Brewers get beastly in record-tying frame
Fielder, Betancourt homer; Braun belts two-run double in fifth
MILWAUKEE -- No matter what happens during the rest of the postseason, there's a good chance the Brewers will not experience an inning more exciting than their six-run fifth Sunday night.
Happening almost faster than the team could celebrate, Milwaukee erased a three-run fifth-inning deficit and turned it into an eventual 9-6 victory in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park.
The whirlwind rally happened within a span of three pitches thrown by Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia to Jerry Hairston Jr., Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.
"They had all the momentum," Braun said. "And then for us to respond well to that, I think, is a great sign of our resiliency, of our character as a team."
After Hairston energized the home crowd with a double that put runners at second and third base, Braun showed his opposite-field power by bouncing a two-run ground-rule double over the right-field wall. One pitch later, Fielder further energized Wisconsin with a two-run homer that he belted off the back wall beyond the bullpen in right-center field.
"We've won so many different ways here at the house, we always feel like something is going to happen," said right fielder Corey Hart, who started the eventful fifth inning with a single to left field.
With one of the game's most potent lineups, the Brewers produced many memorable moments as they posted a Major League-best .704 home winning percentage this year. But it will be hard for them to top what happened Sunday night, when they scored six runs and saw 25 pitches before the Cards recorded their first out in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Brewers notched five extra-base hits during a span of seven at-bats in the inning. The five extra-base hits in an inning matched the League Championship Series record the Mets set against the Cardinals in 2000.
"Whenever we do do that, it's just awesome, because like you said, it's just real quick," Fielder said. "It's a good feeling, because we're [trailing] there for a while, and obviously that doesn't feel good. Whenever we come back real quick, it's a little extra boost."
After issuing two walks, surrendering a home run to Braun and hitting Fielder with a pitch during an ugly two-run first inning, Garcia seemed to have found a groove. But everything unraveled so quickly in the fifth inning that St. Louis manager Tony La Russa did not have time to bring Octavio Dotel out of the bullpen to attempt to stop the bleeding.
"[Garcia] started out the game just getting the ball up, paid for it, and after that, the delivery came together. And I thought he pitched Hart pretty well and got a hopper in the hole," La Russa said. "Then he made three straight pitches right in the middle of the plate. They didn't miss any of them, just went like that."
Once Hairston scored on Braun's double, he went toward the clubhouse to grab a drink. Just as he got it, he heard the roar of the crowd and returned to the dugout to find Miller Park rocking and celebrating Fielder's decisive line-drive home run.
"Actually, I went to go get a drink and then I heard the crowd go crazy," Hairston said. "Then I ran out and ..."
Just like that, the Brewers had given Zack Greinke a lead that would grow to three runs before the inning's first out was recorded. Fielder's home run chased Garcia and prompted the entry of Dotel, who began his outing by fumbling Rickie Weeks' soft grounder. That set the stage for Yuniesky Betancourt, who followed by concluding an eight-pitch at-bat with a two-run home run.
"I don't know how many pitches he had in that at-bat, but great job. [He] got a breaking ball up and was able to drive it out of the park," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "But that was one of the best at-bats he's had this year."
After Carlos Gomez popped out to account for the inning's first out, Jonathan Lucroy recorded a double to match the LCS record for extra-base hits in an inning.
The six runs scored by the Brewers in the fifth also matched the franchise postseason record they had set during the seventh inning of Game 4 of the 1982 World Series against the Cardinals.
"We have an offense that's not necessarily dependent on the home run, but at times in the year we've relied on it," Braun said. "I think whenever offensively you have multiple guys that can hit home runs, it can happen quickly."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.