MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 02: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after hitting two-run home run in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game Two of the National League Division Series at Miller Park on October 2, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Big Inning Propels Brewers To 2-0 Series Lead Over D-Backs

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Brewers vs. Diamondbacks, Game 2: Highlights And Notes From The Live-Blog

The Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks took the field on Sunday for Game 2 of their NLDS matchup. The Brewers took a 1-0 series lead on Saturday and had a chance to seize control with a win on Sunday before heading to Arizona. And they took advantage, using a big inning to turn a close game into a 9-4 blowout win.

Below are some of the highlights, taken from the Baseball Nation live-blog of Game 2.

Pitching on short rest, Zach Greinke started strong, giving up a single before retiring the side. But the inning wasn't without controversy, as Grant Brisbee explained.

In the first inning of Game Two, Aaron Hill hit a rocket down the left-field line off Zack Greinke. It bounced off the top of the wall and caromed right to Ryan Braun, who fired the ball back into the infield. Left-field umpire James Hoye called it a foul ball, and Hill had to settle for a single later in the at-bat.

Replays showed that the ball was clearly fair. It wasn't off the foul line -- it actually hit off the wall a few inches before the foul line started. It wasn't even close.

In the bottom of the inning, Milwaukee broke the scoreless tie, taking a 2-0 lead on a Ryan Braun home run. Because these are always fun, here's the location of the hanging changeup Braun took deep to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead.

Braunhudson_medium_jpg_medium

Arizona got a run back in the top of the second when Paul Goldschmidt answered Braun's dinger with one of his own to cut the Brewers' lead to 2-1. But the Brewers 2-1 lead quickly turned into a 4-1 lead, and the Diamondbacks were suddenly on the ropes -- not just in the game, but the series as well.

The Diamondbacks are down against Zack Greinke, and they're already down 1-0 in the series. It's not exactly panic time yet, but it's probably time for them to shake their right leg nervously and fidget a lot.

But the Diamondbacks had an answer in the form of another home run, this time from Chris Young. It was as if a lightbulb went off and we all figured out why both teams were in the playoffs.

Miller Park is a little homer-happy, but mostly for left-handed hitters. It plays fair for righties, for the most part, so it's not as if Sunday's homer barrage is because the park is a launching pad. The Brewers and Diamondbacks just have a lot of players who can hit home runs. That might be why those two teams made the playoffs. Just a guess.

Justin Upton joined in on the party a short time later, showing off his strength to tie the game.

And against Zack Greinke, he just brutalized a ball, driving it into the upper deck in left. And just like that, the Diamondbacks have life again. Upton's homer drove in Aaron Hill to tie the game at 4-4.

But all that work to come back went for naught as the Brewers blew open the game in the sixth. A safety squeeze gave the Brewers the lead, and then they added another four runs for good measure. Know who wasn't happy? This guy.

Ziggy_medium_jpg_medium

He looks happy, but I assure you he wasn't.

With a five-run lead, Milwaukee coasted to the finish line, taking care of the Diamondbacks to take complete control of the series. The final score in Milwaukee: Brewers 9, Diamondbacks 4.

For more on this game, visit the rest of the live-blog and check out Grant Brisbee's recap.

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Diamondbacks Waste Another Opportunity In Eighth

Yes, it was backbreaking when the Brewers posted a five-spot in the bottom of the sixth to go ahead 9-4. That half-inning really blew the game open, and the Diamondbacks' odds approached zero. But it's not like the Diamondbacks haven't given themselves a chance to get back into this. They've had chances, and they've given them away.

They put two on with one out in the seventh, and didn't score because of...well, because of consecutive line drives they hit right at defenders. So that was just bad luck.

But in the eighth, they put two on with nobody out, and didn't cash in, because of two strikeouts and a grounder. Granted, Francisco Rodriguez is a fine reliever against whom it's tough to hit, but the big difference here is that the Brewers are 4-for-7 with runners in scoring position, while the D-Backs are 0-for-9. Arizona's had chances, but they haven't executed well enough, which is why they're down five and staring at an 0-2 series hole.

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Brewers Bullpen Holding On To Lead, Milwaukee Still On Top, 9-4

LaTroy Hawkins had a pretty good season in 2011.


