Greinke to start Game 2 on three days’ rest
MILWAUKEE — Zack Greinke will pitch Game 2 for the Brewers in the National League Division Series, his second straight start on three days’ rest.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke made the decision Friday after Greinke threw a bullpen session at Miller Park. Right-hander Shaun Marcum will take the hill for Game 3.
“For one, Zack wanted to do it,” Roenicke said. “He didn’t throw a lot of pitches the other day. He threw a bullpen today and it was really good.”
Greinke pitched Wednesday’s final regular season game for the Crew, and he was forced to go deeper into the game with the club still needing a win to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the NL. He would otherwise have gone just one or two innings as a tuneup, but instead tossed 74 pitches over six innings in the Brewers’ 7-3 victory.
Immediately following Greinke’s last start, Roenicke did not seem likely to bring him back on short rest again, but Greinke didn’t have an issue with it, saying he “should be” ready.
The advantage of bringing Greinke back of short rest for the Brewers is to take advantage of his home success this season. Greinke went 11-0 at home, and the Brewers won all 15 of his starts at Miller Park.
“It’s all worked out better than I imagined so far,” Greinke said Wednesday of his first season in Milwaukee. “It’s been great. It’s been a good year.”
Roenicke said he had a preference to pitch Greinke at home, but it was not definite. Had Greinke gone 100 or more pitches Wednesday night, he would have been held until Game 3.
“[Greinke] knew he needed to win, but he was pitching [Wednesday] as if he was also going to [pitch] Sunday,” Roenicke said. “I think ideally, if we were going to set it up and had we known four or five days ago, we probably would have set it up the same way. But with where they lined up at the end, this made the most sense to us.”
Greinke went 5-6 on the road this season with a 4.70 ERA, compared with his 3.13 home ERA and overall mark of 3.83. In 76 2/3 innings on the road, Greinke allowed 40 earned runs on 76 hits, including nine home runs. At home, Greinke gave up just 33 earned runs over 95 innings.
Roenicke was quick to point out, though, that Greinke’s road stats were negatively impacted by his struggles when he returned from a broken rib.
“If you take out the first month, they’re not that much different,” Roenicke said of Greinke’s home/road splits. “He’s pitched really well on the road lately. So no, that’s a little skewed just because when he first came back with us, he wasn’t very good on the road.”
In six road starts before the All-Star break, Greinke went 2-3 with a 7.42 ERA. In the second half, Greinke posted a 2.91 ERA and a 3-3 record.
While the time off may have negatively affected Greinke’s first-half performance on the road, his reduced workload plays in his and the Brewers’ favor this weekend.
“If you look at Zack’s numbers, this is going to be the least amount of work Zack’s had in his career,” Roenicke said. “That factors into what I was talking to Rick about. He’s taxed less than anybody on our staff is. That helps also, me feeling better about him going on three days.”
Plans revealed for Game 1 at Miller Park
MILWAUKEE — The Brewers announced Friday they will bring back the same winning first pitch and national anthem combination for Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Saturday as they had for Game 3 in 2008.
Just as they did three years ago for the first playoff game in Milwaukee since 1982, Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and Joseph Attanasio, father of Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, will sing the national anthem.
The Brewers beat the Phillies, 4-1, in that game. Joseph Attanasio also has sung the national anthem before each of the club’s last seven home openers, with the Brewers going 5-2 in those games.
A number of other logistical aspects also were announced for Game 1, including rally towels that will be given to all fans in attendance, courtesy of U.S. Cellular.
The Miller Park parking lots will open at 10 a.m. CT, and the Brewers are recommending that fans plan to arrive early for the 1 p.m. game. Gates to Miller Park will be open at 11 a.m.
With a relatively good forecast expected Saturday afternoon, the Brewers also have been in contact with Major League Baseball about opening the roof.
Throughout the playoffs, the position of the roof will be determined by Major League Baseball after conferring with the Brewers on weather conditions. The final decision of the roof position will be made on the day of each game. Fans and media may call the Brewers roof hotline tomorrow morning for the latest update.
