Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder deliver momentum swings for Brewers
Reporting from Milwaukee -- Two pitches. Two swings.
That’s how quickly Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder can change momentum for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Braun and Fielder have formed one of the top game-changing duos in the major leagues for some time now, but this was lightning-fast, even for them.
“You might stop one of them, but you’re not going to stop both of them,” teammate Corey Hart said. “They can turn around a game in a hurry.”
Braun and Fielder needed just one pitch apiece to turn a 5-2 deficit into a 6-5 lead in the fifth inning Sunday, and the Brewers went on to a 9-6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park.
The Brewers boosted their record to 17-0 at home this year in games started by right-hander Zack Greinke, but with eight hits and six runs given up in six innings, he was far short of his “A” game. In particular, Greinke kept getting hurt with his curveball.
“Every time I threw a curveball, it seemed like they hit it really hard,” said Greinke, who picked up the victory thanks to the robust offensive support.
The Brewers bailed out their starting pitcher by scoring six runs in the fifth inning to go up, 8-5. Braun and Fielder did their damage so quickly, St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa couldn’t get starter Jaime Garcia out of the game until it was too late.
“They had all of the momentum,” Braun said. “And then for us to respond well to that is a great sign of our resiliency, our character as a team.”
Hart started the outburst with a single and Jerry Hairston Jr. continued his postseason binge with a double into the left-field corner. Garcia then hung a first-pitch slider to Braun, who drove it the other way into the right-field corner and over the wall on a bounce for a two-run double.
The crowd of 43,613 was still in full roar when Fielder stepped to the plate and also punished a first-pitch slider from Garcia, lining it out to right for a two-run homer that sent decibel levels soaring even higher.
“I don’t even know if I heard the ball come off Prince’s bat, but I knew it was a good swing and came off nice,” Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke said. “You couldn’t hear the sound of it because of all the people yelling.”
Perhaps the issue was that the baseball exceeded the speed of sound. ESPNstatsinfo.com reported that the ball traveled at a speed of 119.2 mph, the fastest exit of any home run in the majors this season.
“That was one of the hardest-hit balls I’ve ever seen,” said Braun, whose two-run homer in the first against Garcia was more impressive in distance at 463 feet.
“I was standing on second base and I had a good view of it. It got out in a hurry. I’m always worried when I’m on first base and Prince is up that he’s going to top-spin one at me.”
That was all for Garcia, who frittered away the advantage the Cardinals had built primarily on David Freese’s three-run, opposite-field home run in the fourth. Octavio Dotel took over and committed a two-base throwing error after retrieving Rickie Weeks’ comebacker, then shot-putting it beyond first baseman Albert Pujols.
That brought to the plate Yuniesky Betancourt, infamous for swinging at the first pitch (and making outs) so often. And he swung at the first offering once again, badly missing a slider well off the plate from Dotel.
This time, however, Betancourt would not be a quick out. Behind in the count, 1-2, he fouled off four consecutive pitches, staying alive until Dotel hung a slider that Betancourt whacked out to left for a two-run homer that allowed the Brewers to put six runs on the board without making an out.
“After the result, I would say it was my best at-bat of the season, but I was just trying to do my job, trying to move the runner over,” Betancourt said with the help of an MLB interpreter. “The pitcher hung it a little bit, and I did my job.”
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