by Josh Kipnis
Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are two of the hottest topics in the National League MVP discussion. And although postseason play cannot be considered in the debate, Braun and Fielder both proved why they are among the NL’s best hitters in the NLCS opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ starting pitching was dominant, to say the least, against the Philadelphia Phillies in last week’s NLDS. St. Louis gave up just six runs and five extra-base hits in the entire 5-game series versus Philly.
The Brewers’ bats, however, were up to the test and ready to pound anyone brave enough to step foot on the rubber. Milwaukee knocked in nine runs and muscled eight extra-base hits in their 9-6 victory over the Cards.
Six of those RBI and three of the extra-base hits came off the bats of Braun and Fielder. Braun went 2-4 on the day with a HR, 2B, and 4 RBI while his fellow batsman went 1-3 with a HR and 2 RBI.
Powerful bats like these are quite intimidating to opposing pitchers, but even more so when you have to pitch to one immediately following the other. “When both of us are going good, it obviously becomes far more difficult to pitch to both of us,” Braun said about the duo. Brewers’ pitcher Zach Greinke also spoke highly of the two: “It seems like right now, every time it comes to the middle of the lineup, there’s an opportunity. They’re really good. Maybe, probably the best three-four in baseball right now.” This assumption may have to be accepted after witnessing Milwaukee’s record setting 5th inning.
The Brewers trailed 5-2 in the bottom of the 5th, but just six batters later they led 8-5.
Milwaukee peppered the outfield with hits. Corey Hart led off with a single. Jerry Hairston Jr. followed with a double. Slugger, Ryan Braun hit a ground-rule double to right, scoring two. Prince Fielder, on the very next pitch, crushed a towering shot to right for a 2-run, go ahead homer. Rickie Weeks then reached safely on an error by pitcher Octavio Dotel. And finally, Yuniesky Betancourt cleared the bases with a 2-run homerun of his own.
The Brew Crew scored six runs and took the lead without even recording an out. The five extra-base hits in the inning were the most in a single inning by any Major League team in the playoffs.
“It’s hard to imagine something like that before it happens,” said Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy. “But afterward, it’s pretty amazing when you think about it. A homer. A double. A ground-rule double. Guys getting on…You don’t know when those innings are going to happen. But when they do, they’re a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Tonight, Manager Tony La Russa hands the ball off to Edwin Jackson for St. Louis. Jackson has a 2.08 ERA against Milwaukee in his last two starts. The start before that, however, the Brewers scored ten runs on Jackson and also had fourteen hits-a career high for the pitcher. The dramatic theme of this divisional rivalry will surely continue with an intriguing matchup in game two.