Both the Brewers Team Store by Majestic and Brewers Team Store at the Home Plate Gate will open at 10 a.m. on Saturday and remain open until 8 p.m. or an hour after the game ends. The Brewers also will have additional merchandise locations in the parking lots.
Available for $8 this weekend will be a limited number of Milwaukee Brewers 2011 NLDS Game programs. There are four different covers and each game program is individually numbered.
MILWAUKEE — When the Brewers clinched the National League Wild Card on the final day of the season in 2008, they had a short turnaround between the game, the clinch celebration and their first-round matchup with the Phillies.
In winning the NL Central this season, they had more than a full week between clinching the division title last Friday and Game 1 at Miller Park on Saturday. While the games in between still mattered for home-field advantage, the extra time has been enjoyable for the Crew.
“This is great, this is what I always envisioned,” said Brewers owner Mark Attanasio at the NLDS rally Thursday at the Summerfest grounds. “When it happened in ’08, it happened so fast that I almost couldn’t absorb it. We won on a Wednesday, and on a Thursday we did this, and the next thing we knew we’re in Philadelphia. Now we actually get to savor it for a few days, and that’s really cool.”
With a day in between the end of the regular season and their first NLDS workout day Friday, the Brewers held a rally to share the playoff excitement with the Milwaukee fans.
The Good Rebels (formerly Pan Am), a band featuring Attanasio’s son, Dan, on bass, opened the rally. Between songs, the band sang “Happy Birthday” to the Brewers’ owner, who turned 54 this week. They also led the crowd in chants of “Let’s go Brewers, let’s go.”
Following the opening act, the rally featured a number of appearances by Brewers players, coaches and announcers. Despite the cold, rainy, windy weather, a few thousand people showed up to show their support.
“We’re going to show Major League Baseball how Milwaukee can throw a party,” said TV analyst Bill Schroeder. “And we’re going to be right back here for the World Series.”
Along with the current players and coaches, a number of Brewers alumni were in attendance, including Hall of Famer and all-time fan favorite, Robin Yount.
Unable to join the Crew to celebrate last week when it clinched the division, Yount followed along from his Arizona home.
Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker shared a story about Yount setting off a fireworks show in his driveway with less-than-stellar results. Uecker joked that they had to work out of his right ear because he couldn’t hear out of the other one.
As he was introduced, fans chanted “M-V-P” for Yount.
“No, we’ve got a bunch of MVPs right back here,” Yount said, referring to the current Brewers players. “The reason for the fireworks show was I couldn’t be here on Friday night, and I sure as [heck] wasn’t going to let you guys celebrate alone without me.”
Nearly all those introduced during the rally drew loud cheers from the energized crowd, including Attanasio and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin.
As he introduced the GM, Uecker talked of the moves Melvin made, including acquiring starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason, Nyjer Morgan in Spring Training and setup man Francisco Rodriguez at the All-Star break.
“I get asked that question, ‘What was one of the better decisions that you made?'” Melvin told the crowd. “The best decision I made was coming here in 2003 to work for the Milwaukee Brewer fans.
“I know there’s a movie out called ‘Moneyball.’ Our version of ‘Moneyball’ is I ask Mark, ‘How much money do we have? Let’s go play baseball.'”
When the players finally came out to address the fans, Morgan was first. He walked out and drew huge cheers from the crowd as he gave the Brewers’ “beast mode” motion on stage.
Brewers players were then brought to center stage by position group, with the big names and fan favorites at each position giving interviews.
As first baseman and NL MVP Award candidate Prince Fielder talked, he was drowned out by chants of “One more year” from the crowd. Milwaukee’s other MVP candidate, Ryan Braun, was the last to talk, saying that he hoped Thursday was “the first of many celebrations.”
Veteran outfielder Mark Kotsay, who has postseason experience with Oakland in 2006 and Boston in ’08, but has never played in a World Series, made his expectations for the Brewers very clear.
“I’m glad I’m in Milwaukee, I’m glad I’m here. This could be my last year,” Kotsay said. “My expectations are to be standing up here in 3 1/2 weeks with a ring.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MILWAUKEE — For the first time in 30 years, the Brewers will open the playoffs at home.
