Cards, Crew turn Miller into launching pad
Both clubs' six homers one shy of tying record for LCS game
MILWAUKEE -- Following David Freese's three-run homer in the first and Rafael Furcal's second-inning solo shot, it looked as if the Cardinals were going to trot easily into the World Series. But Rickie Weeks figured the Brewers would have their turns."That's what our team does," Weeks said. Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday -- a 12-6 Cardinals victory that sent St. Louis to the Fall Classic -- was an impromptu home run derby in the early innings. The teams combined for six of them -- one shy of the record for an LCS contest. Freese's homer off Brewers starter Shaun Marcum made it 4-0, but Milwaukee's Corey Hart led off the bottom of the first with a blast off Cards starter Edwin Jackson. After Furcal's homer made it 5-1, the Crew answered with two more roundtrippers in the second inning -- Weeks' solo shot and Jonathan Lucroy's two-run job off Jackson -- to cut the difference to one run at 5-4. Leave it to Cardinals super slugger Albert Pujols to put an end to all the craziness. Pujols' swat into the second deck off Brewers reliever Chris Narveson started a three-run Cards inning. Oddly, it ended the long-ball parade. Because the fireworks stopped, three LCS games remain in the record books with seven homers -- Phillies-Dodgers in Game 5 (2009); Cardinals-Mets in Game 4 ('06); and Cubs-Marlins in Game 1 ('03). However, the six combined home runs between the Cards and Brewers were the most hit in the first three innings of a postseason game. Until the power show stopped, it seemed the closed roof at Miller Park was all that was keeping a ball from eventually sailing to the convenient expressways on which raucous fans travel to watch the Brew Crew. The beneficiaries were the fans. The victims were the pitchers, who quickly joined the viewing audience. Marcum lasted one inning, Jackson two. Not even cerebral Cardinals manager Tony La Russa could offer a clear explanation of why neither team could keep the ball in the park. Yes, the series was more a contest of bullpens than starters, but Sunday was ridiculous. "It's so unusual, because you don't get here without good starting pitchers," La Russa said in his in-game interview during the TBS national telecast. "It's just a freak thing. It's really not fun. To do this to the starting pitching, on either side. They've gotten you here, both of our clubs, so to struggle like this ... it's tough to watch, but that's the way the game's being played." However, the teams could have seen this coming. Miller Park tends to favor power hitters. It yielded the fourth-most homers of any NL venue behind Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Coors Field in Denver and Chase Field in Phoenix. It finished eighth in baseball in the long ball. Also, the teams are capable of big numbers. On Sept. 1 at Miller Park in an 8-4 Cards victory, the teams combined for seven homers -- two by Pujols and one apiece by the Cards' Matt Holliday and Furcal and the Brewers' Prince Fielder, Lucroy and Hart. Sunday's 18 runs were the most in a game between the teams this season, but they combined for 15 on consecutive days -- in an 8-7, 10-inning Cards victory on Aug. 2 and a 10-5 Brewers victory on Aug. 4. "I don't know if people thought the ball was going to be flying the way it was," Lucroy said. "There are so many different variables in our park. It can be one way or the other. The energy and the way it was early, everything happened so fast."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.