With Zack Greinke, the Brewers are going for the gold

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News of the reported trade that would send Zack Greinke to Milwaukee is already sending shockwaves around the baseball world. We’re all still catching our breath from the surprising deal, but there are already many questions about why the Brewers would do this trade right now.

As Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel just pointed out on Twitter, the one thing we do know is that Prince Fielder is not going to be traded. Fielder will be a free agent after the 2011 season and barring something out of the ordinary, he is fully expected to test the open market. This is likely the Brewers’ last chance to win with Fielder in the fold, so they are going for it.

The Brewers will now have Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf as an impressive front four with Chris Narveson and likely Chris Capuano duking it out for the final spot in the rotation. The Cardinals are comparable and the Reds have depth, but this rotation has tremendous upside, potentially rivaling the Giants for the second best front four in the National League (with obvious deference to Phillies at No. 1).

Offense wasn’t a problem for the Brewers last season. In fact, they were fourth in the league in runs, second in homers and third in OPS. With many of the same pieces returning in 2011, that shouldn’t change too much. What really hurt Milwaukee was their starting rotation. Their starters finished second from the bottom in the National League with a 4.65 ERA. With this new front four, they have the pieces in place to be a contending team.

Of course, it cost them. They gave up second base prospect Brett Lawrie for Marcum and now Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi and a player to be named later for Greinke. That’s a big chunk of what wasn’t an impressive farm system in the  first place. It could come back to bite them in the long run, but you can’t say that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin isn’t trying to win. New skipper Ron Roenicke must feel pretty darn good this morning.

Phillies’ 6-run ninth tops Cardinals in 6-3 wild-card win

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Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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ST. LOUIS — Philadelphia scored six times in the ninth inning off the stingy St. Louis bullpen, highlighted by a bases-loaded single by Jean Segura, and the Phillies beat the NL Central champion Cardinals 6-3 on Friday in the opening game of their National League wild-card series.

The Cardinals, who were 74-3 on the season when leading after eight innings, were poised to put away another close game after Juan Yepez connected for the first go-ahead pinch-hit homer in franchise history with two outs in the seventh inning.

But after struggling all afternoon against Jose Quintana and the St. Louis bullpen, the Phillies finally got their powerful offense going against Ryan Helsley. JT Realmuto began the ninth-inning rally with a single, and walks for Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos loaded the bases before the All-Star closer plunked Alec Bohm to score a run.

The Cardinals training staff came out to check on Helsley, who had jammed the middle finger on his pitching hand earlier in the week in Pittsburgh. He tried to throw another warmup pitch but was pulled for Andre Pallante, who gave up Segura’s hit through the right side of the infield that put Philadelphia in front.

Edmundo Sosa added a run when he brazenly scored on Bryson Stott‘s grounder to first base, and Brandon Marsh drove in another run when a tough hop got past Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong.

By the time Kyle Schwarber added a sacrifice fly, Phillies reliever Zach Eflin had plenty of wiggle room in the ninth.

It looked as if Eflin might need it, too, when Nolan Arenado and Dylan Carlson reached base and Nolan Gorman hit a two-out single to right. But Eflin responded by striking Yadier Molina to end the game, leaving Philadelphia a win away from facing NL East champion Atlanta in the divisional round.

There was a sentimental breeze sweeping through Busch Stadium before the game. Ozzie Smith cheerfully walked to the mound to deliver a ceremonial first pitch, and if the flag-waving Cardinals fans packed into every nook and cranny closed their eyes during introductions, they might have thought they were watching a game a generation ago.

After all, some familiar faces were in the lineup from the last time St. Louis and Philadelphia met in the playoffs.

That was 11 years ago to the day Friday, when the Cardinals beat the Phillies in a dramatic pitchers’ duel between Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the NL divisional series. Molina and Albert Pujols played for St. Louis that night while erstwhile ace Adam Wainwright, pitching out of the bullpen this series, also was there to celebrate.

Just like that night in Philadelphia, pitching dominated most of Friday’s series opener.

Quintana, who arrived in a deadline trade from Pittsburgh, was masterful for the Cardinals, allowing only a single to Matt Vierling and a double to Bohm while pitching into the sixth. His day was done after fanning Schwarber for the second time on his 75th pitch, handing the game over to a relief corps that had been downright dominant this season.

Zack Wheeler was the equal of Quintana, allowing a leadoff single to Lars Nootbaar and nothing else until Tommy Edman‘s leadoff single in the sixth. Edman was left stranded on third when Paul Goldschmidt grounded out.

Wheeler departed after retiring Arenado to start the seventh. He struck out four and walked one on 96 pitches, his most since Aug. 20, shortly before the right-hander landed on the injured list with forearm tendinitis.

Then it came down to the bullpens, and the Phillies managed to overcome one of the best in the game.

UP NEXT

The Phillies will try for the wild-card sweep on Saturday night when they send right-hander Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25 ERA) to the mound. He was stellar his last time out against Houston in clinching Philadelphia’s wild-card playoff spot.

The Cardinals will turn to right-hander Miles Mikolas (12-13, 3.29 ERA) to force a decisive Game 3. Mikolas struggled in a tune-up out of the bullpen in Pittsburgh but allowed one earned run over his last two starts.