With a 7-3 victory over the Pirates in their final regular-season game Wednesday, the Brewers wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the National League and home-field advantage for their NL Division Series matchup with the D-backs, beginning Saturday on TBS.
Playing in front of 41,976 fans at Miller Park, the Brewers set the new franchise attendance record at 3,071,373, while also setting a new club mark with their 96th win of the season.
“It’s special. We recognize that we’re a really tough team to beat here,” said left fielder Ryan Braun. “It’s a huge advantage for us to know that we have home-field advantage, at least for the first round.”
Needing a win to avoid opening the NLDS on the road, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke called upon Zack Greinke, who delivered a solid outing and remained unbeaten in 15 starts this season at Miller Park.
Greinke allowed two runs on five hits over six innings, with four strikeouts and one walk. Pitching on three days’ rest, Greinke tossed 74 pitches before turning it over to the bullpen. He kept his home ERA at 3.13 for the season, well below his overall mark of 3.83.
“He was executing, he had life, he had velocity,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “I couldn’t tell he was on short rest.”
The Brewers went 15-0 with Greinke on the mound at home this season. But with his start Wednesday, the right-hander is now lined up for Game 3 in the NLDS, which will be on the road. Roenicke said Greinke was likely ruled out of Game 2, but pitching coach Rick Kranitz and Greinke left the possibility out there.
“Yeah, I should be,” said Greinke when asked if he would be ready to go again on three days’ rest. “I’m sure [Roenicke] will make the decision that he thinks is best for the team. We’ll see what he decides.”
Greinke went 11-0 at home this season, making him the 14th pitcher since 1900 to win at least 10 games at home in a season without a loss. He is the first since Cliff Lee went 10-0 at home for the Indians in 2008. Greinke posted a 5-6 mark with a 4.70 ERA on the road.
With four strikeouts on the night, Greinke finished with 201 on the year, his second-career 200-strikeout season. Greinke joins Yovani Gallardo as the first teammates in Brewers history to post 200 or more strikeouts in the same season.
“It’s all worked out better than I imagined so far,” Greinke said of his first season in Milwaukee. “It’s been great. It’s been a good year.”
A pair of third-inning solo homers by Lucroy and Corey Hart put the Brewers in front, and a three-run blast by Carlos Gomez in the fourth gave Greinke some extra breathing room.
Lucroy’s home run was his first since Sept. 4, in Houston. The Brewers also added an insurance run in each of the fifth and sixth innings to put the game out of reach.
Takashi Saito, Francisco Rodriguez and closer John Axford combined for the final three innings, allowing just one unearned run on one hit with three strikeouts. Axford pitched in a non-save situation, leaving him at 46 saves and tied with Braves closer Craig Kimbrel for the NL lead.
Braun went 0-for-4 on the night, finishing the season with a .332 batting average and second behind Mets shortstop Jose Reyes (.337) for the NL batting title. Braun entered the game needing a 3-for-4 night or better to clinch the first batting title in club history.
Milwaukee’s other MVP candidate, first baseman Prince Fielder, was 1-for-3, leaving him a hit shy of his first career .300 season. Fielder finished with 38 home runs, second behind Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp (39) for the NL home run crown.
For both sluggers, the trip to the postseason more than made up for coming up short on their personal goals.
“It’s extremely difficult, extremely challenging to get to the postseason. By far, that’s been my top priority,” Braun said. “It’s made it really easy to not think about what’s going on, not focus on some of my personal things that I had going on. I’m definitely excited about the postseason.”
Said Fielder: “It’s just the way it was supposed to be. It’s bigger than me right now.”
While they did not play a big role in the final regular-season game, Braun and Fielder are two of the biggest reasons that the Brewers finished with the second-best record in the NL this season.
They likely will be crucial to Milwaukee’s postseason success as well.
“This is what it’s all about,” Roenicke said. “Once you get into October, it’s really fun to see who’s going to be that guy that steps up and likes that moment where it’s on him.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Fielder achieves feat for first time, deserves award consideration
By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com
“Great ballgame,” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. “That’s what Prince can do, he can carry a team.”
