Brewers rally to beat Cardinals 9-6 in NLCS opener
MILWAUKEE (AP) — It's one thing for a team to say it won't be beaten by the Milwaukee Brewers' dueling duo of MVP candidates, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.
As the St. Louis Cardinals found out in Sunday's Game 1 of the NLCS, actually keeping those two quiet isn't so easy.
Back-to-back big hits by Braun and Fielder powered a rapid-fire fifth-inning rally, helping the Brewers come back to beat the Cardinals 9-6 for a 1-0 lead in the series.
Braun was thrilled he and Fielder could play such a critical role in the comeback, but knows one big day isn't enough to make a team as tough as the Cardinals back down.
"Obviously when both of us are going good it becomes far more difficult to pitch to us, but I don't think it's intimidating," Braun said. "These guys over here are not going to be intimidated by anything. We've played them often enough to know that they're a great team, they know it's going to be a good challenge."
Braun launched a 463-foot homer in the first inning — a two-run shot — and added a two-run double during a six-run burst in the fifth. Fielder hit a two-run homer and the typically light-hitting Yuniesky Betancourt added another two-run home run to cap it.
The midgame turnaround came so fast that the crowd wasn't done cheering Braun's big hit when Fielder went deep.
"I don't even know if I heard the ball come off Prince's bat," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
Meanwhile, it was an off day for Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols. He was 1 for 4, grounding into a double play with runners on first and third and no outs in the seventh. A run scored on the play, but the inning could have been much bigger.
"We've lost some tough games and we bounced back," Pujols said. "We did it against Philly, we did it the last two weeks of the season when we needed a win, I mean, we're too good of a ballclub. This is a long series."
At least for one game, the bitter NL Central rivals avoided any on-field confrontations in their first postseason matchup since the 1982 World Series.
That's despite an already tense atmosphere that gained some steam when Brewers starter Zack Greinke let it slip on Saturday that some of his teammates don't like Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter — a comment that drew a stern rebuke from St. Louis manager Tony La Russa.
Greinke hinted that he heard a few comments from the Cardinals' dugout Sunday, but he said it was nothing out of the ordinary.
"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."
The atmosphere was tense even before the first pitch, as La Russa was showered with boos during pregame introductions. He calmly tipped his cap to the crowd.
La Russa said afterward that he hoped the tension wouldn't overshadow the competition — although he said he had a sense that some fans and media members would be disappointed if there aren't any repeats of the on-field confrontations the teams have had in the recent past.
"I don't want our players and their players to be egged on, and I don't think they will," La Russa said. "We're going to play as hard and good against each other as we can."
Game 2 is at Miller Park on Monday night. Shaun Marcum starts for the Brewers against Edwin Jackson.
"We'll come back out," Cardinals star Lance Berkman said. "The same thing happened to us in the first game against Philly. We were able to regroup."
The Brewers and Cardinals split an 18-game series evenly this season, a sign of what has been one of baseball's most intense rivalries in recent years. The Cardinals' success against the Brewers in the final month of the season was one of the main reasons they climbed back into playoff contention.
St. Louis won six of its last seven games against Milwaukee, including a three-game sweep at Miller Park.
The animosity between the two teams spilled into this week, when Greinke told reporters Saturday that some of his teammates don't like Carpenter because of his "phony attitude."
And it looked as if the two teams were in for more fireworks in the first inning.
La Russa said he got an umpire's warning after Jaime Garcia hit Fielder with a pitch, right after Braun's homer. But the Brewers said they didn't think the pitch was intentional, and La Russa said the team's recent history probably affects the umpires' attitudes.
"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."