D-backs make Brewers soft around the middle

D-backs make Brewers soft around the middle

PHOENIX -- It's no secret that Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder played pivotal roles in helping the Brewers take a 2-0 series lead over the D-backs in the National League Division Series. After all, the two sluggers combined to hit .563 (9-for-16) with two homers, three doubles and six RBIs in those first two games at Miller Park.

But it was a different story in Game 3 at Chase Field on Tuesday, as Braun and Fielder combined to go just 1-for-6, with the lone hit coming on a single from Fielder in the ninth inning of an 8-1 loss to Arizona.

Fielder, though, said there's no reason to panic, as it's not the first time the duo has struggled offensively in the same game.

"I've seen it," Fielder said with a smile. "It's not that spectacular. It happens."

Braun, Fielder and the rest of the Brewers were held in check by rookie right-hander Josh Collmenter, who allowed just one run on two hits over seven innings.

Collmenter ran into trouble in the first inning, walking Braun and plunking Fielder, but he struck out Rickie Weeks to end the frame. It was a sign of things to come; though he allowed a leadoff single to Jerry Hairston in the second and a homer to Corey Hart to open the third, he retired 15 of the final 16 batters he faced.

"I wasn't going to give in to Braun, and the game plan was to pitch Fielder inside, so hitting him wasn't a big deal," Collmenter said. "Once I got [past] that, I was able to make some pitches, execute, move the ball in and out, and establish the fastball and keep them off-balance."

Collmenter, known for his unorthodox over-the-top delivery, was simply able to continue his dominance over the Brewers, as he also tossed 14 scoreless innings against them in the regular season.

"I knew we had trouble with Collmenter," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I thought we'd be able to score some runs off him, but Corey got the one home run and that was it. I knew this was going to be a tough game."

Fielder attributed Collmenter's funky delivery as a reason why his team struggled so much offensively, but also gave credit to the rookie for hitting his spots.

"It's different," Fielder said. "It's over the top. He has good movement on his changeup. He just didn't leave it over the middle today."

Collmenter's performance was a welcome sight for D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, especially because it came in a do-or-die game for his club.

"He kept them off-balance, and it's what we needed," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He deserves a lot of credit for the way he threw and the way he was composed tonight."

Collmenter was especially tough against the middle of the order, considering Braun, Fielder and Weeks combined to go 0-for-7 against him with three strikeouts.

Weeks, who has just one hit this postseason, said getting the middle of the lineup to produce is key to the Brewers' success, but also added it needs to be more of a collective effort.

"It's very important but I don't care who you are, one through nine, you have to swing the bat to win a ballgame," Weeks said. "But it was just one game tonight. We did our job the first two games, but just came up short today."

As Weeks pointed out, the Brewers still have the advantage in the series, and that's why Fielder said his team isn't too concerned with the loss and the lack of production from the offense.

"We're up, 2-1, so I don't see why we have to worry," Fielder said. "We just have to come back and play better baseball tomorrow."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.