"I'm not going to say it was easy," Suppan said. "But I'm just going to go out there and do my best."
How about his best in four years? Suppan pitched his first complete game since 2003 and beat his former team for the second time this season, holding the heavy-hearted Cardinals to eight hits in the Brewers' 7-1 win at Miller Park on Monday.
It was the Cardinals' first game since 29-year-old reliever Josh Hancock was killed in a car crash early Sunday morning. Suppan was a teammate of Hancock's on the 2006 St. Louis team that won the World Series, and admitted that at times Monday the emotion hit him on the mound.
"When it did, I was able to get back focused," Suppan said.
He has found that focus on a consistent basis since Milwaukee lured Suppan away from St. Louis on Christmas Eve with the richest contract in franchise history, a deal that guarantees $42 million over four years. Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio sat with the 20,191 paid attendees Monday and watched Suppan work at least seven innings for the third time in his six starts.
Suppan (4-2) walked one, struck out five and threw 117 pitches in his first complete game since he shut out the Cardinals on July 28, 2003, his final start for the Pittsburgh Pirates before a trade back to Boston. He and Chris Capuano (4-0) give the Brewers a pair of four-game winners in April for the first time in franchise history.
Suppan has won each of his last four starts, a streak that began with an April 14 win over the Cards at Busch Stadium that came a day after Suppan was presented with his World Series ring.
But as much emotion as he felt in that game -- his first matchup against his former team and his first game back at Busch Stadium -- Monday brought a different emotional load. Suppan traded text messages on Sunday with some former Cardinals teammates and said he spoke briefly Monday with Cardinals utility man Scott Spiezio, who was a late scratch from the St. Louis lineup after being overcome with emotion when players and fans observed a moment of silence for Hancock before Monday's game.
Suppan wouldn't -- couldn't -- say whether he planned to attend Hancock's memorial service. He was also asked whether beating the Cardinals on Monday was in any way bittersweet.
"This is the first time it's ever happened to me, so I'm not evaluating my emotions right now," he said before abruptly ending his press availability.
"Somebody [asked] before the game did I consider not starting him, and it never even entered my mind because of his professionalism and the way he goes about his business," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "I knew that he would find a way to get on the mound and do what he does best."
The Cardinals' only run scored in the third inning, when David Eckstein hit a one-out double that caromed off the wall along the right-field line and Chris Duncan followed with an RBI single. Suppan should have escaped without a walk, but Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols flipped his bat and trotted to first base when Suppan missed with a 2-and-2 pitch in the sixth inning.
Suppan thought something was amiss, but it did not appear that anyone else -- including home plate umpire Dan Iassogna -- had the same feeling. No one protested from the Brewers dugout, and the mistake was erased when Suppan induced a Scott Rolen double play grounder to end the inning.
"I kind of looked back and nobody responded," Suppan said. "I said, 'I guess I walked him.'"
Monday's gem came at a good time for the Brewers, who leaned heavily on their relief corps during a just-completed road trip to Chicago and Houston. On Monday, only left-hander Brian Shouse and right-hander Matt Wise warmed up in the bullpen.
"We really needed that," Yost said. "The bullpen has been working a lot lately, and the opportunity for them to take a night off was really, really big, especially [Derrick] Turnbow and [Francisco] Cordero. ... The offense gave us enough runs to do that."
Johnny Estrada hit a two-run double in the first inning and Prince Fielder hit a solo home run in the third as Milwaukee jumped to an early lead against St. Louis starter Kip Wells (1-5). Fielder scored a pair of runs and so did outfielder Kevin Mench, who stole his first base of the year and scored on Wells' balk in the second inning, and tripled home two runs in the sixth.
Wells was charged with seven runs in six innings as St. Louis lost its third straight game.
The Brewers finished April with a 16-9 record, tied for the second-best opening month in franchise history, and their 3 1/2-game lead over second-place Pittsburgh in the National League Central is tied with Boston for the biggest division lead in Major League Baseball. The Brewers have not been in first place by such a big margin since 1987's "Team Streak" went 18-3 in April including 13 consecutive wins to start the season.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less