ST. LOUIS -- It had been 26 days since Justin Masterson appeared in a Major League game, and with that layoff came a bit of the unknown. He expected to feel stronger, but he also anticipated that there would be some rust to shake off.
He experienced both in the Cardinals' 9-7 win over the Brewers on Saturday, though neither affected the grade he gave to himself.
"It's a 'W,'" Masterson said.
Saturday was the Cardinals' first opportunity to get a look at the sinkerballer -- the first of their two new starting pitchers -- and he came mostly as advertised. After walking eight in the two rehab starts that preceded this outing, he issued three free passes for the 11th time in his last 13 big league starts. But he also induced 14 ground-ball outs; the other four came via strikeout.
Getting the Brewers to put balls in play early in the count helped Masterson get through the fifth and sixth on 19 pitches. He finished his six-inning start with 90 pitches.
"He's got a real good idea of what he feels on the mound, and I applaud [pitching coach] Derek Lilliquist and [catcher] Tony Cruz for jumping on board and starting to talk about different approaches, like that third time through with the lefties," manager Mike Matheny said. "He had a little bit different focus and a little bit different approach -- those sorts of things every pitcher is looking for.
"The runs, obviously, aren't what we were looking for. But overall, we see a guy who has a great chance to be successful for us."
Milwaukee scored off Masterson in three innings. A single by Aramis Ramirez in the first inning plated a run, and the Brewers struck for three in the fourth. Scooter Gennett's two-run double was the costly hit in that frame. An infield single and steal by Carlos Gomez in the fifth set the Brewers up for a fifth run.
This was the 10th time in 20 starts that Masterson has allowed at least five runs.
"[I] threw a couple of rehab starts and they went decent, but it is a little different down there making a rehab start than the adrenaline and everything of pitching in a big league start," Masterson said. "I kept saying it was going to be better than [it was] before, but it's not going to be perfect."
The outing may have fallen in line with his season, but Masterson did make some surprise contributions from the other side. In his first at-bat as a National League pitcher, he delivered a single to extend the second inning, and the Cardinals went on to score five runs in the frame. His sacrifice bunt in the fourth helped push home another run.
Masterson had taken only 22 at-bats previously in his seven-year career and hadn't recorded a hit since August 2013.
"It worked out to be really great," he said. "It kept the rally going. That was pretty cool."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.