Tag:Tony La Russa
Posted on: October 12, 2011 6:31 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 8:11 pm
 

Brewers add patch to honor former groundskeeper

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- You'll notice a new addition to the Brewers uniforms for the rest of the playoffs starting Wednesday, a patch with the initials GV to recognize the passing of Gary VandenBerg, the team's longtime groundskeeper.

VandenBerg, 59, had a long-term battle with cancer and died on Monday. He started with the Brewers in 1981.

"I think it's great we're (adding patches), he's a part of the Brewer family and has been for a while, and it's very sad," Brewers pitcher Randy Wolf said. "I talked to him quite a bit -- I'm always one to talk to the grounds crew about things I like or don't like about the mound, and I want to be involved. The one thing you learn throughout the years is that the grounds crew wants to get things right. … He was always great and was always very receptive about things. It's really sad, be we saw what happened over the course of a year you can have your life squeezed out of you. It's really sad to watch his deterioration."

The Cardinals will also honor VandenBerg with a moment of silence before Game 3.

"Gary was one of the most loved individuals in this organization, and this is a tremendous loss for everyone connected to the Milwaukee Brewers," Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said in a statement. "Gary was one of the most dedicated and positive persons that we will ever know. We were fortunate to have Gary as a member of the Brewers family, and we all feel a tremendous sense of sadness today. Our prayers are with the VandenBerg family and all of those who loved him."

On Tuesday, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa offered his condolences at the news conference.

"I really would like to express my sympathies on the passing of Gary," La Russa said. "A lot of us have known him for a long time. That's a real blow to the Milwaukee Brewers. We wish [his] family the best. He was a really good guy." 

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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."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
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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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

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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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