Fielder crushed three huge home runs for the Brewers in their 6-4 victory over the Pirates, all three of which either tied the game or put the Brewers ahead.
“It is great to have personal achievements, but whenever they help you win the game and help the team, it’s that much more special,” Fielder said.
With two out in the third, Fielder hit a 1-0 pitch into the second deck in right field, an estimated 453-foot blast that tied the game at 1. It was part of a back-to-back effort with Rickie Weeks, who crushed a 470-foot shot that struck the stadium club over the left-field bleachers.
In the fifth inning, Fielder connected for a two-run shot with two outs, giving the Brewers a 4-3 lead.
Fielder capped off his incredible night with another two-run blast in the seventh, providing the winning margin and giving him his first three-homer game of his career. He was the third Brewers player with a three-homer game this season, joining Corey Hart and Casey McGehee.
“It’s kind of surprising that it’s the first three-home run game of his career because it feels like he’s done this so many times,” Braun said. “He’s had so many big hits in big situations for us. He’s just been such a great player, so it’s not surprising to see him have a big game in a crucial situation for us.”
With his big performance, Fielder upped his batting average to .299 on the season, matched Kemp for the NL lead with 38 home runs, and moved within four RBIs of Kemp’s NL-leading total of 124. Fielder also leads Braun in both categories, and when he takes the field Wednesday, he will be the only one of the three to play in all 162 games this season.
While he has put up bigger numbers in the past, Fielder believes this season is his best.
“Yeah, because we won the division,” Fielder said. “Personal achievements are great, but when you’re going home in October, it’s not that big a deal, I don’t think. When you’re able to win as a team, all your personal achievements are that much better. Plus, everybody does well, and that’s a lot more fun than just doing great and taking it to the house.”
This season is also widely expected to be Fielder’s last in a Brewers uniform. His expected departure would make it the end of the potent Braun-Fielder 1-2 punch.
If that ends up being the case, they’re certainly going out with a bang. The Brewers recently put up a sign behind home plate that reads “MVP(S)” with the Nos. 8 and 28 on either side.
MVP graphics were also prominent on the Miller Park video board Tuesday during each of their at-bats and following Fielder’s three home runs.
“For us as players, all we can ask for is an opportunity to be in [the MVP] discussion, and I think we both certainly deserve to be in that discussion,” Braun said. “We appreciate the fan support, and [for Fielder], it’s deservedly so. He’s been phenomenal for us all year.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Brewers set new franchise mark for attendance
MILWAUKEE — One day after setting a new club record with their 55th home win of the season, the Brewers announced Monday they had set a new single-season franchise attendance record.
With the Brewers having sold 3,068,781 tickets as of 10 a.m. CT on Monday, they surpassed the club’s previous record of 3,068,458 set in 2008.
“I’ve always loved the fans here,” said Brewers closer John Axford. “Even when things weren’t going well the last couple years, the fans were still here, still going crazy. They love their baseball, they love their Brewers here.”
After a 9-8 loss to the Pirates in the opener of their final regular-season series that drew 41,222 fans, the Brewers have played 79 home games to date with an average of 37,817 and a total attendance of 2,987,533.
That mark ranks the Brewers seventh in Major League Baseball and fourth in the National League in average attendance, despite playing in the league’s smallest media market.
“As our Brewers players continue a record-setting season on the field, our fans have given us the advantage in the stands to help secure our first ever National League Central Division championship,” said Brewers chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger. “We thank the fans for their incredible support throughout the season and look forward to creating many special memories in October.”
Both Axford and third baseman Casey McGehee saw the fan support and their dominance at Miller Park as going hand in hand. As the fans show up in large numbers, the team performs better, and as the team has sustained success this season, the attendance has continued to climb.
Their home success also is the biggest driving factor for the Brewers over the final three games as they look to remain ahead of the D-backs for the No. 2 seed in the National League.
Over the weekend, the Brewers drew three straight sellout crowds, including 44,584 for Friday night’s game as they clinched the National League Central with a 4-1 victory over the Marlins and a 5-1 Cardinals loss to the Cubs. Many of those fans stuck around long afterward as well to share in the club’s division championship celebration.
