The former 16-game winner, sidelined by injuries the past two
seasons, allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings as the St. Louis
Cardinals completed an opening three-game sweep of Milwaukee by
beating the Brewers 6-4 Thursday."I'm totally healthy and I just need to make quality pitches,
which is what I did today,'' Stephenson said. "Physically, I feel
pretty good. I've got a lot of energy.''Albert Pujols had three RBI for the NL Central champions, who
swept their opening series for the second time in four seasons. St.
Louis has swept the Brewers, a franchise-worst 56-106 last year,
three times since the start of 2002.Scott Rolen had a two-run single, and Pujols and Edgar Renteria
homered for the Cardinals, who outscored Milwaukee 24-13 in the
series. St. Louis begins a three-game series on Friday against the
Astros."We get the chance to enjoy it until tomorrow,'' Rolen said.
"Then we have to go out and try to do it again. We have Houston
coming in, and that's a great ballclub, and everybody sees them as
a contender.''Royce Clayton hit a three-run homer in the ninth off Cal Eldred,
Clayton's second three-run homer of the series. Steve Kline got two
outs for his second save.The Brewers head into their home opener Friday against San
Francisco seeking their first win under new manager Ned Yost."They're out there battling to the point where they're almost
pressing,'' Yost said. "They're giving it all that they have to
give. Right now there's not much going in our direction, but these
things turn around over the course of 162 games.''Stephenson (1-0), who missed most of the last two seasons with
elbow and hamstring injuries, allowed four hits.Milwaukee put on two runners in each of the first two innings
but managed only one in the next four. Eddie Perez, who had three
hits, chased Stephenson with a home run in the seventh."It was definitely a battle,'' Stephenson said. "I just tried
to keep the game as close as possible until we could strike. We
struck well.''The Cardinals were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position in
the first four innings against Matt Kinney (0-1) before breaking
through. Pujols, the NL MVP runnerup last year, hit a two-run homer
with one out in the fifth to put St. Louis ahead."It was a 3-1 slider that I just left up a bit,'' Kinney said.
"Other than that, I thought I threw pretty well.''Pujols' RBI double and Scott Rolen's two-run single off Curtis Leskanic made it 5-0 in the sixth.Kinney gave up four runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings. He was
0-3 with a 6.39 ERA in spring training.
The Cardinals' best winning streak to start a season was
7-0 in 1962. ... St. Louis was 12-14 last April, and lost two of
three in its opening series against Colorado. ... Milwaukee started
last year 2-9. ... Perez has two homers in the first three games
after going without a long ball since 1999. ... Orlando Palmeiro is
5-for-11 against Kinney. ... The Cardinals are 10-3 against the
Brewers during the last two seasons.