Brewers win 9-4, take 2-0 NLDS lead on Diamondbacks

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Busting a tie game open with a five-spot in the sixth, the Brewers beat the Diamondbacks 9-4 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NLDS.

The Brewers won even though Zack Greinke gave up three homers in his first ever postseason start.  Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Young and Justin Upton took the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner deep, and Greinke was pulled having allowed four runs in five innings.

It was a tie game at that point.  Ryan Braun homered in the first to give the Brewers an early 2-0 lead, and two more runs followed in the third when Prince Fielder singled in Braun and Rickie Weeks followed with an RBI triple.

The big rally came in the sixth off Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler. Ziegler took over from starter Daniel Hudson with a man on second and one out and proceeded to issue a balk, walk Yuniesky Betancourt and make a throwing error on Jonathan Lucroy’s safety squeeze. The Brewers then called in lefty Mark Kotsay as a pinch-hitter, but manager Kirk Gibson opted to stick with Ziegler and issue an intentional walk to load the bases.  Three straight singles followed, making it a 9-4 game, and it was only afterwards that Ziegler was removed.

That proved to be the end of the scoring for the day. Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford all contributed scoreless innings in relief of Greinke.

Game 3 of the best-of-five series is scheduled for Tuesday in Arizona, with Shaun Marcum and Josh Collmenter scheduled to start. On paper, that would be a favorable matchup for the Brewers, but Collmenter pitched 14 scoreless innings against Milwaukee this season. He’ll have to keep that going for the Diamondbacks to extend the series.

Notes

– Six umpires to a postseason game, but none of them could tell that Aaron Hill’s shot off the wall in the first inning was a fair ball and should have been a double. At least Hill came back with a single afterwards, and since Zack Greinke retired the other three batters he faced, the call probably didn’t have an effect on the game. Still… instant replay, please.

Braun’s homer in the first was just ridiculous. It wasn’t hit high enough to set any distance records, but it was an absolute missile and maybe the hardest hit ball I’ve seen this year. Young took two steps in center field and then said, “Yeah, right.”

– A couple of twitterers noted that Braun appeared to miss third base scoring on Prince Fielder’s single in the third, but TBS never showed a replay. The Diamondbacks appealed and were denied.

– Greinke gave up three homers in a start for the first time since Aug. 19, 2009 against the White Sox. He had made 69 starts since.

– Young had a double and a single to go along with his homer for the Diamondbacks. He’s hit .313 with three homers and seven walks in nine career postseason games. In comparison, he’s just a .240 lifetime hitter during the regular season.

– Hill ended up reaching five times in a losing cause, going 3-for-3 with two walks.

– The theme of the series to date seems to be that Kirk Gibson has too much faith in his Diamondbacks players. Never was it more evident that when he left in Ziegler in the sixth long enough to put the game out of reach.  Now Ziegler is a very good reliever, but a balk, a walk to the usually unwalkable Betancourt and an error was a good indication that he was rattled today.  Still, rather than take him out of a 5-4 game, Gibson left him in until it was 9-4 and the contest was all but over.

Gibson is probably going to be named NL Manager of the Year once the postseason is over, but these last two days have been a disaster for him.

Ramón Laureano made an absolutely ridiculous play yesterday

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I talked about it in the recaps, but dear lord does Oakland A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano’s play in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays deserve it’s own post.

Jays first baseman Justin Smoak led off the second with a single Then Teoscar Hernández then came up and hit a long drive to center. In what, in and of itself, would’ve lead the highlight reels yesterday, Laureano ranged back to the wall and reached over to rob Hernández of a homer.

Laureano is known best for his arm, though, and that’s when he unleashed that hose, attempting to double off Smoak at first base all the way from the warning track. The throw was not on target — indeed, it sailed way past first base — but that was itself impressive as all get-out. As A’s pitcher Brett Anderson said after the game, he’s pretty sure the throw went farther than Hernández hit the ball in the first place. The arm strength on display there was simply phenomenal. But it was also lucky.

Lucky because the throw went so far into foul territory that it gave Smoak the courage to break for second base. Laureano was not the only one playing great defense on the play, though: A’s catcher Nick Hundley backed up the play, got Laureano’s errant throw and fired it down to second, nailing Smoak. And heck, Hundley’s throw was nothing to sneeze at either:

That did not go as an outfield assist for Lauerano, obviously, as his bad throw — which would’ve been an error had Smoak managed to advance, we must admit — broke that up. So, in the books it goes as an F7 and then a separate 2-4 putout. Still, it just shows Laueano’s incredible defensive abilities, both with the leather and with that cannon he has for an arm.

An arm that, this play not withstanding, gets him plenty of assists. Indeed, he has has five assists this season already and has 14 assists in just 70 games, which is a lot. To put it in perspective, it usually takes somewhere between 12-18 to lead the league in a full season with 20 being an outlier of sorts, only seen once every five years or so.

So, if you’re gonna hit it to center against the A’s, make sure you hit it all the way out. And if Laureano gets to it, for god’s sake, don’t run on him.