Let’s face it. Most of you thought that the Milwaukee Brewers and the St Louis Cardinals wouldn’t meet again until next spring. Guess they didn’t want to wait that long.
The National League Central rivals are meeting for bigger stakes this time: A trip to the World Series. And there’s plenty of storylines and fireworks to go around.
It’s hard to originate when all the drama between the teams took place, but it makes for good baseball in this part of the country. The Brewers and the Cardinals wouldn’t have it any other way.
A tweet by Nyjer Morgan in September suggested that the Cardinals would be at home watching the playoffs. Well, they aren’t, because they caught the Atlanta Braves and took the wild-card spot from them. Then they beat Philadelphia in five games. The Phillies, who had the best league record and best pitching staff, were favorites to go to the World Series.
The Brewers controlled home field advantage throughout the first round when they finished ahead of Arizona in the regular season for the second best record in the NL. They faced the Diamondbacks in the NLDS and had a 2-0 lead before Arizona tied it at 2-2 in the best-of-five series.
Brewer Nation didn’t want to see the Diamondbacks come back to Miller Park for a decisive Game 5. It was unfortunate that the Crew couldn’t wrap things up on the road due to bad performances by starting pitchers Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf.
Now we had to deal with the redbirds again. Why? We already played them 18 times during the season. The Cardinals are just like ants in your house that you can’t get rid of.
Zack Greinke, the Game 1 starter for the Brewers, added fuel to the fire when he said that the Cardinals’ pitcher, Chris Carpenter, isn’t well-liked because of his attitude toward the opposition.
“Very disappointed that Greinke would say that,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said in his interview to the media, Oct. 8, the day before the first game of the NLCS. “I just praised him a little bit ago. I don’t know him a lot, but I always thought he was a high character, classy guy. That’s a bad comment to make unless you know Chris Carpenter.”
There’s some unfinished business for the Brewers against the Cardinals. The 1982 team that went to the World Series lost to St. Louis in seven games. It was time for revenge, which they got in Game 1, Oct. 9.
St. Louis made Greinke eat his words when they scored in the first inning for a 1-0 lead. Ryan Braun’s two-run homer gave the Crew a 2-1 lead. David Freese’s three-run shot off Greinke deflated the spirits of the Miller Park crowd as the Brewers looked at a 4-2 deficit.
The Brewers went into beast mode and got home runs from Prince Fielder and Yuni Betancourt. They got Greinke out of trouble and let him leave with his dignity intact, an 8-5 lead in the seventh and his exit to stage right so Takashi Saito, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford can preserve the win and save the game in a 9-6 final and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“I think I fouled off four balls,” Betancourt said. “And after the result, I would say it was the best at-bat.”
Some of the drama in Game 1 focused on St Louis pitchers hitting Braun and Fielder when they were up at bat despite warnings from the home plate umpire. “I don’t know (about the warnings),” Fielder said. “I mean, it’s not my call. That’s an umpire’s call, so I just leave that to them.”
“I think I’m sure the umpire and crew knows it,” said La Russa. “We’ve had our disagreements. But the guy who gets hit hits a home run. The next guy gets hit. I certainly can’t fault the umpire.”
The total revenue from Game 1 was $2.85 million with the players divvying up $1.7 million just for that game.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke went with Marcum in Game 2, Oct. 10, to keep him in rhythm. Yovani Gallardo will pitch Game 3 in St Louis when the series shifts there for three games, Oct. 12-14. Games 6 and 7, if necessary, will be at Miller Park, Oct. 16 and 17.
Fielder was ready to feast off the pitching of St Louis’ Game 2 starter, Edwin Jackson. “We’ve got to be ready for his mistakes, he said. “I will make sure I get a good look at it and hit it hard.” The Brewers’ team batting average against Jackson this season is .282.
Marcum says he pitches better on the road, but he got lit up at home in his second postseason start. The Cardinals got two runs off him in the first inning on a homer from Albert Pujols and five runs in four innings total. Braun’s two-run homer closed the gap to 5-2. St. Louis got two more in the fifth and led 7-2. The Brewers had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom half of the inning and Rickie Weeks hit into a double play to kill the rally.
It was too late for the Crew to come back from that beating. They were on the wrong end of a 13-3 defeat. Many of the 43,937 paying fans left Miller Park by the eighth inning. The series was tied at 1-1. The Brewers will sweep all three games at Busch Stadium, win two out of three on the road and force Games 6 and/or 7 at home or come back as losers of the series.