MILWAUKEE — Two pitches. Two swings.
That’s how quickly Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder can change momentum.
Braun and Fielder have formed one of the top game-changing duos in the major leagues for the Milwaukee Brewers for some time now, but this was lightning-fast, even for them.
“You might stop one of them, but you’re not going to stop both of them,” teammate Corey Hart said. “They can turn around a game in a hurry.”
Braun and Fielder needed just one pitch apiece to turn a 5-2 deficit into a 6-5 lead in the fifth inning Sunday and the Brewers went on to a 9-6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League championship series at Miller Park.
The Brewers boosted their record to 17-0 at home this year in games started by right-hander Zack Greinke, but with eight hits and six runs allowed in six innings, he was far short of his “A” game.
The Brewers bailed out their starting pitcher by scoring six runs in the fifth inning to go up, 8-5. Braun and Fielder did their damage so quickly, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa couldn’t get starter Jaime Garcia out of the game until it was too late.
Hart started the outburst with a single and Jerry Hairston Jr. continued his postseason binge with a double into the left-field corner. Garcia then hung a first-pitch slider to Braun, who drove it over the wall on a bounce for a two-run double.
The crowd of 43,613 was still in full roar when Fielder stepped to the plate and also punished a first-pitch slider from Garcia, lining it out to right for a two-run homer that sent decibel levels soaring even higher.
“I don’t even know if I heard the ball come off Prince’s bat, but I knew it was a good swing and came off nice,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
ESPNstatsinfo.com reported the baseball traveled at 119.2 mph, the fastest exit of any home run in the majors this season.
“That was one of the hardest-hit balls I’ve ever seen,” said Braun, whose two-run homer in the first went 463 feet.
That was all for Garcia, who frittered away the advantage the Cardinals had built primarily on David Freese’s three-run, opposite-field home run in the fourth. Octavio Dotel took over and committed a two-base throwing error after retrieving Rickie Weeks’ comebacker, then shot-putting it beyond first baseman Albert Pujols.
That brought to the plate Yuniesky Betancourt. After falling behind in the count, 1-2, he fouled off four consecutive pitches, staying alive until Dotel hung a slider that Betancourt whacked out to left for a two-run homer that allowed the Brewers to put six runs on the board without making an out.
Brewers 9, Cardinals 6
|Hairston Jr. 3b||4||2||2||0||1||1||.500|
E—Dotel (1). LOB—St. Louis 5, Milwaukee 8. 2B—Furcal (1), Hairston Jr. (1), Braun (1), R.Weeks (1), Y.Betancourt (1), Lucroy (1). HR—Freese (1), Braun (1), Fielder (1), Y.Betancourt (1). RBIs—Berkman (1), Holliday (1), Freese 3 (3), Braun 4 (4), Fielder 2 (2), Y.Betancourt 2 (2), Lucroy (1). S—C.Gomez. RLISP—St. Louis 2, Milwaukee 5. RMU—Jay, Braun, Fielder. GIDP—Pujols, R.Weeks. DP—St. Louis 1, Milwaukee 1.
IR-S—Rzepczynski 1-0, Saito 1-1. IBB—Fielder. HBP—Fielder. T—3:35. A—43,613 (41,900).