in the home second when Mike Moustakas re-signed by the Brewers to a one-year contract, homered to right center.

CARDS CLAIM RHP GONZALEZ FROM GIANTS

The Cardinals have claimed righthanded pitcher Merandy Gonzalez on waivers from the San Francisco Giants and have transferred lefthander Brett Cecil (carpal tunnel syndrome in left hand) from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day IL.

Gonzalez is on the 40-man roster but will be assigned to Class AA Springfield.

Gonzalez, a 23-year-old Dominican Republic native, appeared in eight games for the Miami Marlins in 2018 posting a 2-1 record with a 5.73 ERA over 22 innings with 19 strikeouts. He originally was signed by the New York Mets in 2013 and was traded to the Marlins in 2017. The Giants claimed Gonzalez on waivers on March 2.

CARPENTER '100 PERCENT'

The Cardinals left several injured players behind in Florida but all 25 on the active roster are in fine fettle for Thursday’s season opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, including third baseman Matt Carpenter.

Carpenter stayed back in Florida for a couple of extra days to play in some minor league games to test what had been some lower back tightness.

But manager Mike Shildt said Thursday morning that Carpenter was “at 100 percent, absolutely. If the workout (here Wednesday) was any indication of the way he was swinging and moving around, then there’s no question he’s 100 percent.”

The Cardinals are playing a season opener at Milwaukee against the Brewers for the first time in their history, although the Brewers have opened at Busch Stadium three times.

For a franchise that has had considerable success, the Cardinals historically have been a poor opening-day club, especially on the road. They are 58-67-2, including 23-35-2 on the road.

The Cardinals were 8-11 last season against the National League Central Division champion Brewers, matching their record against the Brewers in 2017 after the Cardinals had dominated the Brewers in the other years of this decade.

Though the weather is fairly balmy for Milwaukee (the high will be in the low 50s), the roof on Miller Park will be closed for the game.

Generally, Shildt said, the ball seems to carry better with the roof closed.

CARDINALS’ LINEUP

1. Matt Carpenter 3b

2. Paul Goldschmidt 1b

3. Paul DeJong ss

4. Marcell Ozuna lf

5. Yadier Molina c

6. Dexter Fowler rf

7. Kolten Wong 2b

8. Harrison Bader cf

9. Miles Mikolas p

MILWAUKEE LINEUP

1. Lorenzo Cain cf

2. Christian Yelich rf

3. Ryan Braun lf

4. Travis Shaw 3b

5. Jesus Aguilar 1b

6. Mike Moustakas 2b

7. Yasmani Grandal c

8. Orlando Arcia ss

9. Jhoulys Chacin p


Rick Hummel

@cmshhummel on Twitter

rhummel@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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