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - LaTroy Hawkins 3-1 52 0 0 0 0 0 48.1 50 15 13 1 10 28 2.42 1.24

This is noteworthy because LaTroy Hawkins is 59 years old and smells like epsom salt. In the top of the seventh inning, Hawkins struck out Sean Burroughs -- oh, hello there, sentence from 2003 -- before walking two straight hitters. With a five-run lead, that's completely unacceptable. Then Justin Upton lined a shot to right field that was hit directly at Corey Hart, and then Miguel Montero hit a laser beam right to Prince Fielder

Being effective is overrated. Being lucky doesn't get nearly enough credit. And being unlucky, which the Diamondbacks certainly were in that half-inning, isn't helping their desperate attempts to avoid an 0-2 deficit in the NLDS.

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Brewers Take Lead On Safety Squeeze, Bludgeon D-Backs' Bullpen

After Jerry Hairston, Jr. roped a double to left field to lead off the sixth inning, Kirk Gibson yanked starting pitcher Daniel Hudson from the game. Hudson had thrown only 93 pitches, but he wasn't missing a lot of bats. In came right-handed specialist Brad Ziegler.

Ziggy didn't have the best of days.

 

Ziggy_medium


The look on his face says, "Wait, is a 108.00 ERA bad? Guys, c'mon, is it?  Ha ha. Come on, guys. You guys gotta let me know."

After Ziegler came in, he balked Hairston to third. Then he walked Yuniesky Betancourt on four pitches -- a feat that's as rare as it is unlikely, like allowing a home run to Mariano Rivera. Then Jonathan Lucroy put down a safety squeeze, with Ziegler throwing the ball away.  Gibson ordered an intentional walk to load the bases with one out -- always a good gag -- and Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, and Ryan Braun all hit consecutive RBI singles.  

Ziegler entered a 4-4 game. He left a 9-4 game. Woof. But other than the balk and hits and walks, he didn't pitch that poorly.

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Justin Upton Is Strong

In the last week of the season, Justin Upton hit a broken-bat home run. It wasn't a, "Gee, maybe there's a crack somewhere" kind of broken bat. The barrel of the bat went flying off towards the third-base dugout, scattering horrified onlookers, as the ball sailed over the left-field fence. Dude's strong.

And against Zack Greinke, he just brutalized a ball, driving it into the upper deck in left. And just like that, the Diamondbacks have life again. Upton's homer drove in Aaron Hill to tie the game at 4-4.

Greinke averaged an even one homer for every nine innings he's pitched this season, and he's already given up three today. He's also limited the number of Diamondbacks runners, so the damage wasn't as severe as it could have been. Between the two ballparks and the teams playing in this series, this probably isn't the last game of the series with dingers a-poppin'. 

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Diamondbacks vs. Brewers: Chris Young Goes Deep, Arizona Cuts Deficit

The ball is jumping in Milwaukee today. Either that, or the Brewers and Diamondbacks have a bunch of strong hitters. Could be a combination of both. It's probably a combination of both, actually.

But several times on Sunday, a hitter took a ball to center field, and it sailed over the center fielder's head. Ryan Braun and Paul Goldschmidt hit homers to center field in the first two innings, and Rickie Weeks just missed one on his third-inning triple. Chris Young hit a home run almost in the exact same spot as Weeks' triple, but with about a foot more elevation. The homer cut the Brewers' lead to 4-2.

Miller Park is a little homer-happy, but mostly for left-handed hitters. It plays fair for righties, for the most part, so it's not as if Sunday's homer barrage is because the park is a launching pad. The Brewers and Diamondbacks just have a lot of players who can hit home runs. That might be why those two teams made the playoffs. Just a guess.

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Brewers Tack On Two More Runs, Lead 4-1

It's pretty natural to look at the bottom of a lineup and let it color your opinion of the entire lineup. The Brewers have gone with a Hairston/Betancourt/Lucroy bottom of the order for the first two games of the NLDS, and no matter how many times you see it, it makes you rethink the idea of the Brewers as a team filled with sluggers. It's not the most balanced lineup in the game.

