Tag:Ryan Braun
Posted on: October 14, 2011 3:19 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 4:31 pm
 

NLCS Game 5: Cardinals' backs against the wall



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Brewers at Cardinals, 8:05 p.m. ET, Busch Stadium, St. Louis. Series tied, 2-2.

ST. LOUIS -- With Thursday's Brewers victory, this much we know for sure, the NLCS will be headed back to Milwaukee. That simple fact makes Game 5 bigger game for the Cardinals, who would certainly like to go to Milwaukee up a game instead of on the verge of elimination.

"We want to be 3-2 going into Miller Park and not having to win two games over there. It's a big game, we've got Jaime (Garcia) on the mound. We're going to come ready to play," St. Louis infielder Nick Punto said. "It's one of those teams that we play pretty good with our backs against the wall and our backs are against the wall again -- we'll see what happens."

Milwaukee, it has been beat into the ground by now, had baseball's best home record. The Cardinals, though, were 4-5 at Miller Park this season, not a winning record, but pretty good against a team that only lost 24 home games all season. And St. Louis also split with the Milwaukee in the series' first two games.

"We've been in this situation. It's the best out of three," Albert Pujols said. "We want to win (Friday) and then we go to Milwaukee. But one thing we can look at is that we're pretty much the on in the team in the National League that played pretty well in Milwaukee. We need to flip the page, hopefully take the lead (Friday) and go to Milwaukee and win."

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

 

This is a tough one -- I usually just go on the pitching matchup, and even that is problematic. In the end, although Garcia has been very good at home this year and Zack Greinke has struggled in the playoffs and on the road, Greinke's the better pitcher. Garcia can be very good, and he's one of the best young pitchers in the game. Greinke, though, can be the best in baseball at times. The 2009 Cy Young Award winner has struggled in the playoffs thus far, but the potential to shut down a team -- even one as explosive as St. Louis -- is there. 

Brewers' Zack Greinke: Greinke wanted out of Kansas City so he could pitch in the playoffs. The Brewers wanted him not only to help them get to the playoffs, but also to have a no-doubt No. 1 starter if they got to the playoffs. But it hasn't worked out that way. The Brewers have won both of his playoff starts, but Greinke's hardly been impressive in his two starts.

In his first playoff start, Greinke allowed eight hits and four runs in five innings, but did strike out seven Diamondbacks in Game 2 of the NLDS. He was back for Game 1 of the NLCS, allowing six earned runs on eight hits in six innings, but getting massive backing from his offense to earn the victory over Garcia.

"In all honesty, it's just another game… kind of," Greinke said Thursday when asked about his playoff experience. "I thought it might be a lot different, but it's really just a normal game, and you just get as ready as you can and do what you can. The first two games, I've given ups one runs, but I've been really happy with how I've pitched. So (Friday), I'm just going to do what I can do, and if I throw good, I'll be happy."

Cardinals' Jaime Garcia: Like Greinke, Garcia's been much better at his own ballpark, going 9-4 with a  2.55 ERA at Busch Stadium and a 4-3 record with a 4.61 ERA. In Game 1, he gave up six runs on six hits in just four innings before giving way to the Cardinals' bullpen. But that was at Miller Park.

"Obviously I like pitching here, but I don't really feel any different on the road," Garcia said. "I just feel like a lot of this throughout the year, a lot of the times where I've pitched on the road, it's just one of those things don't go your way, but I've had some good games on the road and then some not very good at home. So I can't really answer your question, because to me, it's all the same. Obviously, I like pitching at home -- you have the fans, you can sleep in your own bed. But other than that, to me it's the same. I just try to see it as any other game and then prepare yourself for that specific game."

His career home/road splits also show that Garcia's much better at home. He's 16-9 with a 2.37 in 35 appearances at home and 11-7 with a  4.28 ERA in 35 road appearances.

"If you want Jaime to pitch, this is where you want him to take the ball," Pujols said.

