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Kid gloves come off, and Escobar, Cain excel

August 19, 2010

ST. LOUIS — With right-hander Adam Wainwright on the mound Wednesday for the Cardinals, center fielder Lorenzo Cain didn’t expect to see his name in the Brewers’ lineup.

When the rookie saw his name in the lineup, his excitement for the series finale increased significantly.

“I saw I was in the lineup, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m facing Wainwright,'” Cain said after Milwaukee’s 3-2 win. “I got excited for that and just tried to go up there and get the job done.

“My first ace, and I was able to put together a few good at-bats and get some hits.”

Entering the game, right-handed hitters had been hitting .202 off Wainwright, compared to a .214 mark for lefties. Cain went 2-for-3 on the day, with a leadoff double in the fifth and an RBI triple in the seventh inning.

Cain followed his double with a steal of third base, which proved crucial when he scored on a soft grounder back to the pitcher by George Kottaras. After the triple, Cain scored the eventual game-winning run on an Alcides Escobar sacrifice fly.

Even Cain’s second-inning out was hit hard, as Wainwright snagged a liner back to the mound before doubling off Prince Fielder at first to end the inning.

“He has got some talent. No doubt,” Wainwright said of Cain. “I thought I made a good pitch, and he drove it to the right-center gap. Put a good swing on it.

Along with Cain, fellow rookie Escobar was in the lineup for the Brewers on Wednesday, despite having struggled against Wainwright. Making the move more surprising was the success veteran infielder Craig Counsell had against Wainwright in his career.

Counsell entered Wednesday’s series finale at Busch Stadium with a .304 (7-for-23) batting average against the Cardinals right-hander. Escobar, on the other hand, was hitting just .167 (2-for-12) against Wainwright.

Escobar’s day didn’t go quite as well as it did for Cain, but was still successful, as the rookie shortstop finished 0-for-1 with a strikeout and the game-winning sacrifice fly. More significantly, though, Escobar left the game in the ninth with cramps in his hamstring.

After hustling to catch a throw from Corey Hart in right field, Escobar’s day was done.

“I walked to the mound, and I said, ‘Hey, [John] Axford, give me a minute, I can’t move my leg,'” Escobar said. “I’ll be OK. With the day off tomorrow, I’ll be OK on Friday.”

“I was just glad that [Escobar’s injury] wasn’t too bad,” Axford said. “When he came up to the mound then, I wasn’t too sure what was going on. I asked him if he was OK, and he said, ‘No,’ so I didn’t really know what was going on.”

According to manager Ken Macha, the idea of putting Cain and Escobar in the lineup had more to do with the future of the club and the development of the two rookies than trying to win the two-game series from the Cardinals.

Considering the two accounted for all three runs on the day against Wainwright, the initial results were promising for the Brewers.

“Sooner or later, if they’re going to be your everyday guys, they’re going to have to get in there,” Macha said. “You can’t protect them the whole time.”

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