Tag:Rickie Weeks
Posted on: October 11, 2011 2:20 am
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 2

Prince Fielder

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- For the first time since Nyjer Morgan called Albert Pujols "Alberta" in a tweet, the two men were side-by-side on the baseball field on Monday. When Morgan walked in the seventh inning, he didn't have anything to say to Pujols.

"You see my lips flapping?" Morgan said when asked about it after the Brewers' 12-3 loss in Game 2 of the NLCS. "It's the wrong time, you can't say nothing there."

The Brewers trailed 11-2 when the two finally got side-by-side, and Morgan said he was in no position to say anything to the Cardinals slugger, who had already driven in five Cardinals runs by that point.

NLCS

"Wrong time, you can't do it then," Morgan said.

Is that time coming?

"Maybe," Morgan said. "Stay tuned."

As for that tweet, Morgan said it's not something he regrets.

"That's just part of it, I said what I said, let's move on," Morgan said. "If they have to take some justice out of it, so be it?"

• Morgan's tweet was after he and Chris Carpenter got into a verbal altercation on the field. I asked him if he was looking forward to facing Carpenter in Game 3: "I'm looking forward to anybody -- what are you trying to stir up?"

• With the series tied at one game each and three more games coming up in St. Louis, Monday may have been Prince Fielder's last game at Miller Park in a Brewer uniform. I asked him if he'd given any thought to that: "No," he said.

Rickie Weeks on the bad call by first base umpire Sam Holbrook in the fifth inning that cost the Brewers at least a run: "You can't look at one call in baseball. It's one of those things. You might think the game went one play right there, but that's baseball. You can't worry about it," Weeks said. "That's just me. I thought I was safe, he called me out. He made the call. You can't go back and change it."

• Fielder on Weeks, who is playing on a bum ankle: "He's doing it right now on that ankle, it's impressive. We see it. He's tough. What he's doing, you couldn't ask anyone to do that, but he's doing it for the team and it's really awesome."

• Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina on picking up Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy's mask on a play at the plate in the fifth inning: "I was trying to take the mask. I don't want anybody to get hurt."

• Morgan on the Cardinals 12 runs and 17 hits: "That's all right. I think maybe they hit themselves out of the ballpark right there, they should have saved some of those."

• Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on his team's streak of winning the final game of a series, as Monday marked the 14th time in a row the Cardinals have boarded a plane as a winner: "It's kind of a neat reminder, let's finish off whatever it is, whether we're finishing off a game at home or on the road. We've won games on days we weren't traveling, either. But it's just -- you've got these grown men and they're like -- I don't think fraternity, they're too old… they're like summer campers or teenagers or maybe preteens -- they're just like kids. And it's enjoyable to listed to 'happy flight' things. Our fans were yelling when we got in the dugout, 'have a happy flight.' It's silly, but why not?"

• Jerry Hairston Jr. on Pujols: "He's pretty good, isn't he? He's arguably the best player of our generation. He's really good. It's one of those things, give him credit -- and not just Albert, but all the guys swung the bat well."

• Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse on Pujols' performance: ""hat's him, man. It's not surprising, know what I mean? It's amazing, but it's not surprising. He does the things he does. People ask me in the off-season, 'What's it like to play with him?' When he goes 1 for 3, it's like, 'Why didn't he get two more hits?'"

• Brewers manager Ron Roenicke on whether Shaun Marcum would pitch again in this series: "As far as I'm concerned, right now he's pitching again."

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 11:42 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 11:48 pm
 

Pujols powers Cardinals in Game 2 to even NLCS

Albert Pujols

By C. Trent Rosecrans
 

MILWAUKEE -- Albert Pujols changed the complexion of the NLCS with a mighty swing of the bat and a performance for the ages, as St. Louis clobbered the Brewers 12-3 in Game 2 to even the series at one game each.

Hero: Coming into Monday's Game 2, Pujols hadn't homered in a postseason game since 2006, spanning 46 at-bats. He had also notched just five RBI in his previous 23 postseason games. Those numbers can be thrown out the window after Pujols' monster 4 for 5 game with a homer, three doubles and five RBI. He also scored three times and was just generally Pujolsian. The Milwaukee fans let out a huge cheer when he grounded out in the eighth, even though their team was already behind 11-2.

