Deceptive slider key to Lackey's domination

Right-hander strikes out 8 Brewers, all swinging

Deceptive slider key to Lackey's domination

ST. LOUIS -- Pitching out of a rotation that has claim to the National League's lowest ERA through the first 12 days of the season, John Lackey can boast of delivering the most dominant performance by a Cardinals starter to date in Thursday's 4-0 victory over the Brewers at Busch Stadium.

He became the club's first pitcher to finish seven innings, and did it on a day in which manager Mike Matheny desperately wanted to find rest for a weary 'pen. Lackey, en route to earning his first win of the season, struck out eight (all swinging) and did not allow the Brewers to advance a runner to third. He held down the Brewers mainly behind a slider-fastball mix.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke described the slider as "outstanding," while Matheny emphasized its deceptiveness.

Matheny on Lackey's outing

"His stuff just keeps getting better to me from what we saw last year. In the spring, it improved," Matheny added. "You saw some really tough swings on [the slider]. You could see guys were having trouble picking it up."

Lackey bookended his outing with 1-2-3 innings and stranded seven runners in between. He kept the Brewers hitless (0-for-4) with runners in scoring position, twice stranding a pair of runners with inning-ending strikeouts. Brewers first baseman Adam Lind, who reached base in 15 of his first 39 plate appearances with his new club, popped up to end the fifth with another two runners aboard in what was then a scoreless game.

"I felt pretty good for the most part," said Lackey, who has a 12 2/3-inning scoreless streak at Busch Stadium dating back to 2014. "I thought we had a pretty good mix, [catcher] Yadi [Molina] and I, as far as calling the game and executing. I was able to throw pretty much everything for strikes and kept them off balance. The pitch mix was more the key tonight."

In giving the Cardinals their sixth quality start and seventh start of at least six innings this season, Lackey also left just two innings for the bullpen to cover. Jordan Walden and Matt Belisle breezed through their respective innings to give the team's other five relievers a welcome day off.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.