Brewers squeeze out 2-0 lead
Bold call, 5-run sixth place Arizona in hole
MILWAUKEE - The biggest momentum swing for the Brewers involved no swing at all.
Jonathan Lucroy - “Mr. Squeeze’’ to his teammates - drove in the go-ahead run with a bunt and the Brewers broke away from the Diamondbacks yesterday, 9-4, to take a 2-0 lead in their National League Division Series.
“It’s a free RBI if you execute and I really work hard to get that down,’’ Lucroy said. “A safety squeeze, all you’ve got to do is get it down to the right area.’’
Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer and Prince Fielder added an RBI single for Milwaukee. But the brawny Brewers also excel at the little things, especially Lucroy.
“The little things matter,’’ said Jerry Hairston Jr., who scored on Lucroy’s bunt. “When you have guys like Braunie and Prince with the big power, the little things add up.’’
The Brewers hold a 2-0 lead in a postseason series for the first time in franchise history. Game 3 is tomorrow at Arizona, and Milwaukee will go for a sweep when Shaun Marcum takes on rookie Josh Collmenter.
Lucroy’s safety squeeze keyed a five-run sixth inning, and came right after Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler became angry about a balk call. That’s when rookie Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke put on the play - he’d already seen Lucroy successfully bunt a few times this season.
With the score tied at 4 and runners at the corners with one out, Hairston took a couple of half-steps and sprinted home as Lucroy bunted toward first base. Ziegler’s awkward flip went wide of catcher Miguel Montero and the Diamondbacks imploded from there.
“It was crazy,’’ Montero said. “I didn’t even get a chance to second-guess myself. It was like, ‘OK, here we go - boom, boom, boom, boom.’ I’m like, ‘What’s going on over here?’ ’’
Brewers starter Zack Greinke struggled in his first postseason appearance, giving up three home runs and leaving without a decision. He was 11-0 at Miller Park, helping the Brewers win a majors-best 57 games at home.
The Diamondbacks seemed poised for a come-from-behind victory - they notched 48 this season - when Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Young, and Justin Upton all homered off Greinke to tie the game.
Instead, Arizona went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and Milwaukee kept its cool until the sixth, when seven consecutive batters reached with one out.
Hairston, making his second straight start in place of Casey McGehee at third, doubled to chase Diamondbacks starter Daniel Hudson.
Ziegler entered and was called for a balk when he spun and found no one behind Hairston for a pickoff attempt. Ziegler pointed down at his foot, upset at second-base umpire Bruce Dreckman’s call, and walked the free-swinging Yuniesky Betancourt on four pitches.
Ziegler said he was “somewhat curious’’ about what happened because he believed his footwork was proper.
“I honestly don’t know what he called. I didn’t ask him about it,’’ said Ziegler, who didn’t want to be ejected for arguing. “I didn’t feel like I balked. I felt my [front] foot came down on top of the rubber, so I felt I was clear of my back foot at that point. It didn’t matter after that.’’
Roenicke called for the squeeze, and Lucroy executed it just like he had on the final play of a 3-2 win against the Giants May 28.
Both Lucroy and Betancourt advanced on Ziegler’s wild throw, and Mark Kotsay was intentionally walked to load the bases. The momentum had swung by that point.
Corey Hart singled in a run, pumping his right fist down the line, and Nyjer Morgan brought in two more with a single that had him raising his arms in celebration before the play was even over. Braun’s RBI single chased Ziegler and gave Milwaukee a 9-4 lead.
“They had the momentum after the home run,’’ Hart said. “Jerry was pretty aggressive and ‘Mr. Squeeze’ always comes through, he always gets the bunt down and then you just try to take advantage. We found three holes right there and never looked back.’’
Greinke made his second consecutive start on three days’ rest and Braun gave him a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a 438-foot homer, his first in the postseason. The Brewers took a 4-1 lead on Fielder’s run-scoring single and Rickie Weeks’s RBI triple in the third.
But Arizona chipped away.
Goldschmidt, the rookie who’d played most of the season at Double A Mobile and was starting in place of Lyle Overbay, homered in the second and Young added a solo shot in the fourth.
Upton tied it in the fifth when he hit a towering drive to the left-field bleachers that had Upton’s mom, Yvonne, smiling amid the crowd of 44,066.
Milwaukee’s bullpen of Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins, Francisco Rodriguez, and John Axford held tight again after posting a 1.14 ERA over 71 innings in September.
With Greinke gone in the sixth, Saito worked around a man on third by striking out Gerardo Parra to keep it tied. Hawkins walked consecutive batters before getting out of the seventh. Rodriguez, the former Mets closer, walked Goldschmidt and allowed a broken-bat hit to Young to start the eighth, but neither came in to score.
Axford walked Aaron Hill and Montero, but struck out Goldschmidt to end it.
“We’ve been down before,’’ Upton said. “It’s a special team we’ve got here. If anybody can come back and try and do this thing, it’s us.’’