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10/17/11 2:06 AM ET
Sloppy fifth for Crew puts game out of reach
Hart, Hairston combine for three errors to set NLCS record
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers third baseman Jerry Hairston rushed to the ground ball from the Cardinals' Yadier Molina and clumsily bobbled it. He compounded the miscue with a well-meaning but errant attempt to try to work it to second baseman Rickie Weeks with a backhanded swat of his glove.
Hairston's actions accounted for two of the three errors the Brewers committed in the pivotal fifth inning of their season-ending 12-6 loss to the Cardinals in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night.
The play illustrated much of what went wrong for the Brewers, who committed 10 errors in six games -- seven while absorbing the final two losses. The errors tied the 1999 Red Sox for the most in LCS history. But to hear Hairston tell it, the errors also said a lot about what was right with his approach, and the same can be said for a Brewers team that won the NL Central.
"I will never get on myself for being aggressive," said Hairston, who had one of Milwaukee's four errors in the 7-1 Game 5 loss at Busch Stadium. "It was a chopper. I came to get it. It just ticked off my glove. That's the way I play. I never want to make errors on my heels. I played that ball right, but it skipped off my glove.
"No knock on our pitching. No knock on our defense. They flat-out beat us."
Sunday night, as for much of the series, the Cardinals constantly pressed the Brewers until their less-than-consistent fielding -- a weakness throughout the season -- bubbled to the surface. On Sunday, Milwaukee pushed back into the game with offense -- something it did all year while winning 57 times at Miller Park -- and nearly overcame an early lead.
However, Sunday's fifth inning turned out to be a real bad time for the fielding to haunt the Brewers once more.
Sunday's game was a wild affair in which the teams combined for six home runs in the first three innings. Milwaukee entered the fifth trailing 9-5 -- not insurmountable for a team that led the Majors in home wins during the regular season.
But Matt Holliday singled to open the fifth. David Freese followed with a solid single to right on which Holliday should have merely advanced to second. But Brewers right fielder Corey Hart didn't field the ball cleanly, and Holliday took third.
Molina followed with his grounder, and Hairston committed the double miscue. Instead of a makeable double play against a team that led baseball in hitting into them, Milwaukee essentially was out of the game. Holliday, who should not have been at third to begin with, scored, and Freese would score on Adron Chambers' pinch-hit sacrifice fly.
The Brewers committed 12 errors in 11 postseason games to become the first team to have 12 or more in 11 or fewer games since the 1999 Red Sox. The last National League team to do so was the '74 Dodgers, who had 12 in nine games.
For all the club's faults defensively, Milwaukee never stopped being aggressive. Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who committed a key error in Game 5, made a couple of crowd-pleasing plays on Sunday. It just seemed that throughout the series, the Brewers found ways for their lowlights to cancel out their highlights.
"Every time I go out there, I'm trying 100 percent to do my job," Betancourt said in Spanish that was translated. "I did that today. I did best I could today, and made some plays to help our team, but we didn't win. That's a tremendous team over there. They played better than us and won."
Betancourt touched on a common postgame theme. The Brewers preferred to compliment the Cardinals, rather than punch themselves over their mistakes.
"Every time we made a mistake, they capitalized," Hart said. "They were the better team. It [stinks] because we're not big fans of them, but they played well."
Milwaukee entered the playoffs as the NL Central champs, but because St. Louis came from a 10 1/2-game hole to win the NL Wild Card, the Cardinals entered the playoffs as the more dangerous team.
The Brewers didn't catch the ball with championship consistency. But in Hairston's eyes, the bigger problem was they caught Cardinal magic in full force.
"It really didn't matter, to be honest with you," he said. "It just seemed like we were always behind. Credit to their hitting.
"It had nothing to do with our pitching, our defense or anything. They came out swinging."