October 2011

Fielder: ‘Not worried’ about Chase Field boos

On Tuesday night, Prince Fielder will find out whether D-backs fans really hold a grudge.

Fielder will be back at Chase Field for Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday, and odds are that D-backs fans will boo the living daylights out of him. This is more than the usual jeers Fielder hears when the Brewers are on the road. This is personal.

It’s payback for what D-backs fans perceived as Fielder’s snub of Arizona outfielder Justin Upton in this year’s State Farm Home Run Derby, held in July at Chase Field. Fielder was named captain of the National League Derby squad and got to choose his three teammates.

The final spot went to Fielder’s longtime teammate Rickie Weeks, the godfather of Fielder’s children. That did not sit well with the locals, who jeered both Fielder and Weeks during the Derby, and showered more boos on Fielder when the Brewers returned for a regular-season series one week later.

Now the Brewers lead the best-of-five series, 2-0, and can clinch a trip to the NL Championship Series as early as Tuesday’s Game 3, which begins at 8:30 CT on TNT.

What does Fielder think of the fan reception that awaits?

“I don’t know. It’s the playoffs and we’re up 2-0,” he shrugged. “I’m not really worried about their fans too much.”

No Brewer draws more jeers when the team is on the road than the slugging first baseman. That’s what happens when you’re the high-profile son of a former Major Leaguer, a first-round Draft pick and one of baseball’s big-time home run hitters.

Some of Fielder’s teammates believe he actually feeds off the energy from the crowd, no matter now negative.

“It seems to motivate him,” left fielder Ryan Braun said. “He’s always seemed to thrive in that atmosphere.”

And Braun made an interesting point: Arizona should actually be fans of Fielder, since it was his home run in the All-Star Game sealed home field advantage in the World Series for the National League.

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Game 1 coverage roundup

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Here’s our coverage of Game 1 of the Brewers-Diamondbacks National League Division Series Game 1:

- Brewers game story: Yovani Gallardo made the most of his second start in a postseason opener, and the Brewers’ big hitters backed him up. Gallardo pitched eight inspired innings and tied Don Sutton’s postseason franchise record with nine strikeouts, and Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder combined for five of the Brewers’ eight hits in a tone-setting, 4-1 win over the D-backs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Saturday.

- D-backs game story:  A pair of decisions by their manager will be dissected as well as an aggressive send by their third-base coach, but it was the lack of offense that really cost the D-backs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

- Performer of the game: For each game of the NLDS, we’ll pick a top performer, and the Game 1 choice was easy. Gallardo had been on this stage before, but the circumstances surrounding his last postseason experience were much different than the atmosphere the young Brewers starter stepped into on Saturday afternoon.

- Braun’s big day: His 3-for-4 performance came three days late, but Ryan Braun didn’t seem to care. Braun needed three hits in the Brewers’ final regular-season game Wednesday to secure the National League batting title. Instead, he went 0-for-4. But on the big stage in Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the D-backs on Saturday, Braun delivered with his arm and his bat.

- Roenicke makes the right choice: Columnist Mike Bauman says  it turns out that starting Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base in the opening game of the 2011 postseason was not only the correct move. The way Hairston played, it was a brilliant move.

- “Beast Mode” hits national stage: Brewers fans know it well by now, but you can picture fans around the country sitting on their couches in the first inning Saturday and asking aloud, “Why did Ryan Braun just throw his arms in the air?” Players explain.

- Gibson’s challenge conjures memories of ’84: D-backs manager Kirk Gibson’s decision to challenge Prince Fielder in the seventh inning of Saturday’s Game 1 of the National League Division Series was interesting in itself. Arizona’s deficit was only 2-0, with two outs and first base open. Fielder drew a Major League-leading 32 intentional walks in 2011, often in situations just like this. But Gibson’s decision to let his best pitcher — Ian Kennedy — pitch to Fielder in what became Milwaukee’s 4-1 victory was even more interesting when you consider the history.

- Rare loss for Kennedy: After establishing himself as the D-backs ace with a 21-win season that saw him go 13-1 with a 2.36 ERA over his final 15 starts, Ian Kennedy entered his Game 1 start against the Brewers on a roll.But unfortunately for Kennedy, he exited it with a rare loss, as he was pegged for four runs — two coming on a homer from Prince Fielder with two outs in the seventh — over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-1 defeat to the Brewers on Saturday at Miller Park.

- Game 2 starters: The D-backs will go with their No. 2 starter, Daniel Hudson, a 16-game winner, in the second game. That’s the way these things generally work. The Brewers will be going with their second starter, Zack Greinke, also a 16-game winner, but he will be working on three days’ rest, for the second straight start. If that looks like a gamble, the Brewers figure the larger gamble would have been not getting Greinke a start at Miller Park in this series.

- Game 2 starter, Part II:  Ron Roenicke knew all along that Zack Greinke was going to take the ball for the Brewers on Sunday. Milwaukee’s manager played things coy publicly, but the plan for the past few days has always been to turn to the pitcher on short rest.

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Hairston starts Game 1; McGehee in Game 2?

The Brewers’ full lineup is not yet out, but manager Ron Roenicke revealed his plan for third base: Jerry Hairston Jr. will start Game 1 over the slumping Casey McGehee, who has manned the position regularly over the past three seasons.

“Why? I just think that [Hairston] has been swinging the bat better,” Roenicke said.

Hairston is 0-for-5 lifetime against Kennedy and McGehee 0-for-7. Roenicke hinted that McGehee would get the nod in Game 2 on Sunday against right-hander Daniel Hudson, against whom McGehee is 5-for-5 with a double and a homer.

Roenicke informed both McGehee and Hairston of his plans on Friday, when the Brewers took batting practice at Miller Park. But, in a strategy befitting his tight-lipped mentor, Angels manager Mike Scioscia, Roenicke would not make the plan public until the morning of Game 1. Likewise, he would not commit Saturday to starting McGehee in Game 2.

Was it a tough conversation with McGehee?

“It wasn’t tough telling Casey because we’ve had a lot of conversations in the last week or two on what’s going on,” Roenicke said. “Casey wants to win. Whatever it takes for us to put the best team out there to have a chance to win, that’s what he wants. He’s very comfortable and confident coming off the bench, which we need — a right-handed pinch-hitter. With all that, and him thinking the way he’s been thinking lately, I think this was a good option to go.”

Roenicke also said Nyjer Morgan would be back in center field today. Morgan sat the Brewers’ final two regular season games after fouling two pitches off his right lower leg on Monday night.

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