video thumbnail

ARI@MIL Gm 2: Brewers score five in the sixth

MILWAUKEE -- Sixteen times in 2011, Zack Greinke has taken the mound at Miller Park. Sixteen times -- whether he has pitched like an ace or something far from it -- the Brewers have won. None of those victories was bigger than this one, because it left the Brewers on the verge of winning a postseason series, something they have not done in a generation.

Greinke served up three home runs on three days' rest, but the Brewers stayed perfect in his home starts, seizing control of the National League Division Series with a flurry of sixth-inning small ball that included catcher Jonathan Lucroy's go-ahead squeeze bunt. The five-run rally gave the Brewers a 9-4 win over the D-backs in Game 2 on Sunday, and a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

"Yeah, it feels good to get these two out of the way, but we've still got to win one more," Lucroy said. "It's not over yet."

That may be true, but history is now decidedly on the Brewers' side.

Since the current playoff format debuted in 1995 through 2010, all 19 teams that won the first two games of the NLDS advanced to the NL Championship Series. In the American League, 17 of 21 teams advanced after taking a 2-0 division series lead.

At stake is the Brewers' first postseason series win since Cecil Cooper's single in Game 5 decided the 1982 AL Championship Series against the Angels, and sent Milwaukee to a World Series showdown with the Cardinals.

Game 3 of the NLDS is Tuesday in Arizona at 8:30 p.m. CT on TNT. The D-backs must win Tuesday and Wednesday at Chase Field to force the series back to Miller Park for a decisive Game 5 on Friday.

"If we go out and play the way we should, we should be back in Milwaukee with a different attitude, knowing that it's do or die," said D-backs right fielder Justin Upton. "So we have to do our part and make sure it comes back to Milwaukee."

Ryan Braun had three more hits, including his first career postseason home run, a first-inning shot that accounted for two of his three RBIs. He led a group of five hitters at the top of the Brewers' lineup who accounted for eight RBIs. Prince Fielder logged one of them, and already has more RBIs in the first two games of this NLDS -- three -- than he had in four games against the Phillies in 2008, when he drove in two.

Upton's two-out, two-run homer off Greinke tied the game at 4 in the fifth inning before the Brewers broke free in the sixth.

Jerry Hairston Jr. sparked the decisive rally with a double off D-backs starter Daniel Hudson and took third when another pitcher, sidearming right-hander Brad Ziegler, balked. Ziegler walked Yuniesky Betancourt on four pitches before Lucroy bunted a first-pitch sinker to the first-base side of the pitcher's mound. Hairston, breaking for home when Lucroy made contact, scored easily, and Betancourt and Lucroy advanced a base when Ziegler's flip went to the backstop.

The errant flip aided the Brewers' outburst. Ziegler intentionally walked pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay to load the bases for consecutive run-scoring hits by Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan and Braun. Morgan's two-run single was his first of the series and the first of his career in the postseason.

Ziegler threw four strikes, all of which resulted in Brewers runs. He lamented his throw home.

"I should have just taken the out at first, but knowing that was the lead run over there, I wanted to try to cut it down," Ziegler said. "I got to the ball pretty quickly, but it wasn't a smart play. The smart play would have been to go to first."

Lucroy says he is a poor bunter -- at least a poor sacrifice bunter -- but he has a knack for the squeeze. He beat the Giants with a walk-off suicide squeeze at Miller Park on May 28, then executed another on July 31 against the Astros in the second inning of an eventual 5-4 win.

"Mr. Squeeze always gets the bunt down," Hart said.

The rally made a winner of Takashi Saito, the 41-year-old Brewers reliever pitching in his fourth postseason for the third different team. He stranded the go-ahead runner at third base in the sixth inning, beginning a series of nail-biting outings from Saito, LaTroy Hawkins, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford, each of whom stranded a runner in scoring position while combining for four scoreless frames.

For the superstitious, Greinke played a bigger role in the win than his pitching line -- five innings, eight hits, four earned runs -- would indicate. He went 11-0 in 15 regular-season starts at Miller Park, and the Brewers did not lose a single one of those games. Greinke was the 14th pitcher since 1900 to win at least 10 home games in a season without a loss.

That's one reason he pitched Sunday at Miller Park on three days' rest for the second straight start, instead of Tuesday in Arizona for Game 3. But Greinke appeared worse for the wear this time, needing 86 pitches for five innings and surrendering a trio of D-backs home runs that accounted for all four of their runs.

Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Young hit solo shots to cut the deficits to 2-1 and 4-2 before Upton absolutely hammered a 3-1 fastball in the fifth for a two-out, two-run blast that tied the game at 4.

Greinke had not allowed three home runs in a game since August 2009.

"I guess the fastball must have been flat coming out," Greinke said. "It felt good, velocity was good, but they were hitting the fastball pretty good. Even decently located fastballs were hit hard sometimes."

He explained away his Miller Park magic as "a lucky season at home," but teammates say there is more to it than that. Even when Greinke has been off, he has mostly kept the team within striking distance.

"We've found ways to win games," Braun said. "You're not always going to dominate on the mound, and you're not always going to find a way to score nine runs. [The pitchers] have picked us up so many times this year; it was nice to pick up them."

Braun plans to give Greinke more help in the coming days. The Brewers have been giving a national audience its first look at "Beast Mode," which fans in Milwaukee know as the team's arms-in-the-air celebration for a big hit or defensive play.

Greinke had his first opportunity to show his beast form after a fourth-inning single, though it was viewed in the dugout as somewhat half-hearted. Braun joked that Greinke must work on it.

"I don't think there's much that Zack does that's smooth or cool," said Braun with a smile. "So we give him a pass for being awkward, because he lives his life awkwardly. We'll have to watch the replay and work with him or something." Comments