Cards flex their muscles in opener vs. Padres

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ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals’ bullpen found a way to protect the lead in a 5-2 victory over the Padres on Monday night. Jack Flaherty pitched into the seventh, and Jose Martinez and Marcell Ozuna each hit two-run homers, but the three-run lead was in jeopardy when John Brebbia entered the game.

Padres catcher Raffy Lopez came up with the bases loaded in the seventh after Flaherty walked Cory Spangenberg and Brebbia walked Christian Villanueva and Freddy Galvis to load the bases. Brebbia struck out Lopez and Jose Pirela to escape the jam without giving up a run. Austin Gomber, Sam Tuivailala and Bud Norris pitched the final two innings, allowing one run.

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ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals’ bullpen found a way to protect the lead in a 5-2 victory over the Padres on Monday night. Jack Flaherty pitched into the seventh, and Jose Martinez and Marcell Ozuna each hit two-run homers, but the three-run lead was in jeopardy when John Brebbia entered the game.

Padres catcher Raffy Lopez came up with the bases loaded in the seventh after Flaherty walked Cory Spangenberg and Brebbia walked Christian Villanueva and Freddy Galvis to load the bases. Brebbia struck out Lopez and Jose Pirela to escape the jam without giving up a run. Austin Gomber, Sam Tuivailala and Bud Norris pitched the final two innings, allowing one run.

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Relief pitching arguably has been the Cardinals’ most consistent problem. Jordan Hicks was unavailable, Brett Cecil has struggled and Greg Holland is giving up runs in Memphis. Daniel Poncedeleon was called up so Cardinals manager Mike Matheny could have more options to back the consistent starting pitching. It’s crucial for the bullpen to have nights like Monday, when, even though it can be patchy, the unit gets the job done.

Flaherty tossed 6 1/3 innings and allowed one run on three hits. A Spangenberg solo home run in the second gave the Padres an early lead. Flaherty followed with four clean innings before he exited the game in the seventh.

The Cardinals took advantage of Padres starter Jordan Lyles in the third when Martinez crushed a go-ahead two-run home run to center. Ozuna gave the Cards a 4-1 cushion in the fifth when he drilled a 422-foot home run to left, scoring Martinez. Ozuna’s homer was his fourth of June after only hitting three home runs combined in April and May. Martinez is on a nine-game hitting streak and recorded his second three-hit game of June, and 10th game with at least three hits this season.

Travis Jankowski scored on Hunter Renfroe‘s RBI groundout in the eighth to cut into the lead, but Jedd Gyorko answered with a home run in the bottom of the inning to make it 5-2.

Sean Collins is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.

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