Goat: The Brewers had a chance to get back in the game in the fifth inning with bases loaded and one out, trailing 7-2. Rickie Weeks, who had homered in his previous at-bat, faced Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn. On the first pitch Weeks hit a tailor-made double play ball to Rafael Furcal. Weeks, though, was busting his tail down the line and beat the throw from second baseman Nick Punto -- except first base umpire Sam Holbrook called him out, ending the inning and Milwaukee's best chance at making the final four innings interesting.

Turning point: When Pujols turned on Marcum's first-inning fastball in the first, he admired his shot a little bit, flipped his bat and let the Brewers know they were in for trouble.

It was over when … Pujols hit the ball over Nyjer Morgan's head for his third-inning double, scoring two and giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.

Next: The series shifts to St. Louis for Game 3, Wednesday night at 8:05 p.m ET with the top starters for each team taking the mound -- the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter and the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo.

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:20 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 4:47 pm
 

NLCS Game 2: Miller Time is good to Brewers



By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- It's been beat into the ground by this time in the playoffs, but it's only because it's held true -- every game at Miller Park is crucial to the Brewers, who held baseball's best home record and struggled on the road this season. So far, the Miller Park faithful has seen four postseason victories and no losses. The Brewers also lost both of their road games in Arizona in the first round, furthering the storyline.

Sunday, the Brewers came back from an early deficit to beat the Cardinals, giving Milwaukee the early lead in the series and keeping the momentum alive at home.

NLCS

"The atmosphere here is something that we really feed off of, I think it's one o fate big reasons we've been so successful here at home," Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. "Obviously the fans are very passionate. And they're excited. I think they're enjoying it as much as we are, playing meaningful baseball games on Oct. 10. And they're embracing the opportunity, just like we are, and trying to make the most of it."

For St. Louis, getting a win in Milwaukee would mean a chance at clinching a trip to the World Series at home. For a team that came back from 8 1/2 games in the wild card in the last three-and-half weeks of the season and lost the first game of the NL division series, St. Louis is used to performing under pressure.

"Just look at how we've played over the last six weeks -- we've lost some tough games and bounced back, we did it against Philly, we did it in the last two weeks of the season when we needed wins, we're too good of a ball club," St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols said. "This is too long of a series  and whoever wins four games is going to the World Series. Just because they won one game -- you can go to the (Brewers) side and ask them -- it's not over."

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Cardinals' Edwin Jackson: The right-hander's last outing came in Game 4 of the NLDS with the Cardinals facing elimination and he rebounded from giving up two first-inning runs, he allowed just three more base runners in his six innings as St. Louis forced a Game 5 with a victory over Roy Oswalt and the Cardinals. 

The start was Jackson's first postseason start of his career, but not his first appearance, having pitched in three games of the 2008 postseason with the Rays. The oft-traded Jackson has gone 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 12 starts and 13 games since coming to the Cardinals, and take out one start and his ERA's down to 2.92. But there's the rub -- that one start you'd need to take out was against the Brewers, at Mlller Park. In just his second start for the Cardinals, Jackson surrendered 10 runs (but just eight earned) in seven innings on 14 hits. The Brewers tagged him for four homers -- three by Casey McGehee and one from Corey Hart to lead off the first inning. 

On Sunday, Jackson was asked about that start -- "What start? It's that simple. I mean, I'm a competitor. I mean, I can take my beatings and I can handle that. It's not my first one and it probably won't be my last."

Jackson followed that start with another against the Brewers -- losing but in better fashion, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits in six innings on Aug. 9. In his next start in Milwaukee he allowed just one run in seven innings, earning the win.

Brewers' Shaun Marcum: The Brewer right-hander wasn't able to get through the fifth inning in his one start in the NLDS, going up seven runs in just 4 2/3 innings in Game 3. During the season, he flashed moments of brilliance, but also struggled -- evening out to a 13-7 record with a 3.54 ERA.

Marcum's Game 3 start will best be remembered for his flip of his glove after giving up a grand slam to Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt.

"I didn't really see the replay, and I didn't realize I did it until afterwards," Marcum said. "I was like, what the heck did I just do? It reminded me of Ted Lilly a couple of years ago in Arizona, but he slammed his glove down on the ground. It's just a reaction thing. Definitely I didn't realize I did it until afterwards."