By focusing on what's wrong with the lineup, though, it's easy to forget what's right. Namely, a bunch of really, really, really good hitters. Ryan Braun hit a double with two outs in the bottom of the third, and Prince Fielder singled him home. Rickie Weeks then drove a triple over the head of Chris Young, scoring Fielder and giving the Brewers a 4-1 lead.

Braun, Fielder, and Weeks. Who'd've thunk?

The Diamondbacks are down against Zack Greinke, and they're already down 1-0 in the series. It's not exactly panic time yet, but it's probably time for them to shake their right leg nervously and fidget a lot.

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Ryan Braun, Paul Goldschmidt Go Deep, Brewers Lead 2-1

If there is such a thing as momentum, it probably looks like this: a playoff team at home, after winning the first game of the series, jumps out to an early lead when their MVP candidate does MVP things. Ryan Braun crushed a 2-1 changeup from Daniel Hudson in the first inning for a two-run homer to dead center.

 

Braunhudson_medium

Wait, that's not where you're supposed to throw a changeup? Boy, I'll bet his face is red! Hudson has struggled in the first inning for most of the season:

 

Split IP ER ERA AB HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1st inning 33.0 22 6.00 135 5 15 28 .319 .386 .526 .912
2nd inning 33.0 14 3.82 129 3 3 25 .256 .276 .442 .718
3rd inning 33.0 8 2.18 127 1 11 26 .228 .288 .307 .595
4th inning 32.0 16 4.50 130 2 3 23 .308 .326 .438 .764
5th inning 31.0 4 1.16 107 1 6 27 .168 .212 .243 .455
6th inning 28.1 9 2.86 107 1 6 19 .224 .270 .327 .597
7th inning 20.0 11 4.95 75 2 4 11 .293 .354 .453 .807
8th inning 8.0 0 0.00 28 0 2 6 .179 .233 .214 .448
9th inning 3.2 2 4.91 13 2 0 4 .231 .286 .769 1.055
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/2/2011.


The Brewers were up 2-0 with Zack Greinke pitching for them, but Paul Goldschmidt hit a moon shot to right-center field to put the score at 2-1. That kid is freaky-strong.

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Greinke Sails Through First With Help From Blown Call

In the first inning of Game Two, Aaron Hill hit a rocket down the left-field line off Zack Greinke. It bounced off the top of the wall and caromed right to Ryan Braun, who fired the ball back into the infield. Left-field umpire James Hoye called it a foul ball, and Hill had to settle for a single later in the at-bat.

Replays showed that the ball was clearly fair. It wasn't off the foul line -- it actually hit off the wall a few inches before the foul line started. It wasn't even close.

That's bad enough, but, hey, blown calls happen, right? Read who called it foul, though: the left-field umpire. There are two extra umps for the postseason, and their entire raison d'être is to help out with fair and foul calls. Hoye was closer to the ball than a third-base ump normally would be in a regular-season game, he crouched down with his hands on his knees, stared down the line ... and completely blew a call that was right in front of him.

There is an explanation, though, and it isn't nearsightedness or peyote. There were some nasty shadows down the left-field line. It was pretty telling that third-base coach Matt Williams didn't argue at all. The ball almost certainly disappeared from the view of anyone looking down the line into the shadows.

It didn't matter after all, as Greinke got Justin Upton to pop up, and he struck out Miguel Montero with a curveball that bounced a few feet in front of the mound. Still, it's always disconcerting to watch a left-field umpire blow a call like that.

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Zack Greinke Going On Short Rest

The Brewers are starting Zack Greinke on short rest on Sunday for the second straight game. He had only started on three days' rest once before in his career, and that was a three-inning start that came four days after a one-inning relief appearance in 2007. It's not like the Royals were pushing him hard so they could make the playoffs.

But in Greinke's last game, he threw only 74 pitches, and because of a spring basketball injury, his innings-pitched total is the lowest it has been since 2007, when he was a reliever for most of the season. This isn't exactly the same as the Brewers grinding on CC Sabathia in 2008.

