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Cardinals shut down Brewers to take 3-2 series lead

St. Louis, which survives a shaky start by Jaime Garcia, takes advantage of four errors by Milwaukee to claim a 7-1 victory that leaves the Cardinals one win from the World Series.

October 14, 2011|By Dave van Dyck
  • Cardinals reliever Octavio Dotel reacts after getting Brewers shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to fly out to end a threat in the top of the sixth inning Friday night in Game 5 of the NLCS.
Cardinals reliever Octavio Dotel reacts after getting Brewers shortstop… (Jeff Haynes / Reuters Photo )

Reporting from St. Louis -- When General Manager Doug Melvin set out last winter to improve his already-good Milwaukee Brewers, he started with starting pitching.

The major additions were Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, and their combined 29-13 record is a major reason the Brewers easily won the National League Central.

But now it's the postseason, with Greinke failing Friday night in a 7-1 Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, and Marcum, whose postseason earned-run average is 12.46, going in Sunday's NL Championship Series do-or-die game.

If the Brewers have more than the usual hope, it's because of a potential two games at Miller Park, where two consecutive victories are pretty much the norm. In fact, they didn't lose two in a row at their retractable dome home until July 4-5.

"I have a lot of confidence in our guys. We can win two ballgames at home," Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke said. "We're going to have to play a much better ballgame than we did tonight."

Greinke was the victim not only of the Cardinals' bats but also the Brewers' gloves and arms, which were guilty of four errors. Three of his five runs in 52/3 innings were unearned, although he didn't strike out a batter for the first time all season.

"I know he didn't get the strikeouts," Roenicke said, "but he still should have given up [only] one run if we would have made the plays for him. He threw the ball well."

"Errors are part of the game," Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa said. "With competition this close, if you take advantage of one or two of those, it can make a difference."

Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia was cruising along with a 4-0 lead in the fifth inning when the Brewers mounted a rally. With three singles and a run in, La Russa pulled out his quick hook, calling on Octavio Dotel to face Ryan Braun.

After Garcia's implosion during the fifth inning of a Game 1 loss, La Russa was taking no chances this time and obviously knew what he was doing. Braun had struck out seven times in nine tries against Dotel.

It went to eight very quickly as the rally was extinguished.

"I try to make my pitches every time I face him," Dotel said. "I guess I'm lucky against him. I would love to be just as lucky when the series is over."

In Game 2 in Milwaukee, La Russa pulled starter Edwin Jackson in the fifth inning with a 7-3 lead. The Cardinals got out of the inning with a double play.

La Russa, who uses the bullpen as much as any manager in baseball, says legendary hitting coach Charley Lau set his philosophy 30 years ago.

"The No. 1 thing I try to do, as I've been taught, and I believe it after all of these years," he said, "is make it as hard for the other club to score the inning you're playing to the extent that you can."

Actually, Garcia had "accounted" for three of the first four Cardinals runs with his bat, although two of them were unearned when his second-inning grounder went under the glove of third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. He also was credited with an RBI in the fourth for a groundout with a runner on third base.

The Cardinals scored a fifth run in the sixth inning, but it also was unearned after shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt let a grounder go through his legs before an Albert Pujols RBI single. That was Greinke's last batter.

The Brewers mounted a rally in the eighth inning off reliever Lance Lynn, but La Russa used his bullpen again to squash it.

With two runners on base and no outs, Braun forced one runner at second, Prince Fielder struck out against lefty Marc Rzepczynski and Rickie Weeks bounced out against righty Jason Motte.

And the Cardinals went on to tack on another pair of runs in the bottom of the inning on a Matt Holliday double.

So now it's back to Milwaukee.

"[Friday] was a very important game for us," Holliday said, "I felt a must-win, going back to Milwaukee. We need a win on Sunday."

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