LINEUPS

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

NOTES

  • Since the seven-game LCS format was introduced in 1985, only 14 of the 52 series have been tied at two after four games. Of the previous 13 LCS tied at two, six have gone seven games and the other seven have gone six games.
  • David Freese's eight-game postseason hitting streak is the longest for a Cardinal since Scott Rolen hit in 10 straight games in 2006. Freese was 2 for 4 in Game 4.
  • The Brewers' last road victory in the playoffs was on Oct. 12, 1982, at old Busch Stadium in Game 1 of the 1982 World Series.
  • Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has reached base safely in the first inning in each of the team's last eight postseason games, becoming the first player to do so in eight straight games. Gary Sheffield reached safely in seven straight in 1997 for the Marlins.
  • Francisco Rodriguez has no allowed an earned run in eight career LCS relief appearances. He allowed two unearned runs in Game 5 of the 2005 ALCS for the Angels against Chicago.
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Posted on: October 13, 2011 1:25 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 2:15 am
 

Cardinals bullpen retires 12 Brewers in a row

Jason Motte

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Only the Nationals had more blown saves than the Cardinals this season, as 26 times the Cardinals had a save situation and then lost a lead. But Wednesday, Chris Carpenter left the game after just five innings in Game 3 of the NLCS and said he wasn't worried about the outcome.

"Typically, as a starting pitcher, you're concerned about that -- you don't want to leave 12 outs for your bullpen," Carpenter said. "I was OK with it. I worked as hard as I could. I had confidence in my guys down there. I had confidence in what they were going to do. And they did it again."

NLCS Coverage

Not only did the Cardinals relievers -- four in all -- get the 12 outs needed, they only needed to face 12 batters to do it. No Brewer reached base after Carpenter intentionally walked Prince Fielder with two outs in the fifth. Fernando Salas got three fly balls to get through the sixth, then Lance Lynn had three fly outs in the sixth and stayed in the seventh to get Ryan Braun to ground out for the first out before lefty Marc Rzepczynski came in to face Prince Fielder. Rzepczynski got Fielder to strike out on four pitches before giving way to Jason Motte -- the team's not-closer -- to strike out Rickie Weeks and then stay in for the ninth and get two strikeouts and a ground out, ending the game.

"Get 12 outs against that offense -- it's not going to work very often that you can put four zeroes against their offense," manager Tony La Russa said. "But each guy came in and really stepped up. I thought they were really aggressive, they threw good strikes and didn't fall behind."

There's been an on-going joke that La Russa still refuses to call Motte his closer -- but since recording his first save on Aug. 28, he's had one blown save a 2.91 ERA. In the playoffs, he's yet to surrender a run, recorded three saves and appeared in five games, all while allowing just one hit.

"Now we've got a guy that's throwing 100 mph, has a nasty slider, it's a presence out there, a force, and you just tip your hat to him because he's turned himself into a closer pretty quick," Berkman said, before he was reminded Motte's not been designated the "closer" by La Russa. "Well, he ends the games for us, whatever you want to call it."

There's talk that La Russa would like to get a big-name, veteran closer during the offseason, so if Motte's not the closer, he doesn't have to demote him. For this season, though, the Cardinals turned around their bullpen late in the season when they traded for right-hander Octavio Dotel, left-hander Marc Rzepczynski and starter Edwin Jackson. Jackson allowed the team to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen to fortify the back end. 

Salas, Lynn, Dotel and Mitchell Boggs all recorded saves in the second half of the season, but Motte's seem to hold it down lately.

There's also the fact that the guy who more or less invented the modern bullpen usage is pulling the strings -- and for this series he has eight relievers to chose between.

"Tony is the most prepared person I've ever been around. He lives and dies by numbers, by match ups, by lineups," Carpenter said. "I mean, everyone questions at times why he throws different lineups up there. It's because there's reasons behind that. He's put his work into knowing why he's doing that.

"Why does he push the right buttons at the right times? Because he puts in work, he puts his time into knowing when to push the right buttons. There's a reason why he's won so many games he's won. There's a reason why his teams continue to win. There's a reason why he's a Hall of Fame manager and that's because he puts his work in, he's prepared more than any person I"ve ever see, and when he does push those buttons, he has no fear whatsoever, whether it's wrong or right, and he will answer to it if it's wrong and he will answer to it if it's right. And he's not scared about it, and that's what makes him great."

