Tag:NLCS
Posted on: October 9, 2011 7:40 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 7:53 pm
 

Braun, Brewers bash their way to NLCS Game 1 win

Ryan Braun

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- When the National League's two best offenses match up, what did you expect other than a slugfest? That's what Ronny's Wallbangers delivered in a 9-6 Brewers victory over the Cardinals to take a 1-0 lead in the NLCS.

Hero: If Ryan Braun was under-appreciated headed into this postseason, he's not going to be after it. Not only did he hit a two-run homer in the first inning, he doubled in two more in the six-run Brewer fifth. It's often said the key to beating the Brewers is to not let Braun and Prince Fielder beat you -- it's beginning to be just hope you can survive Braun and hope Fielder doesn't follow with a big blast, like he did in the sixth. In the postseason, Braun is now hitting .500/.577/1.000 and it's pretty safe he's making a case to add a postseason MVP trophy to the one he could win for the regular season.

NLCS

Goat: Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia just didn't have his best stuff, but was able to get some help from the bottom of the Brewers lineup to avoid a big Brewers first inning. However, even after his team staked him to a 5-2 lead, he couldn't hold onto it. He probably should've been taken out earlier (more on that in a minute), but he didn't help himself by giving up a single and a double to start the sixth, only to see Braun and Fielder come up and finish off his game.

Turning point: Tony La Russa had Octavio Dotel warming up in the bullpen ready to come in for the fifth inning. Garcia gave up back-to-back doubles to Corey Hart and Jerry Hairston to lead off the inning, it seemed to be the end of Garcia's night. Except La Russa never got off the top step, even with Braun and Fielder coming up. Both Braun and Fielder were 2 for 8 in their lifetime against the right-handed reliever, with both striking out six times. Braun had a double against him, while Fielder also had a walk. The first-guessing on La Russa's tactic quickly turned to second- and third-guessing when Braun doubled and then Fielder homered -- and then La Russa took out Garcia.

It was over when … In the seventh inning, St. Louis was trailing by three, but had runners on first and third with no outs and Albert Pujols coming to the plate. It was pretty much the dream scenario for the Cardinals -- but Takashi Saito, pitching to his second batter, got Pujols to ground into a double play. Sure, a run scored to make it 8-6, but it took the air out of the Cardinals' hopes. 

Next: Game 2 pits St. Louis right-hander Edwin Jackson against Milwaukee's Shaun Marcum at 8:07 p.m. ET on Monday at Miller Park in Milwaukee. With Sunday's Game 1 win, the Brewers have won all four postseason games played in Milwaukee this year. Jackson pitched twice in Milwaukee against the Brewers this season -- getting rocked for 10 runs (eight earned) in seven innings on Aug. 3 and then giving up just one run in seven innings on Aug.30. Marcum fared worse at home than on the road this season, going 5-4 with a 4.81 ERA at Miller Park and 8-3 with a 2.21 ERA elsewhere.

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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 3:35 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 3:41 pm
 

Shadows could be an issue in NLCS Game 1

Ryan Braun

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- Once again, the shadows at Miller Park will be an issue, as Game 1 of the NLDS begins at 4:07 p.m. ET (3:07 p.m. local), an hour before the Game 5 of the NLDS start that caused problems for left fielder Ryan Braun and just about everyone else.

"Three o'clock game here, tough start -- 4 p.m., not too bad when we had i the other day," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We had two or three innings there at the beginning, and then it was really good. But the 3 p.m., there's going to be some shadows."

NLCS

Most of the playing surface will be in the shadows, but left field will be covered in sunlight for much of the game.  The roof can be closed somewhat to use as a shade, but it can't cover it entirely. There's also the clear panels at Miller Park that let light in and can cover the plate with sunshine, even if the roof is closed..

"The games that we usually player here, a 1 p.m. game or a 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., it's not an issue," Roenicke said. "I think he 1 p.m., when we have that roof partially closed so they don't have the shadows between the home plate and the pitcher, I think it plays just great. So it's just the postseason. And hopefully we're in this for a long time in the postseason, and maybe they can do something then. But during the season, it's not an issue."

Game 6 of the NLCS will be held at 3 p.m. if there's a Game 7 in the ALCS.

St. Louis complained about the shadows at their own Busch Stadium because of the playoff start times as well -- plus they dealt with it in several nationally televised games during the season. The team even talked to the players' association about the issue. The way TV works, these problems are going to continue to arise, because that's what matters. Of course, they're bat for both teams -- and could be an issue on any ball hit to left during the game.

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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 9, 2011 12:57 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 11:57 am
 

In victory, Hairston can laugh about out

Chris Young

Jerry Hairston Jr.By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- Jerry Hairston Jr. could joke on Saturday about the play Arizona's Chris Young made in the sixth inning of Game 5 of the National League division series -- but only because his team won.

A day after the Brewers' dramatic victory over the Diamondbacks, Hairston was asked about Young's catch that temporarily kept the game tied at 1. 