The average crowd for the weekend was 44,150. This month, the Brewers had sold out seven of nine games entering Monday. They also had 35 sellouts on the season with three home games left to play.
“It says a lot about the organization in general and a lot about the support of the fan base as well for sure,” McGehee said. “You couldn’t ask for a better place to play. It’s a packed house every night.”
Braun in dead heat for batting title after ‘day off’
MILWAUKEE — Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has been saying all along that winning a championship takes priority over winning the National League batting title, and his decision to take a break on Monday was indication his words were genuine.
Manager Ron Roenicke told Braun he wanted the player to sit out one of the Brewers’ three games against the Pirates, and Braun chose Monday. That meant he did not face Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton, against whom Braun was 6-for-11 lifetime with a home run and three walks.
“That tells me he is focused on winning this thing and being ready for the playoffs, and whatever happens with the batting title, it happens,” Roenicke said. “I told him I wanted him to have a day somewhere, and this is what he — what we — came up with.”
But the fact that he was out of the lineup did not keep Braun from playing 3 1/2 innings Monday night. With two on and the Brewers down by a pair in the sixth, Braun delivered a pinch-hit RBI double. He also was hit by a pitch in the eighth. The Brewers went on to fall, 9-8.
“My off-day turned into two hours of playing baseball,” Braun said. “But it was well worth it despite a disappointing finish.”
Braun is expected to play full games Tuesday and Wednesday before the two days off prior to Saturday’s Game 1 of the NL Division Series. Braun told Roenicke he preferred that to playing Monday, taking a day off, and then having just one game before the two days off heading into the playoffs.
With his double, Braun increased his batting average to .334, but lost the lead for the NL batting title. Mets shortstop Jose Reyes went 3-for-4, putting him at .334 as well. But Reyes’ mark of 177-for-530 puts him .00003 ahead of Braun, who is 186-for-557 on the season.
So, is Braun paying attention to what Reyes is doing?
“Yeah man, come on,” Braun said. “I never denied I was looking at it.
“Yeah, yeah, I saw what happened. I just know he ended up at .334, I’m at .334. So just like everything else, it seems like it comes down to the last day. That’s how it should be, it makes it fun.”
Since the Brewers clinched the NL Central on Friday, Roenicke has given all of his regulars but first baseman Prince Fielder a day off. Fielder prefers to play every day, and Roenicke said Monday he expected Fielder to start all 162 games. Fielder would become the first Brewers player ever to appear in 162 games twice in his career.
MILWAUKEE — No team in franchise history has won more games at home than the 2011 Brewers. And with three games left to play, the Brewers single-season wins record isn’t safe, either.
They didn’t hit too many balls hard on Sunday, but the Brewers found plenty of holes in the Marlins’ defense early on their way to a third straight win at Miller Park.
With the 9-5 victory, the Brewers picked up their club-record 55th home win of the season, passing the previous mark set in 1978. They also moved within one win of tying the franchise record of 95 in a season, set in 1979 and matched in ’82.
“We’re playing well,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “Everything’s working well. We’re in a spot where I think we need to be playing good ball going into the playoffs. Whether we win them or lose them, these next three games, we’re going to go after. But these next three games, we need to play well going into the playoffs.”
As they collected four hits in the second inning and five in the third — only one of the nine going for extra bases — the Brewers jumped all over Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco for seven runs before he got an out in the third inning. Every hitter in the Brewers’ starting lineup had a hit by the end of the third.
With the win that was not nearly as close as the final score made it seem, Milwaukee completed the three-game series sweep, while also sweeping the seven-game season series from Florida.
“They had our number, absolutely, all year,” said Marlins shortstop Donnie Murphy. “You felt like everything that you did, they had a counter for it. That’s why they’re a playoff team, obviously. It seems like they’re starting to click going into the playoffs.”
Five different Brewers scored a run, including two for Ryan Braun, who hit his 33rd home run of the season to lead off the fourth inning. With the game well in hand, Braun came out after the fifth.