He also has little reason to be scared of his bullpen anymore. Now that fear should be in the opponent.

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Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:20 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 11:48 pm
 

Brewers misplays leads Cardinals to NLCS lead

Mark Kotsay

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Milwaukee continued its postseason road woes, dropping Game 3 to St. Louis, 4-3, as the Brewers take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS.

Hero:  The Cardinals third baseman went 3 for 4 with two doubles and the RBI that turned out to be the game-winner. Freese is hitting .500 in the series and .367 in the postseason, helping bring some pop to the back of the lineup. He leads all Cardinals with 11 RBI in the postseason and three home runs. 

Goat: Ron Roenicke said "something always good seems to happen when he's in there" when asked about starting Mark Kotsay. Something good did happen -- he homered to lead off the third. The problem was two bad things happened in the first because he was in the game. Kotsay was doubled off of second base on Prince Fielder's liner to center. And, in the bottom of the inning, he was unable to get a Jon Jay sinking liner and allowed it to get past him for a double, starting the Cardinals' big inning.

Turning point: The Cardinals batted around in the first, scoring four runs. But the bleeding could have stopped after three had Corey Hart been able to corral a liner by Freese. It appeared to go right off the tip of Hart's glove. Matt Holliday scored the Cardinals' fourth run in the inning.

It was over when …: When Cardinals closer Marc Rzepcynski got the one batter he came in to face -- Prince Fielder -- to strike out for the second out of the eighth. Lance Lynn stayed in to start the inning after pitching the seventh inning, getting Ryan Braun to ground out to second. Rzepcynski came in and struck out Fielder on four pitches. Jason Motte then replace Rzepcynski to strike out Rickie Weeks.

Next: The Brewers' Randy Wolf and Cardinals' Kyle Lohse face off in Game 4 on Thursday at 8:05 p.m. ET.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 7:17 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 1:28 am
 

NLCS Game 3: Cardinals riding high



By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' Game 2 victory wrestled homefield advantage from the Brewers as the National League Championship Series heads to St. Louis with Milwaukee needing at least one victory at Busch Stadium to ensure a return to the friendly confines of Miller Park.

Milwaukee struggled on the road this season, but still managed to go 4-5 at Busch Stadium as the two teams split their 18-game season series.

NLCS

"Everybody talks about our home record, but we didn't go undefeated at home by any stretch," Brewers third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. said following Monday's loss.." It's a loss, but we've just got to go on the road and bounce back."

The Cardinals have won 15 consecutive get-away day games, tabbing their travels "happy flights." However, those "happy flights" leave a little bit of a hangover. In the games after their last 14 "happy flights," the Cardinals have gone 4-10.

Still, the Cardinals left Milwaukee happy, and with the series taking a much different complexion than it had after Milwaukee's Game 1 victory. Now, Milwaukee has to go on the road and depend on a starter that has struggled against the Cardinals and two more that have not been very good in the playoffs.

"(Winning Game 2) was big to us. We're 1-1, that was big to win, just because they've done well (in MIlwaukee)," Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay said following Monday night's victory. "But it was big for us to fight back and get a win after (Sunday's) game."

A win behind Chris Carpenter would put the Brewers on the ropes and could set the stage for the Cardinals' next happy flight to be after Game 2 of the World Series.

PITCHER MATCHUP

Gallardo vs. Cardinals: Yovani Gallardo has certainly been the Brewers' best -- and only consistent -- starter in the playoffs, going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his two starts against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. The rest of the team's starters are 1-3 with a 11.54 ERA in the playoffs.

However, Gallardo was 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals this season and is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 11 career starts against St. Louis. Among his four starts against the Cardinals this season were his best and worst performances of the season. On May 7, he allowed just one hit in eight scoreless innings, but on Sept. 1 at Miller Park, the Cardinals tagged him for eight earned in 4 2/3 innings.