Like just about every other pitcher in this series, he's seen plenty of his NLCS opponents -- facing the Cardinals three times in August, going 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA in those three starts and 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in four total starts against St. Louis.

"They know what I'm going to do; I know what approach they're going to take for me," Marcum said. "For me it's a matter of going out and locating, keeping the ball down. I do know what they're going to try to do. They know what they're going to try to do against me. We're going to go back and forth."

Starting pitching advantage for Game 2:

Both starters are so unpredictable that it's hard to give anyone an edge -- it depends on the night.

LINEUPS

Cardinals Brewers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Corey Hart RF
2 Jon Jay CF 2 Nyjer Morgan CF
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Ryan Braun LF
4 Matt Holliday LF 4 Prince Fielder 1B
5 Lance Berkman RF 5 Rickie Weeks 2B
6 Yadier Molina C 6 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B
7 David Freese 3B 7 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
8 Nick Punto 2B 8 Jonathan Lucroy C
9 Edwin Jackson RHP 9 Shaun Marcum RHP

NOTES

  • With his 62nd postseason game in a Cardinals' uniform, Albert Pujols passed Jim Edmonds for most in franchise history. With his single in the first inning, Pujols has now hit safely in 21 of the 26 LCS games in his career, hitting .354 (34 for 96) in the LCS with eight homers and 18 RBI.
  • Based on history, the Brewers' victory in Game 1 puts them in the driver's seat -- in the last 19 NLCS, winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series 16 times (84.2 percent).
  • Rafael Furcal hsas a hit in each of the nine games he's played at Miller Park this season, with eight of those coming as a Cardinal. He's hitting .323 (10 for 31) here this season and .295 (26 for 88) in his career.
  • Despite the Brewers' prodigious power, Sunday was just the second time in team history Milwaukee hit multiple homers in one playoff game. The only other time came exactly 30 years before, when Pal Molitor and Ted Simmons hit home runs against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS on Oct. 9, 1981. It was the 37th time Braun and Fielder homered in the same game.
  • Marcum may not have the most success with the Cardinals this season, but he has had success against Pujols and Lance Berkman. Berkman is just 1 for 15 in his career against Marcum and Pujols is 1 for 9.
  • Likewise, Jackson's been good against Braun and Fielder. Braun is 2 for 12 against Jackson and Fielder is 2 for 13. McGehee's three homers are his only three hits against Jackson in his career.
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Posted on: October 9, 2011 5:09 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 5:16 pm
 

Betancourt bails out Garcia early in Game 1

Jaime GarciaBy C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- Cardinals stareter Jaime Garcia was on the ropes in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLCS, but survived thanks to Brewers shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Milwaukee took a 2-1 lead over the Cardinals in the first inning of Game 1 on a Ryan Braun homer -- but thanks to the bottom of the Brewers lineup, the damage was limited, as the Cardinals left-hander got out of the inning without further damage, even though he threw just two pitches in the strike zone of the 13 pitches he threw in the inning after the home run.

With Jerry Hairston Jr. on first after a walk, Braun crushed a ball to left-center that traveled an estimated 463 feet. Garcia then hit Prince Fielder with his next pitch, causing home plate umpire Gary Darling to warn both benches. The St. Louis lefty then walked Rickie Weeks on four pitches -- but that could have been strategy to get to Betancourt. With Lance Lynn already warming up in the bullpen for St. Louis, Betancourt took the first pitch for a ball before he swung at five consecutive pitches out of the zone, fouling off the first four before swinging at change up that was high and wide for the second out of the inning.

Here's a look at Betancourt's at-bat from MLB.com's iPad app:

Yuniesky Betancourt 

Carlos Gomez followed by doing his best Betancourt impression, taking a ball and then fouling off two pitches out of the zone before fouling off an honest-to-God strike. He then struck out swinging at another pitch in the zone to end the inning.

Milwaukee had a chance to not only get to Garcia and build a lead, but also make a dent in the Cardinals' bullpen in the first game of the series, running up pitch counts. Instead, Betancourt let them off the hook.

More Eye On Baseball NLCS coverage 

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Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:15 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 8:27 pm
 

Gomez in, Morgan out for Game 1 of NLCS

Carlos Gomez

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Nyjer Morgan was the hero of the game that got the Brewers to the National League Championship Series, but he's not in the Game 1 lineup against Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia. Morgan and Gomez have platooned this season, with Gomez getting the start against left-handed pitchers.

