Up-and-down game a microcosm for Yuni
Brewers shortstop's flashes of brilliance couched by key error
ST. LOUIS -- Milwaukee shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt rarely surprises anybody anymore.
At his best, Betancourt can dazzle. At his worst, he can bewilder.
In Friday's 7-1 loss in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series -- which gave the Cardinals a 3-2 series lead -- Betancourt did both. The result was an all-too-familiar feeling for the proud members of Brewers Nation.
This was the "Yuni" Brewers fans have come to know and love -- and that, at times, drives them crazy.
"We played a bad game and we lost. That's it," Betancourt said in Spanish. "This is how the game is. One day, you win. One day, you lose. That's how this series goes. That's what makes it so good."
Make no mistake, Betancourt had his share of good moments on Friday.
In the bottom of the third inning, Betancourt made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch in shallow center field to rob Jon Jay of a sure hit to lead off the inning.
It was the type of play that can leave opponents shaking their heads. It's the kind of play that makes Betancourt's teammates believe he can make that sort of play every single time.
"That's the kind of play I know I can make," Betancourt said. "I don't think that was such a hard play. I know I can make that catch. I did it."
Then Betancourt was even better. Just ask Matt Holliday.
The Cardinals held a 4-1 lead with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning and had Albert Pujols on second, when Holliday hit a ball sharply up the middle off Brewers starter Zack Greinke for what looked destined to be an RBI single. But Betancourt corralled the ball and narrowly missed throwing Holliday out at first base.
Pujols, who could only advance to third base on the play, was stranded when St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina flied out to Milwaukee center fielder Carlos Gomez for the third out of the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Betancourt made another fine play, ranging to his right to field Allen Craig's ground ball and throwing him out at first for the second out of the inning.
Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal followed with a double, but the Brewers appeared on their way to escaping the inning unscathed when the next hitter, Jay, hit a routine ground ball to Betancourt.
Things were not as they appeared. Betancourt misplayed the ground ball, allowing Jay to reach safely as Furcal motored to third base. Pujols followed with an RBI single to extend St. Louis' lead to 5-1 and knock Greinke out of the game.
"I don't know anybody who has played this game who does not make errors," Betancourt said. "You play this game, you will make errors. Nobody is perfect. It hit off my glove. I missed it. I made an error."
But Betancourt was not alone in terms of defensive lapses Friday. In all, the Brewers had four errors; joining Betancourt were Jerry Hairston Jr., Rickie Weeks and Marco Estrada.
The miscues proved costly. Just two of the five runs the Cardinals scored against Greinke were earned.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke remains confident his team will bounce back in Game 6 at Miller Park on Sunday with its backs against the wall. He also said focus was not a problem for his club on Friday, nor does he expect it to be an issue on Sunday.
"When you play in a game like this, you're going to be focused," Roenicke said. "You know, Jerry Hairston makes a great diving play on the one before, and then he lets one get through his legs -- certainly not typical for him. And then Rickie had some plays that I'm sure he's disappointed he didn't make, but that hurt. You give these guys extra outs and they are going to hurt you."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.