NLCS: Brewers 9, Cardinals 6
By Colin Fly
MILWAUKEE ó Albert Pujols shattered his bat swinging at a hanging curve, the type he typically deposits in the left-field bleachers.
ěI just missed it,î the Cardinals slugger said. ěYou throw me that pitch, I bet you seven out of 10 times you throw that, I put it in the seats.î
Instead, Pujols grounded into a double play in the seventh with runners at the corners and no outs with St. Louis trailing by three, thwarting a rally attempt in a 9-6 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in Sundayís NL championship series opener.
It was a far-too-familiar result for the three-time MVP. He has one RBI in six playoff games and grounded into a major league-leading 29 double plays during the regular season.
ěIt was not a good game for him today, but you canít say anything,î was the assessment from Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal. ěHeís going to produce. Everybody knows in the world heís a pretty good hitter and what he can do.î
St. Louis wasted a 5-2, fifth-inning lead and was trailing 8-5 when Furcal chased Zack Greinke with a leadoff single in the seventh. Jon Jayís hit-and-run single off Takashi Saito advanced Furcal to third.
Ahead 2-0 in the count, Pujols fouled off a pitch and checked his swing on the next as umpire Gary Darling called a low strike. Pujols appeared rankled, looking upward, muttering and stepping out of the batterís box.
Pujols pulled Saitoís next pitch down the third-base line, breaking his bat and sending shards flying nearly as far as the ball. Jerry Hairston Jr. scooped up the ball, starting a 5-4-3 double play as Furcal came home. Lance Berkman followed with a popup, and the Cardinals didnít advance another runner past first.
ěItís a tough loss. Iím stating the obvious, but every one of these games is very important, and if you have a chance to win it, you better do it,î Berkman said. ěItís just a tough game all the way around.î
Game 2 is Monday night, when Edwin Jackson faces Milwaukeeís Shaun Marcum.
Given the three-run lead, Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia allowed a two-run double to Ryan Braun and a two-run homer to Prince Fielder on consecutive pitches in the fifth.
ěThe whole time when Iím on the mound I think I can get out of this,î Garcia said. ěWhen I had Braun up there, I was trying to make a pitch, and he took a good swing. Fielder the same thing.î
Braun also hit a 463-foot, two-run homer in the first after Hairston walked.
Garcia insisted Saturday he would not be thinking about letting the Brewersí biggest stars beat him. A day later, Braun and Fielder drove in all six runs Garcia allowed.
ěIt was just bam, bam, bam,î Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ěItís unusual for a guy throwing the ball that well to miss. Heís probably upset. Human nature.î
Reliever Octavio Dotel made a throwing error that allowed Rickie Weeks to reach, and Yuniesky Betancourtís two-run homer made it 8-5.
After Braunís first-inning homer put Milwaukee ahead 2-1, the Cardinals went ahead on David Freeseís three-run homer in the fourth. Berkman added an RBI single in the fifth.
ěWeíve lost some tough games, and we bounced back,î Pujols said. ěWe did it against Philly. We did it the last two weeks of the season when we needed a win, I mean, weíre too good of a ballclub. This is a long series.î
Milwaukee and St. Louis split 18 games during the regular season in one of baseballís most intense rivalries in recent years.
Nyjer Morgan took to his Twitter account and referred to Pujols as ěAlberta.î Greinke said Saturday that some of his teammates donít like Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter because of his demonstrative demeanor on the mound, saying he had a ěphony attitude.î
La Russa was booed heavily in pregame introductions, and responded by tipping his cap to the crowd.
ěIíd be willing to challenge anybody here to show me one division that didnít have one or two sparks. We play each other 15, 16, 17, 18 times,î La Russa said. ěWe just play each other, and everybody reads the situation their way.î
After Braunís homer, Fielder was hit by Garciaís next pitch, though it didnít appear to be intentional as Garcia struggled with his command early. Darling warned both benches immediately, and there was no other trouble.
ěI donít want our players and their players to be egged on, and I donít think they will,î La Russa said. ěWeíre going to play as hard and good against each other as we can.î
NOTES: The Cardinals led the majors by grounding into 169 double plays during the regular season. They have four in the playoffs. … Jackson allowed 10 runs ó eight earned ó in seven innings of his first start against Milwaukee this season with the Cardinals on Aug. 3 because La Russa needed to rest his bullpen. Jackson jokingly said, ěWhat game?î when asked to recall it. … The next two starts against the Brewers, he went 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA. … Marcum is 0-3 with a 5.84 ERA in his last six home starts, including two against the Cardinals.
The Associated Press