However, Gomez was moved up in the batting order from his usual eighth to seventh in hopes of utilizing his speed more.

"I think it allows Gomey to do some more things when he's on base versus in the eighth spot," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Sometimes you can't run as much. It frees up Gomey a little bit."

The Cardinals are keeping their lineup more or less intact, although that could change at the leadoff spot when Milwaukee uses lefty Randy Wolf. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he may flip-flop Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday against Wolf -- but he may not.

"I don't think there's a big difference," La Russa said. "Berk's been in there every day. As long as you've got Yadi, you've got protection and he's one of the toughst hitters on our club."

Cardinals Brewers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Corey Hart RF
2 Jon Jay CF 2 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Ryan Braun LF
4 Lance Berkman RF 4 Prince Fielder 1B
5 Matt Holliday LF 5 Rickie Weeks 2B
6 Yadier Molina C 6 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
7 David Freese 3B 7 Carlos Gomez CF
8 Ryan Theriot 2B 8 Jonathan Lucroy C
9 Jaime Garcia LHP 9 Zack Greinke RHP

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Pictured: Carlos Gomez
Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:24 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 2:17 am
 

Cardinals vs. Brewers NLCS preview

NLCS

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- The National League Central is often overlooked or looked down upon -- but not this year, as the NL Central champs have to fight off their divisional rival with the winner headed to the World Series. What makes this matchup even more fun is that these two clubs don't like each other one bit.

There was a dust up late in the season between Milwaukee's Nyjer Morgan and the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter. There was also an accusation by the Cardinals that the Brewers were using different graphics on the Miller Park scoreboards to create an advantage while the Cardinals were batting. And even Saturday, Zack Greinke got the ball rolling by making comments about Carpenter, which got Cardinals manager Tony La Russa upset.

It's a contrast in style -- if only in the surface style. The Brewers are young, brash and loud. The Cardinals sit on their porch and tell them to get off their lawn.

On the field, both teams have some impressive individual pitchers, but got to the playoffs on the strength of their bats. While the Brewers won the National League Central, the two teams split their 18-game series during the regular season. While it won't bring in the ratings like some bigger markets might, it should appeal to true baseball fans.

TEAM INFORMATION

St. Louis Cardinals (host games 3, 4, 5*)
90-72, NL wild card winner
ALDS
: Defeated Phillies in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Phillies-Cardinals
Manager
: Tony La Russa
Regular-season batting statistics: .273 batting average (1st in NL), .341 on-base percentage (1st), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.78 ERA (8th), 1.31 WHIP (10th), 2.45 K/BB (5th)
Star player: 1B Albert Pujols -- .299/.366/.541, 651 plate appearances, 37 HR 99 RBI

Miwaukee Brewers (host games 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
96-66, NL Central champions
ALDS
: Defeated Diamondbacks in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Brewers-Diamondbacks
Manager: Ron Roenicke
Regular-season batting statistics: .261 batting average (3rd), .325 on-base percentage (5th), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.63 ERA (7th), 1.24 WHIP (3rd), 2.86 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: LF Ryan Braun -- .332/.397/.597, 629 plate appearances, 33 HR, 111 RBI

*if necessary

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Let's break each position down and see which team has the edge…

Catcher: Yadier Molina vs. Jonathan Lucroy
 
Perhaps the best defensive catcher in the game also hit .305/.349/.465 this season … that's Molina if you weren't sure, or weren't watching Game 5 of the NLDS when he threw out Chase Utley at second. Molina seemingly does it all. Lucroy may be best known as the "guy who can't really hit," even if he hit a pretty respectable .265/.313/.391 with 12 homers.

First base: Albert Pujols vs. Prince Fielder
 

You want to talk about a heavyweight battle? You have perhaps baseball's best player versus a guy who had an MVP-worthy season. You also have two of the offseason's premier free agents. Fielder's 27, so who knows exactly who is going to get the bigger contract between him and the 31-year-old Pujols, but there's no question as to who is the better all-around player. Pujols is not only the most feared hitter in the league, he's also a guy who can beat you with his glove and his base running in addition to his bat.

