When the Milwaukee Brewers traded for Zack Greinke over the offseason, they hoped to add an ace for the regular season and the playoffs. The thinking was that, with Greinke and Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers could be a frightening team to face come October, were the team to advance.
Well, the Brewers advanced, and Greinke, so far, has underachieved. In two playoff starts, Greinke has allowed ten runs in 11 innings. That's not pitching up to normal Greinke standards. That's not even pitching up to normal Tomko standards.
And yet it hasn't mattered. The Brewers won Greinke's first playoff start because their lineup scored nine runs. And the Brewers won Greinke's second playoff start because their lineup scored nine runs. The second of these games took place on Sunday, with the Brewers knocking off the St. Louis Cardinals 9-6 to take a 1-0 lead in the NLCS.
Greinke got himself in trouble in the top of the first inning. He didn't look terrible, but he allowed a walk and two soft hits as the Cardinals went ahead 1-0. The run scored when Matt Holliday fisted a ground-ball single through the hole on the right side.
But the Cardinals didn't have that lead for long. Jaime García came out in the bottom half and, following an out, put together this four-batter sequence:
The big event, of course, was the homer, a two-run shot on a low fastball that Ryan Braun absolutely obliterated. The ball sailed out to left-center, and the Brewers went up 2-1.
It remained 2-1 into the top of the fourth, as each pitcher settled down. That's when Greinke un-settled down. A single and a walk put two on with one out, and David Freese cleared the bases when he blasted a hanging first-pitch curve out of the park the other way. The ball looked like a routine fly off the bat, but it continued to carry until it didn't have to carry any longer. With that swing, the Cardinals went up 4-2.
And they added another run in the top of the fifth, when Lance Berkman lined a two-out single to score Rafael Furcal from second. At that point, Greinke was looking entirely hittable, and the Miller Park atmosphere was subdued, relative to the usual Miller Park atmosphere.
Thankfully for them, and unthankfully for the Cardinals, it wasn't subdued much longer. In the bottom of the fifth, the Brewers exploded and turned this game on its head.
Jaime García wouldn't survive the frame. Jaime Garcia wouldn't record an out. He allowed a leadoff single, then a double down the left field line to put a pair of runners in scoring position. Ryan Braun lifted a double the other way to score the runners and narrow the deficit to one, and on the very next pitch, with the crowd alive, García threw Prince Fielder a first-pitch fastball down the heart of the plate that Fielder turned around.
It was, according to a preliminary measurement, the hardest-hit home run of the entire season, and it put the Brewers in front 6-5. It also spelled the end for Jaime García, after 4-plus innings. He walked three, and struck out three.
In came Octavio Dotel, and Dotel didn't make things a whole lot better. He immediately committed a two-base throwing error on a tapper back to the mound, and then he got locked in an eight-pitch battle with Yuniesky Betancourt that concluded with a home run to left-center. Betancourt flied a high hanging breaking ball that just kept going and going, much like Freese's homer the inning before.
That dinger made it 8-5 Milwaukee, and that's more or less where things remained. The Cardinals threatened in the seventh, putting men on the corners with nobody out for Albert Pujols, but Pujols grounded into a run-scoring double play that killed the rally dead. Then the Brewers got that run right back minutes later when Jonathan Lucroy singled home Betancourt from third.
Francisco Rodriguez handled the eighth with little problem, and then John Axford slammed the door in the ninth to seal the deal. That's how the Brewers won their first League Championship game since 1982.