The mark of a great team is the resiliency to win despite the failure of one cog of the machine. Zack Greinke may have picked up his 12th win at home and his team may have won for his 18th straight home start (dating back to his time in Kansas City), but there is no doubt: Greinke did not perform well in Sunday’s Game One. When all was said and done, Greinke allowed six runs on eight hits over his six-plus innings of work. It was all too reminiscent of his early-season starts, where he would combine stretches of brilliance (seven straight retired from the end of the first through the fourth) with great peripherals (six strikeouts, two walks) but would make the critical mistake and pay for it — David Freese’s fourth inning home run in this case.
But luckily, there are 24 other men on the playoff roster, and where one fails, others can thrive. As they have so often this season, the Brewers offense picked up Zack Greinke even though he couldn’t make Ryan Braun’s first-inning 463-foot two-run shot off Jaime Garcia stand. The fifth inning saw the full potential of the powerful Brewers offense unleashed, and it was too much too quick even for Tony La Russa to get a reliever warm.
Corey Hart singled, Jerry Hairston Jr. doubled, Ryan Braun doubled, Prince Fielder homered, and in the course of about 10 minutes, a 5-2 deficit was a 6-5 lead. And then Rickie Weeks reached on a hard-hit ball that Octavio Dotel couldn’t handle and Albert Pujols couldn’t haul in. With the bottom of the order coming up — the six-through-nine batters were a combined 0-for-8 at the time, with two strikeouts and five weak grounders to the left side of the infield — Miller Park would have been content to leave with the lead. But Yuniesky Betancourt wasn’t satisfied.
It’s easy to rag on Yuniesky Betancourt. He had a .271 on-base percentage this year, and that speaks for itself. But poor approach and limited range aside, his personality is admittedly magnetic. He gives it all on the field, and it’s awesome to see somebody as legitimately happy as Betancourt when he succeeds. He told Answer Man Dave Brown “since I don’t understand English very well, I don’t pay attention to what the critics say — so I don’t get mad.” Good for him.
For all Betancourt’s flaws, there is some pop in his bat, as Octavio Dotel discovered as the Brewers’ shortstop clubbed a 78 MPH curveball over the left field wall to give the Brewers an 8-5 lead and effectively put the game away. Betancourt finished 2-for-4, adding a double and another run scored in the eighth for good measure.
Then, the bullpen finished it off. Takashi Saito worked through a tough situation, getting three outs from two of the league’s best hitters in Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman. Francisco Rodriguez worked a relatively stress free eighth inning, allowing only one walk and striking out two Cardinals. The only worrying part of the night of relief was a ball off the bat of Jon Jay striking John Axford in the shoulder as he recorded the final out, but x-rays were negative and, at least according to the man himself, he’ll be fine.
Zack Greinke couldn’t get the job done tonight. But the Brewers are a great team, and the great teams pick each other up. This time, the offense and the bullpen did what was necessary to bring home the win. Tomorrow, Shaun Marcum gets his chance. As he takes the mound, the knowledge that his offense and his bullpen are there to back him should be reassuring.