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COL@MIL: Gallardo strikes out eight in seven strong

The Brewers altered their pitching rotation to put their ace on the mound for the opener of a big three-game weekend series against the Cardinals. But check the numbers -- this is no easy matchup for Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo.

Gallardo, now set to start Friday's series opener at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals' Jake Westbrook, is 1-8 with a 6.17 ERA in 12 regular-season starts against the Cards, including a loss on the Brewers' Opening Day in which Gallardo surrendered six earned runs on seven Cardinals hits, including four home runs. He walked five batters and did not make it through the fourth inning.

And Gallardo also lost Game 3 of last year's National League Championship Series in St. Louis.

"I don't know if that's one of those things that you can really put a finger on," Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday said after hitting one of St. Louis' quartet of homers at Miller Park on April 6. "I don't think there's one particular thing. He's a great pitcher, so I don't see why it would be like that."

Originally, the Brewers planned to start rotation newcomer Marco Estrada against Westbrook on Friday, but they announced a change on Thursday while the team was off. Gallardo will pitch on regular rest, followed by Estrada on Saturday on two extra days' rest and Zack Greinke on Sunday on one extra day of rest.

So the Cardinals will have their hands full against the defending NL Central champs, but their starter is no slouch himself.

Westbrook was a hard-luck loser his last time out, reaching a season-high 113 pitches and recording just two outfield outs in 6 2/3 innings against the Pirates.

"I was getting the ball on the ground," Westbrook said. "A lot of times, once I throw it, I can't control where it goes."

Westbrook, 2-1 with a 1.31 ERA this season, is 1-3 with a 3.08 ERA in his career against Milwaukee.

Brewers: Braun heating to full boil
Reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun may be heating up just in time for the weekend series. Since struggling through an 0-for-16 funk in which he struck out nine times, he's 7-for-18 with a double, a triple, three home runs and seven RBIs.

"It's always a good atmosphere," Braun said about heading to St. Louis. "It will be fun."

• Brewers opponents have scored first in each of their last eight games and in 14 of 19 contests this season.

Cardinals: Carpenter providing versatility
First baseman Matt Carpenter hit second for the third time this season on Wednesday, as Skip Schumaker got a day off. Manager Mike Matheny said that the decision came down to either Carpenter or second baseman Daniel Descalso, who has been struggling.

Even though Carpenter entered Wednesday hitless in his last 10 at-bats, Matheny said he's liked what he's seen from the infielder, who came up as a third baseman but has been filling in at first for the injured Lance Berkman.

"Carp looks pretty close to me," Matheny said. "He's been thrown out there. It's a pretty tall order for what he's had to do, for a guy that's not a first baseman, and [he's] made some really nice plays. He's a mature hitter, for as young of a player as he is, and he can handle that assignment of being in that two-hole."

Wednesday was Carpenter's 13th game at first after having played there just once in the Minors. He went 1-for-4 with an RBI.

Worth noting
• After winning its first three road games of the season, Milwaukee has dropped four straight away from home.

• St. Louis won each of its six series to open the 2012 campaign before dropping its recent set in Chicago. No Cardinals team in franchise history had opened the year winning the first six series or more.

• Brewers closer John Axford has converted 47 consecutive save opportunities, which ties him with Brad Lidge for the fourth-longest streak in Major League history.

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