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Hairston’s big error ‘just one of those things’

October 14, 2011

ST. LOUIS — On consecutive pitches in the second inning Friday, Brewers third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. made one of the best defensive plays of the series and one of the worst.

The first, a diving grab that robbed Nick Punto of a hit, saved at least one run from scoring. The second, an error on a hard-hit grounder by Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia that went under his glove and through his legs, cost Milwaukee a pair of runs in a 7-1 loss in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

“You want me to be completely honest with you? I really didn’t see both balls that well,” Hairston said. “Even when I caught it, I was a little surprised. … It may have caught me a little bit. I saw the one Garcia hit better than the one I caught; it just hit the lip [of the grass]. There’s nothing you can do. That’s baseball, man.”

As a third-generation Major Leaguer with his grandfather Sam, father Jerry Sr., uncle Johnny and brother Scott all having played in the big leagues, Hairston learned at a young age that sometimes the ball catches you.

He also learned that the game of baseball certainly is not always fair.

“First of all, life’s not fair. I mean, goodness,” Hairston said. “All you can do is prepare yourself and put yourself in position to be ready. I was ready, I was in position — it just didn’t happen. It’s tough.”

Hairston has started every game of the postseason for the Brewers at third base, and he’s performed better than anyone could have expected. With both his offense and defense, he has made manager Ron Roenicke’s decision to start him over Casey McGehee look brilliant.

In nine of 10 postseason games, Hairston has hit safely. He is batting .371 (13-for-35) with five doubles, four RBIs and six runs scored.

But in the biggest game yet of the NLCS, it was Hairston who seemingly started the trend of poor Brewers defense. His error was the first of four on the night for Milwaukee, the most in an LCS game since the Braves had as many in Game 4 of the 2001 NLCS.

“There was nothing I could’ve done any different,” Hairston said. “He hits a rocket, and it hits the lip and just stays down.

“It’s just one of those things where, sometimes at the hot corner at third base, you’re kind of at the mercy when a guy hits a bullet. Once it hit the lip, it just stayed down.

“If it doesn’t hit the lip, it comes right up to me and I play it well. But it did and … five hole.”

Adding insult to injury, Hairston got in the way of Yadier Molina as the Cards’ catcher approached third base, drawing an obstruction call from third-base umpire Tim Timmons.

The call allowed Molina to advance freely to home to make the score 3-0 Cardinals, though Brewers starter Zack Greinke still made an attempt to tag the runner as he cut off the throw home.

“It happened so fast. I was shocked the ball just stayed down,” Hairston said. “And then Yadi, I guess, tried to get by me. But he would’ve scored anyway. It’s not even a big deal.”

Said Molina of Timmons’ obstruction call: “He caught it. That’s good.”

While it was a play that certainly seemed to shift the momentum of Game 5, Hairston was not worried about the error. He remained positive after the loss, focusing on what he and Milwaukee needs to do going forward in Game 6.

As for the error, he quoted a Hall of Famer and former teammate, who also happened to be in attendance Friday night at Busch Stadium.

“It’s not the first error I’ve made. Hopefully, it won’t be my last,” Hairston said. “That’s just something Cal Ripken used to say. Because if you play a long time, things are going to happen in this game.

“Third base is not easy. I always say third base is the toughest position I’ve ever played, by far. You have a split-second to react, and the ball didn’t bounce my way.”

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