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10/05/08 12:34 AM ET

In must-win game, Bush sets tone early

Brewers righty strikes out pair in first, earns Game 3 victory

MILWAUKEE -- Momentum was established right from the start for Dave Bush, and the 29-year-old Brewers right-hander rode it the rest of Saturday night.

Bush struck out Jimmy Rollins to open the game, immediately energizing the rowdy sellout of 43,992 at Miller Park. The place erupted again when the Phillies' second batter, Jayson Werth, also went down on strikes.

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After Chase Utley tapped back to the mound, Bush had set a tone to which his teammates responded. The Brewers scored twice in the first inning off veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer, and they went on to a 4-1 victory in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.

Bush's showing played a pivotal role in the Brewers getting back into the series, trimming the Phillies lead to 2-1 in the best-of-five NLDS.

Over 5 1/3 innings, Bush scattered five hits while not issuing a walk.

"I didn't really go out there with the idea of trying to set the tone or anything," Bush said after his victory put the Brewers in position to tie the series at 2 on Sunday. "I was trying to get outs like I usually do, and not try to do too much. But getting two strikeouts kind of amped everything up [in the first inning]."

In the regular season, Bush posted a 9-10 record with a 4.18 ERA. But those numbers don't tell the story of how the right-hander has responded in the second half.

Over his last 18 starts, Bush was 7-3 with a 3.23 ERA.

There isn't much flash or flair to watch Bush does. He doesn't overpower hitters, but he throws strikes, and he kept a powerful Phillies lineup to one run.

"Dave Bush has incredible heart, incredible courage," Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "I say 'courage' because I can't say what I really want to. Call it, 'intestinal fortitude.' He just wills a way to get it done and when you go to war, that's the dude you want as your wing man right there."

Bush certainly faced a tall task Saturday night. With his team facing possible elimination, he stymied the Phillies, who had chances off him. In four of the six innings he opened, Philadelphia had base runners. It collected extra-base hits in two of those innings, but Bush executed pitches when he had to.

"I know everybody here has waited a long, long time to be in that situation. So it's something I'll definitely remember for a long time. Being out there and being able to start with two strikeouts and just hearing the crowd, that was a great experience."
-- Dave Bush

"He pitches to contact," Maddux said. "He comes right at you. Bushy is one of those guys who pitches like he throws 100 mph. He has a power pitcher's mentality because of his gamesmanship. He's a light heavyweight who would fight a heavyweight fight."

Raised near Philadelphia, Bush grew up a Phillies fan. On Saturday night, he had his wife, parents and some friends on hand watching him defeat the team he admired as a youngster.

In the postseason, there is no time to be sentimental.

"When we take the field, we take it as players," Bush said. "You sit in the stands, you're a fan. When I'm out on the field, I'm a player.

"To me, it doesn't matter who we're facing. It's my first experience in the playoffs, so I would have taken it against just about anybody. It was a big thrill. The crowd was outstanding. Being out there was a great experience for me."

Bush drew the assignment of keeping his cool against the 45-year-old Moyer, who made his sixth career playoff start.

The savvy of Moyer is something that Bush admires.

"There is a lot to learn from watching a guy like that," Bush said. "Early, Moyer threw a lot of pitches [34 in the first inning], but he still never really gave in. He pitched out of trouble and kept them in the game.

"[You learn] a little bit of everything watching him. Obviously, his composure is good. But his approach of never giving in. He was continuing to throw the same pitches when he was starting to get some calls for him."

Working in Bush's favor is the fact he is 23-14 with a 3.75 ERA in 50 games at Miller Park. The ballpark brings out the best in him, and Saturday's enthusiasm was contagious for the Brewers.

Milwaukee had not played host to a playoff game since 1982, and Bush gave the city something cheer about.

"I know everybody here has waited a long, long time to be in that situation," Bush said. "So it's something I'll definitely remember for a long time. Being out there and being able to start with two strikeouts and just hearing the crowd, that was a great experience.

"But I also just had to step back, take a couple of deep breaths and keep my mind focused on what I was trying to do, and trying not to get caught up in the situation."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.