Second base: Ryan Theriot vs. Rickie Weeks
 

Theriot's a much better second baseman than he his shortstop, so the good news is that he's at second base, although he's still not exactly a Gold Glover -- of course, neither is Weeks. Both garner their value with their bats, not their gloves. When healthy, Weeks is probably the better player. But he hasn't looked healthy and he was just 1 for 18 in the NLDS against the Cardinals. At the beginning of the year, this was an easy choice. Today it is, too, but it's the other way.

Shortstop: Rafael Furcal vs. Yuniesky Betancourt
 

Once the Cardinals got Furcal from the Dodgers and he returned healthy, the Cardinals were a much better team. St. Louis has gone 30-20 in games which Furcal has played. Even though his stats are a less-than-impressive .255/.316/.418 with the Cardinals, the threat he brings at the top of the lineup coupled with how much he improves the team's defense, St. Louis is better because of him. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop.

Third base: David Freese vs. Jerry Hairston Jr.
 

Freese may be one of the more underrated players the Cardinals have. While we all know about Pujols and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman and even the likes of Molina and Theriot, Freese is a guy you have to watch in that lineup. He hit .297/.350/.441 this season, but injuries have been a problem in his career. When healthy, he's a vital part of the the team's offense after the big boppers. Hairston is a journeyman utility player -- and those are great to have. He's a fantastic role player that has been in some winning situations the last few years, but there's a reason he's moved around both on the field and to different clubhouses. He's always in demand, but he's no longer an everyday player.

Left field: Matt Holliday vs. Ryan Braun
 

If the first base matchup weren't so good, this one would be getting the headlines. Braun would be my choice for the MVP in the National League, and Holliday is one of the more underrated players in the game. Cardinals fans love to hate the guy because of what he hasn't done, while ignoring the production he has put up in a Cardinals uniform. The guy is an absolute monster. However, he's hurt right now -- and like the Theriot vs. Weeks argument, that looms large in this matchup.

Center field: John Jay vs. Nyjer Morgan/Chris Gomez
 

Morgan's the hot name right now for his outrageous and engaging personality. His Game 5 heroics even overshadowed the fact that he hit .188 in the NLDS. As bad as that is, it was better than Jay's .162. Morgan brings enough to the team to give Milwaukee the slight edge. 

Right field: Lance Berkman vs. Corey Hart
 

Hart's another one of those players who gets lost among all the other good players in this series. He hit .285/.356/.510 with 26 homers this season, much of it out of the leadoff spot. But as good of a season as he's had, it pales in comparison to the season Berkman put together. A year after it seemed like he had nothing left in the tank, he was refueled with premium, hitting .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers.

Starting pitching: Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse vs. Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf
 

Both teams needed to use their best playoff pitchers on Friday, meaning the Game 3 matchup in St. Louis of Carpenter-Gallardo should be a good one. Garcia's been a different pitcher on the road (the 3.33 ERA vs. 2.92 isn't so bad, but batters are hitting a robust .313 against him away from Busch Stadium and .230 in the shadow of the arch). Lohse and Wolf are wild cards, while Greinke should pitch better than he did against the Diamondbacks. Both have their solid points and their question marks. In the end, it may be too close to call.

Relief pitching: Jason Motte and co. vs. John Axford and co.
 

Give credit to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak for going out and improving the team's bullpen at the break. For much of the season, the bullpen was a weak point, but Mozeliak strengthened it during the season and the bullpen has become a strength. Milwaukee also went out and made a bold move for a setup man, picking up Francisco Rodriguez. Both teams have to feel good when their manager goes out to the mound to make a change.

Defense
 

Neither team is going to put on a clinic, but the addition of Furcal has improved St. Louis' defense to the acceptable level. Almost. With Pujols and Furcal they have players who can field the ball, so there's that. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop

PREDICTION

While these may not be the two best teams in the National Leauge, they certainly make for an intriguing matchup. No matter how many times each team says its letting bygones be bygones, they don't really like each other -- and the national spotlight could turn up the heat. The two teams split their 18-game season series, with each team going 5-4 on their home field. The way the Brewers play at home, they could be tough to beat here. In the end, I see it going the distance and the fact that four of the games are at Miller Park being the biggest difference. Brewers in 7.


