After every Cardinals win, the pitchers who threw in the game line up at the top of the steps that lead from the batting cages toward the main clubhouse and welcome the victors with handshakes and hand slaps. Manager Mike Matheny walked past the relievers Wednesday night and gave them the congratulations they deserved and a promise they probably need.
He won’t be working them like this all season.

To secure a 4-2 victory against Milwaukee at Busch Stadium, Matheny used six relievers to collect 12 outs. Matheny has long maintained that to get a win the players must give everything they have, and in most of the wins this season Matheny has used almost everyone he has.

Wednesday was the third consecutive win that the Cardinals deployed five relievers or more, and more than half the bullpen has at least warmed up during five consecutive games. With 18 pitching changes in the past three wins, Matheny had enough time treading between dugout and mound to underscore how aggressive and repeated use of relievers cannot last — or the relievers won’t.

“Not happy about that,” Matheny said. “That’s not how we have drawn it up to use them that much. That’s what I told them as we came through the clubhouse. This isn’t what we’re going to do. We can’t. It’s just too much of a workload.”

Punctuated by Trevor Rosenthal’s third save, the bullpen completed a win for starter Lance Lynn by protecting a lead built with the depth of offense that the Cardinals have sought. Lynn pitched five innings to gain his 50th career victory in his 99th start. Catcher Yadier Molina doubled his season total with a three-hit night, and the Cardinals got at least one hit from the first seven spots in the order. Before Milwaukee pitcher Wily Peralta had an out, the Cardinals had a 2-0 lead as Matt Holliday poked a two-run single to right field that scored Matt Carpenter and Jason Heyward.

Carpenter added an RBI double in the fourth inning to salvage a rally that could have been much more but was enough to give the bullpen some elasticity. Rosenthal allowed a run and faced the tying run at the plate before getting Adam Lind to fly out and end the game.

All four Cardinals wins have come by three or fewer runs.

“Wins are that valuable,” Matheny said. “We’ve got to jump on it when we can. We had one right there.”

The Cardinals have yet to play a game that wasn’t in doubt in the late innings, and that’s been the only trend in an early season that has lacked rhyme and rhythm. The first weeks of the regular season are always dotted with off days to protect against poor weather, but the Cardinals’ schedule has been particularly loaded with rest. By the time Lynn (1-0) delivered the first pitch Wednesday night, the Cardinals were the last team to play its seventh game of the 2015 season. Eight National League teams had already played nine to the Cardinals’ six.