MILWAUKEE - Between Nyjer Morgan's trash-tweeting antics and Tony La Russa's stadium-light conspiracies, the Brewers and Cardinals shared a well-documented dislike for each other heading into Sunday's Game 1 of the NLCS at Miller Park.
Morgan, who also goes by his lippy alter ago "Tony Plush," once referred to Albert Pujols as "Alberta." La Russa surmised earlier this season that the Brewers' stadium ops manipulated the brightness of the ad ribbons to help the home team.
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On the eve of the NLCS opener, Milwaukee's Game 1 starter Zack Greinke even called Chris Carpenter a "phony." Of course, talk is cheap, and the Brewers did far more damage with their bats than mouths in riding a six-run fifth inning to an 9-6 victory over the Cardinals.
Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt homered in support of Greinke, who remained undefeated (12-0) in 16 starts at Miller Park this season. It was no masterpiece from Greinke - he allowed eight hits and six runs in six innings - but he got some big help from his two MVP-caliber teammates.
Braun, who finished with four RBIs, gave the Brewers an early 2-1 lead with his two-run homer, an estimated 463-foot rocket, off Jaime Garcia in the first inning. He also kick-started the six-run rally with a two-run double and is now batting .500 (11-for-22) this postseason with five doubles, two homers and eight RBIs in six games.
Fielder followed Braun's double by smacking the next pitch for a two-run homer and Betancourt added his own two-run shot that inning off Octavio Dotel. The Brewers improved to 28-9 in team history in games that Braun and Fielder each have home runs - including 16 straight wins.
Former Met Francisco Rodriguez struck out two in his scoreless eighth inning and John Axford, who blew the save in Game 5 of the NLDS, rebounded with a perfect ninth to give the Brewers a 1-0 edge in the best-of-seven series.
Good thing the Miller Park roof was open Sunday because the decibel level would have been unbearable in the fifth inning, when the Brewers scored six runs before making an out. Garcia looked shaky in giving up a leadoff single to Corey Hart and even worse on Jerry Hairston's subsequent double.
But La Russa stuck with him for the most dangerous part of Milwaukee's lineup - and got burned badly. Up next was Braun, who sliced a deep fly ball to rightfield that landed fair by five feet before hopping the wall for a ground-rule, two-run double.
Just when it seemed that Miller Park couldn't get any louder, Fielder crushed the next pitch for a two-run homer that put the Brewers in front, 6-5. Only then did La Russa finally come out to retrieve Garcia, and as he stood on the mound, a close-up of his irritated face was displayed on the giant scoreboard in centerfield.
Instantly, the cheers turned to equally loud boos, and La Russa's day got even worse once Dotel took over. His first batter, Rickie Weeks, tapped a slow roller toward the mound for what should have been an easy out. But Dotel skipped his throw past Pujols for a two-base error and then followed that miscue by teeing up a pitch for Betancourt, who popped it over the wall in left-center to give the Brewers an 8-5 edge.
That six-run assault quickly cooled off the Cardinals, who had built a 5-2 lead through five innings. They stole the early momentum with Matt Holliday's RBI single in the first and then overturned a 2-1 deficit in the fourth on David Freese's three-run homer.