Brew Crew Ball thinks it's a good move to start Greinke:

Simply put, there's no reason to believe that Ron Roenicke or anyone else in the organization is forcing Greinke onto the mound to avoid the alternatives. They're doing everything they can to put their best possible team on the field at home this weekend, and I think that's commendable.

It's also worth noting that Greinke was undefeated at home this year, and put up a 4.70 ERA on the road. That might be small-sample shenanigans, but it certainly could have influenced manager Ron Roenicke.

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Kirk Gibson Regrets Pitching To Prince Fielder, Says He Made "A Poor Decision"

During the first game of the NLDS on Saturday, the Brewers blew open a pitchers' duel on Prince Fielder's two-run homer with first base open and two outs. It was a surprising decision for manager Kirk Gibson to a) leave Ian Kennedy in and b) pitch to Fielder at all, and when it didn't work out, you knew the criticism wouldn't be far behind.

No one would have blinked if Gibson stood by his decision, proclaiming faith in his 20-game winner, Ian Kennedy. Instead, Gibson expressed regret over his decision:

"We had different options," Gibson said. "We could have brought (left-hander) Joe Patterson in, who has actually handled Fielder well. We could have walked him and let Ian face (Rickie) Weeks...

"I just felt bad; I made a poor decision," Gibson said. "Sometimes that's how the game goes. But there's another game tomorrow. We'll be optimistic; we'll be upbeat."

Probably the most disturbing quote came from Ian Kennedy:

"There were thoughts to do that (walk him), but I wasn't going to do that," Kennedy said. "If that was the case (we) might as well just bring Joe Pa (Paterson) in to face him lefty-lefty.

Really? Joe Pa? That's the nickname? Is he interested in country music or magic shows? Does he have a favorite food? What kind of car does he drive? Where's he from? These are all better ideas for a nickname than the first two syllables of a guy's name. Get it together, Eee-Ken. 

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Arizona Diamondbacks Make Changes In NLDS Game 2 Starting Lineup

Saturday afternoon, against Yovani Gallardo, the Diamondbacks finished with all of four hits - two by Willie Bloomquist. So either in response or by coincidence, Kirk Gibson has made some changes to his lineup on Sunday. See if you can spot them!

Willie Bloomquist, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Justin Upton, RF
Miguel Montero, C
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Chris Young, CF
Ryan Roberts, 3B
Gerardo Parra, LF
Daniel Hudson, SP

The first change, and the big change, is that Goldschmidt is in there for Lyle Overbay. It isn't a handedness thing - the lefty Overbay actually has the platoon advantage against Zack Greinke, while Goldschmidt bats righty - but rather a quality thing, as Goldschmidt was pretty good this season, and Overbay was not. One has to think that starting Goldschmidt gives the D-Backs a better chance of winning.

And the second change is that Goldschmidt will bat fifth and Young will bat sixth, where Young batted fifth and Overbay sixth on Saturday. This change is unimportant. Or it could end up being hugely important. Who's to say?

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Milwaukee Brewers Reveal NLDS Game 2 Starting Lineup

Half the time that I try to type "starting", my fingers end up typing "startling". Keep that in mind as you read the following. Yesterday, this was the lineup that Ron Roenicke sent up against the Diamondbacks:

Corey Hart, RF
Nyjer Morgan, CF
Ryan Braun, LF
Prince Fielder, 1B
Rickie Weeks, 2B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
Jonathan Lucroy, C
Yovani Gallardo, SP

Today, this is the starting lineup that Ron Roenicke will send up against the Diamondbacks:

Corey Hart, RF
Nyjer Morgan, CF
Ryan Braun, LF
Prince Fielder, 1B
Rickie Weeks, 2B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
Jonathan Lucroy, C
Zack Greinke, SP

Why, there's nothing startling in there at all! It's the exact same lineup! Pitcher excepted, of course.

Not that there was any good reason for Roenicke to change things up. As Tom Haudricourt notes, Hairston is starting even though Casey McGehee is 5-for-5 against Daniel Hudson in his career, but then I think we all know at this point that batter/pitcher matchup stats are devoid of meaning, so whatever. Hairston doesn't offer McGehee's power, but he offers almost everything else.

It's going to be a tough test for Hudson. Is that even worth saying? That's probably not worth saying.

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