Carpenter vs. Brewers: The Cardinals' right-hander is coming off a masterful victory over close friend Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the NLDS. While Carpenter struggled in Game 2 start on short rest, but Carpenter is fully rested going into Tuesday's start.

Carpenter was 2-2 against the Brewers this season with a 3.86 ERA -- but he was 2-0 in two starts against the Brewers at Busch Stadium, including a four-hit shutout on Sept. 7.

Ryan Braun's struggled a bit against Carpenter, going 5 for 22 (.227) with a home run and six strikeouts. Prince Fielder is 8 for 26 (.308) with two home runs, five walks and eight strikeouts against Carpenter.

Pitching matchup advantage:

 

If both are on in Game 3, it should be the opposite of the slugfests we saw in Miwaukee. Even as Gallardo has developed into a frontline starter, Carpenter's history of success in big games (and on full rest) is too much to overlook.

LINEUPS

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

NOTES

  • In 23 of the last 42 NLCS -- including this one -- the loser of Game 1 has come back to win Game 2.
  • St. Louis' 17 hits on Monday night tied for the second most the team had ever collected in a  postseason game. The Cardinals had 20 hits in Game 4 of the 1946 World Series against the Red Sox and 17 in Game 7 of the 1934 World Series.
  • With his ninth LCS home run, Albert Pujols is now tied with George Brett and Bernie Williams for the second-most in baseball history. Manny Ramirez holds the record with 13 LCS home runs. Pujols now has 14 career postseason home runs, tied with David Justice for eighth most in history.
  • Fielder's homer in Game 2 gave him four postseason home runs -- the most by any Brewer. Ted Simmons and Paul Molitor each hit three.
  • Former Cardinal and Brewer (and Royal and Red Sox and Diamondback and Pirate) Jeff Suppan will throw out the first pitch in Game 3 at Busch Stadium.
  • This series has been rain-free -- so far. Rain is predicted for gametime on Wednesday.
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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 10:30 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 10:37 pm
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 1

Yuniesky Betancourt

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- Prince Fielder's fifth-inning homer had people at Miller Park buzzing -- both during the game and after. Fielder's homer was measured at 119.2 mph off his bat, according to ESPN's Home Run Tracker, making it the fastest ball off a bat this season.

But that's not all they were talking about at the stadium following Milwaukee's 9-6 victory in Game 1, here's more:

Ryan Braun on Fielder's homer: "That was one of the hardest hit balls I've ever seen. I'm always worried when I'm on first base and Princeis up that he's going to top spin one at me. I had a good view of it. It got out in a hurry."

Yuniesky Betancourt (above) on the criticism he get: "I don't really understand English very well, so that being said, I don't really pay attention to what the critics say. Since I don't understand, I don't get mad. I just try and do my job."

• Albert Pujols on fouling off a pitch in the seventh before grounding into a double play: "I had a good pitch, but I just missed it -- seven out of 10 times, I put it in the seats. That's baseball, next time I get that opportunity, hopefully I'll come through."

• Zack Greinke on the Brewers' 17-0 record when he starts at Miller Park: "I don't know. We've got a good record. I answer this question after every start -- and before every start. We feel like we're going to win."

• Jonathan Lucroy on Greinke: "I think the key with Zack, as it was with his last start, he kept us close. Not letting the game get out of hand. ... He's very strong. He's very stoic. He's not Cy Young out there [right now]. He's going to execute, and he's going to make mistakes like all pitchers do."

Tony La Russa on leaving Garcia in to face Braun and Fielder: "The guy is cruising -- there's a ground ball, he makes one mistake. How many hits does he have at that point? I mean, maybe (he should have pulled Garcia), because that's strategy. But no, he was not ready (to be taken out). Only when I saw him throw a ball down the middle to Braun, I said that's enough.  And he tried to make a pitch to Fielder and it's a two-run homer. No, I wouldn't have made move to (face) Braun. I He was throwing the ball better than that. He made one mistake. It's a tough league, but it's not that tough."