"Let me tell you something, if we would have lost, I probably wouldn't have slept for a week," Hairston said. "I was just saying please don't let that be the reason we don't win. I mean, he's a great center fielder, he really is. He made an unbelievable play. It's not like a guy who isn't a good outfielder, that's him. He's a great center fielder. He made an unbelievable play. I'm just glad that didn't affect the outcome of the game."

The ball was hit like a rocket -- and everyone expected two runs to score. Instead, the lead runner, Ryan Braun, had to go back to second and even though Young crashed into the wall, the runners weren't able to move up. Hairston was visibly upset, yelling after Young caught the ball.

"When I hit it, I thought it might have a chance to go out. I smoked it, but I know the panels were open, so the wind was blowing in. I thought at least it would short-hop the wall, double, at the very least. I had no idea he'd catch it," Hairston said. "When he stuck his glove up, I thought that was kind of cute, he's making an effort. When it landed in his glove -- I've never cried on the baseball field, but I came pretty close (Friday night). If we would have lost -- I play golf with him in the offseason all the time -- if we would have lost and he made that catch, I never would have heard the end of it. So I'm glad that we won. And he can have the catch. He's an incredible center fielder. He had a great postseason. I'm just glad we won."

However, when Yuniesky Betancourt hit a bloop single to give Milwaukee the lead, Hairston breathed a sigh of relief. And after the team won, he was able to laugh about it.

"At 35, I'm thinking double. … I was thinking at least two RBIs. Kennedy's a great pitcher and we had few opportunities to get him. I felt like we had a chance to get something going, maybe a big inning. It was just a time of the game, sixth inning, 1-1 game, I felt like that would propel us into the big inning. When he made that play, I thought maybe it's on their side.

"I just wanted to find a way to pick up a run. Yuni's been incredible all yea rand he was able to get that big hit for us. That was, I breathed a sigh of relief, but I knew that wasn't the end."

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 12:55 am
 

Four clinchers for Brewers' Counsell

Craig Counsell

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- You know in the movie Forrest Gump where the titular character keeps showing up in some of the biggest points of recent American history? Well, Craig Counsell may be a little like Forrest Gump.

Friday night he was there again in Game 5 of the NLDS when Carlos Gomez scored the winning run on Nyjer Morgan's 10th-inning single and it was the fourth time in his career he had been on the field for a walk-off winner in the final game of a postseason series.

The first, of course, was in 1997 when he scored on Edgar Renteria's single to give the Marlins a 3-2 victory in Game 7 over the Cleveland Indians.

Craig Counsell

The second came in 2001 as a member of the Diamondbacks when Arizona beat St. Louis in Game 5 of the NLDS. Counsell was on deck when Tomy Womack's single scored Miguel Bautista to send Arizona to the NLCS -- "I was on deck, so I was the first one to get the hug on that one," Counsell said.

 

The third was later that fall, when Counsell was on first base after being hit by a pitch when Luis Gonzalez singled in Jay Bell to give Arizona a Game 7 victory over the Yankees.

 

"It's good fortune," Counsell said. "To just be a part of four games like that -- that's the point of it. To be a part of, play in, those four games -- you can look at that and be pretty content with your career."

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:46 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 9:28 pm
 

How I learned to accept the "Beast Mode"



By C. Trent Rosecrans


MILWAUKEE -- Three times I've started a blog post about how much I dislike the Brewers' "Beast Mode" celebration. I was all set to maybe do it again. But then, Craig Counsell (of all people) turned me around.

I'm not sure I've seen Counsell do the "Beat Mode" (seen above) and I'm not sure I will. It's just not his style. And that's exactly why he convinced me it's OK -- because it's not forced, it's just something the Brewers do as a part of genuine joy. It doesn't matter that the Rangers had their claw and antler first or that the Diamondbacks tried out their silly snake. All of those are OK, or at least according to Counsell.

Counsell refused to call himself "old school" or anything else (although Nyjer Morgan does call him "uncle" because he's older than the rest of the team). He didn't give out labels or talk about playing "the right way" or anything else.

"I think a lot of teams are doing something. The Rangers did it. For me, it's a high-five to the dugout," Counsell said. "It's a high-five, a fist-bump -- from a distance. It's just the dugout giving the guy on the base a high-five. 

"I understand why it's getting attention and you expect it to. I think it's a harmless thing and it's just fun."

He also said it's genuine. The Brewers do this because they enjoy playing together, they cheer for each other and this is the way they show it.

"We have players who like to show their personality, we have players that play better when they show emotion and you don't take that away from them," Counsell said. "I suppose if you want to get really deep, I guess society is leaning toward showing more emotion, but I don't feel I'm old school, new school or anything."

So bring on your "Beast Mode" or your "Cobra' or your "Claw and Antler" -- I don't care. If it's fun for you, it's fun for the crowd, then it's fun. And that's what this is all about, right?

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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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