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Posted on: October 6, 2011 10:59 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 11:01 am
 

Brewers, D-Backs find home is where the runs are

By C. Trent Rosecrans

In the National League divisional series between the Diamondbacks and Brewers, home is where the offense is, as the home team has outscored the visitors 31-12 in the first four games of the series, winning each game.

Forget the starting pitchers, geography could be the biggest factor in the deciding Friday's Game 5 and which team moves on to the NLDS. Not only have the two teams held serve at home through the first four games, but their offenses have responded to home cooking.

The sample sizes are small, but the difference in offense between the home and road teams in this series is glaring, and also in line with the teams' regular-season performances.

So far in the NLDS, Arizona is hitting .343/.410/.586 at home and .212/.278/.424 on the road. During the season, Arizona's splits were .262/.337/.444 at Chase Field and and .239/.308/.383 away from home. The Diamondbacks scored 400 runs at Chase FIeld and 331 away from it during the season.

Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero was hitless in the first two games in Milwaukee, but then went 5 for 8 in Games 3 and 4. During the season, Montero was actually better away from home, hitting .291/.363/.482 with 10 of his homers away from Chase Field and .273/.339/.455 at home.

The Brewers are also continuing their trend of struggles away from Miller Park. Milwaukee hit .313/.356/.522 in the first two games at Miller Park and .215/.278/.369 at Chase Field. During the regular season, the Brewers -- owners of baseball's best home record -- scored 389 runs at home with a .277/.344/.461 slash line and scored 332 runs while hitting .246/.307/.391 away from home.

The Brewers' three All-Star starters -- Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks -- have gone a combined 10-22 at home and 3-23 at Chase Field. For the season, the trio has hit .326/.421/.612 at Miller Park and .281/.362/.494 on the road.

More postseason coverage: Postseason schedule | Brewers-Diamondbacks series | 2011 playoffs

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 2:32 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 3:05 am
 

Gibson's move, Roenicke's non-move prove big



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Kirk Gibson had a quick hook -- and Ron Roenicke's was too slow. Because of that, the Diamondbacks and Brewers are headed back to Milwaukee for a Game 5 on Friday.

Both managers had pivotal decisions to make in the third inning in Wednesday's Game 4 of the National League division series -- usually much too early for managerial tinkering but with the season on the line, it's never too early to make a bold decision. And that's exactly what Gibson did.

MIL-ARI NLDS Game 4

Even with a 5-3 lead, Gibson gambled that the Brewers high-powered offense could score more runs and every run the Diamondbacks added would be vital to victory. So, with two outs and runners on second and third, Gibson sent pinch hitter Collin Cowgil to hit for starter Joe Saunders.

Meanwhile, Roenicke kept his struggling starter, Randy Wolf, in the game.

"There's been a lot of outings this year he's first inning scuffled and then turned it around and really got us to the sixth seventh inning," Roenicke said in the postgame news conference. "That's what we were hoping to do."

Saunders gave up runs in each of the first three innings, but actually got out of a deep hole in the top of the third, getting out of a two-on, no-out jam with just one run surrendered. After walking Ryan Braun, Saunders got Prince Fielder to fly out to center, Rickie Weeks to fly out to right and Yuniesky Betancourt to pop up to second. It seemed he'd found himself and was starting to find the strike zone. Saunders had a 5.18 ERA in the first inning this season and a 2.99 ERA in innings 4-6.

However, with a chance to put more runs on the board, Gibson gambled by going with the pinch-hitter and leaving the final six innings up to his bullpen.

Cowgill, a .239 hitter in his rookie season, came through with a single to score two runs and increase the Arizona lead. Wolf got Willie Bloomquist to fly out to end the inning, but that would be the end of his night -- a batter too early.

Wolf was the third batter scheduled to bat in the top of the fourth, so perhaps Roenicke didn't want to burn two relievers and a pinch-hitter in one move, but that would have been a small price to pay to avoid a four-run deficit.

After Micah Owings gave the Diamondbacks two scoreless innings, rookie Jarrod Parker -- in just his second big-league appearance -- struggled, loading the bases, but once again Gibson knew when to head to the mound in time to limit damage, as Bryan Shaw came in to save the day, surrendering just one run and keeping the Diamondbacks on top. 

Gibson was roundly criticized early in this series, but Wednesday he made all the right moves and there's a Game 5 on Friday because of them.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com