• Braun on the Cardinals keeping Garcia in: "I thought Garcia was really cruising and throwing the ball well. I think the first inning he obviously didn't have great command. After that, I thought he was really throwing well. We had a couple of great at-bats by Corey (Hart) and Jerry (Hairston), and Prince and I each swung at the first pitch. I don't think he had an opportunity to really come in the game."

Ron Roenicke on the Miller Park crowd: "I don't even know if I heard the ball come off Prince's bat. I knew it was a good swing and came off nice, but when you can't hear the ball the sound of it, because of all the people yelling -- I wasn't sure what was going to happen there until I saw the ball's flight."

Fielder on his homer: "It felt good. I thought it might be off the wall or a double in the gap, and it kind of kept going, so that was good."

More NLCS coverage 

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Posted on: October 9, 2011 9:50 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 10:21 pm
 

La Russa: Fans, media are hoping for altercation

Tony La Russa

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- The first pitch after Ryan Braun's first-inning homer in Game 1 of the NLCS came in high and hit Brewers slugger Prince Fielder. The crowd booed, home plate umpire Gary Darling warned both benches and then … nothing happened.

For all the pre-series hype about the dislike between the Cardinals and Brewers, there were no fireworks, no scuffles, no words and no fisticuffs. The fact that many expected -- or even hoped -- there may be more, rankled Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

"I think there are some fans, or media, that are going to be disappointed if there isn't some crap flying this series, and that's a shame," La Russa said. "I don't want our payers and their players to be egged on, and I don't think they will (react). We're going to play as hard and good against each other as we can."

NLCS

Players from both sides were asked about the tension -- and Darling's warning -- after the game, and it was dismissed.

"Every team you play at the end of the season is going to be a rival -- Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Philadelphia -- they're going to be  rival because we have to win games," Pujols said. "You guys are the ones who are building everything up, I said that yesterday. You try to pick and fire up this series. I don't think we need the media to fire up this series.  Everyone's going to be ready to play, this is the postseason. Whatever happened in the regular season, you turn the page and you can't let that come into the postseason."

Nobody seemed to think Garcia's pitch was intentional -- and they certainly didn't after he followed the plunking of Fielder with four straight balls to Rickie Weeks and 10 total pitches out of the strike zone.

When asked if he thought Garcia hit him on purpose, Fielder said, "no, not at all."

Still, Darling may have been trying to set a tone, to let both sides know that if anything happened, there would be quick action from the umpires.

"I'm sure the umpire and crew knows it (wasn't intentional), we've had our disagreements. But the guy hits a home run, the next guy gets hit -- I certainly can't fault the umpire," La Russa said. "But you know, you can't go out and argue those things, or you get thrown out. I didn't say anything. What I would have said is, if you watched the way Jaime pitched that whole inning, every fastball he threw was in that same area, out away from the right-hander or in on Fielder. They just looked bad, but he was just trying to get the ball somewhere near the glove. But I don't fault the umpire."

While La Russa had no problem with the umpire, he's not real happy about the constant talk of a rivalry from those covering it.

"I think it's a real disservice to the competition," La Russa said. "I think both teams have talked about with what's at stake here, we're going to compete as far as we can correctly."

Still, Brewers starter Zack Greinke, who said Saturday that the Brewers players didn't like Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter, said he did hear Cardinals' players yell at him from the bench, but that's hardly unusual in baseball.

"They're yelling from the dugout some, but most teams do that," Greinke said. "Everyone always makes fun of me grunting when I throw a fastball. It's kind of funny sometimes, but no big deal." 

La Russa, Pujols and others can try to deflect it as much as possible, but there is a palpable dislike between the clubs and a clear difference of approach and philosophy in how the game should be played. While La Russa said things will happen when you play a team 18 times in a season, they seem to happen more to the Cardinals and any team that challenges them in the division, be it Cincinnati in 2010 or Milwaukee this season. It may be the right thing to deny there are any hard feelings, but it's obvious that it's not just the media that feels something could erupt at any moment -- Darling did as well, and that's why there were warnings.

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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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