He went 2-for-3 on the day and raised his National League-leading batting average two points to .333, putting him two points ahead of Mets shortstop Jose Reyes.
After going into a 1-for-16 slump, Braun has five hits in his last seven at-bats, with two home runs, including his three-run blast in the bottom of the eighth Friday.
“MVP year, man,” said Prince Fielder of Braun’s season. “He’s been outstanding. Batting title possibly, the home runs, stolen bases, RBIs. He’s been magnificent.”
Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks was 3-for-4 on the day, with three hits by the fourth inning. Weeks left as a part of a double-switch with one out in the top of the seventh, just after Fielder’s day ended following his fourth at-bat in the sixth.
The big offensive output on the day gave Roenicke — who had talked pregame about getting Fielder out of a game early at some point this week — an opportunity to offer some well-deserved rest for the middle of the lineup.
Those moves got Roenicke a bit worried in the seventh, though, when Marlins slugger Mike Stanton came to the plate with two runners on and the Brewers holding a four-run lead.
“I never like taking guys out early, because I know what can happen in a ballgame,” Roenicke said. “But I think getting them off their feet is maybe more important — that they’re right going into the playoffs — than it is to get that one more at-bat that maybe we’re going to need later in the game.”
After giving up a leadoff homer to Emilio Bonifacio, left-hander Chris Narveson settled in nicely for the Brewers, tossing 6 1/3 innings and giving up four runs on five hits. Narveson gave up another homer to Murphy leading off the fifth, and he walked two batters before leaving with one out in the seventh.
Narveson walked five batters and recorded five strikeouts as he picked up his 11th win.
“It feels good, but this is just the start of another season,” Narveson said. “We know that once this season ends in three days, we’ve got the important one starting. So we’ll be ready for that.
“There’s incentive to win. … That home-field advantage with our fans and with the support that we’ve got here, that’s what we’re playing for. And we know how important that is.”
MILWAUKEE — Over the final days of the regular season, it is going to be a delicate balance for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke between trying to win and preparing for the playoffs.
In Milwaukee’s first game after clinching the National League Central, right fielder Corey Hart and second baseman Rickie Weeks got the night off, though Hart entered as a pinch-hitter and delivered the go-ahead double late in Saturday’s win over the Marlins.
For Sunday’s series finale, Roenicke had center fielder Nyjer Morgan, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and third baseman Casey McGehee out of the lineup. In their places, Roenicke started Mark Kotsay, George Kottaras and Jerry Hairston Jr.
“It’s really a difficult thing to try to do both,” Roenicke said. “You’ve got four games left and we know we need to win them. And yet, I know we need to be right when we start the playoffs. I’m trying to figure it out, trying to get some guys some at-bats that we’re going to need in the playoffs.”
Another player that is a candidate for a day off is first baseman Prince Fielder, who has played in all 159 games this season for the Brewers.
Fielder would be the first player in Brewers history to play 162 games in two different seasons. He also did it in 2009. The only other Brewers to play 162 games are Carlos Lee (2005), Richie Sexson (2003), Robin Yount (1988) and Gorman Thomas (1980).
Fielder and Roenicke have talked about getting the slugger out of the lineup at some point, but it seems more likely Fielder will just come out of a game or two early this week.
Roenicke did just that with Fielder on Sunday, taking him out after the sixth inning. Ryan Braun came out after the fifth as Milwaukee held a comfortable lead over Florida.
“He still would like to play them all,” Roenicke said. “I told him, ‘Listen, physically, if you think it’s a huge benefit to take the day off, then take it.’ He says, ‘Ron, I’m not tired.’ And he’s not; he’s not playing tired. So we’ll see how that goes. I may get him out of there early in one of these games, just let him get an at-bat and get him out.”
Lucroy should get another night off Tuesday, as Kottaras will likely catch again with lefty Randy Wolf on the mound. With their magic number for clinching the No. 2 seed at four, the earliest the Brewers could wrap up their current race is Monday, with two wins and two D-backs losses.
If that were the case, it would certainly make Roenicke’s job easier for the final two games.