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Homer doesn't alleviate Kotsay's rough first

Homer doesn't alleviate Kotsay's rough first

Homer doesn't alleviate Kotsay's rough first
ST. LOUIS -- Given a rare start in center field against a top-flight starting pitcher amid the pressure of a postseason setting, Brewers outfielder Mark Kotsay was fueled by an abundance of adrenaline that proved destructive during a first inning that he and many others will not soon forget.

"It will be a part of history for a long time, I guess," Kotsay said in reference to the costly first-inning mistakes he made during Wednesday night's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

Making just his 10th start this year in center field and third dating back to June 13, Kotsay was hoping to take advantage of the opportunity to do something special. But by the time the evening ended, the third-inning solo homer he had hit off Cards ace Chris Carpenter did not necessarily fit in the "special" category.

Instead, it simply added to the oddity of an evening marred by the baserunning and defensive mistakes he made as his emotions got the best of him in the decisive first inning.

Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke gave Kotsay the start in center field because the 15-year veteran had some previous success against Carpenter, with four hits in 11 at-bats, and because he did not feel great about the way Nyjer Morgan was swinging the bat.

By the time the evening was over, Roenicke was being asked if he wished he would have started defensive whiz Carlos Gomez, who would have most likely caught Jon Jay's sinking liner that eluded a diving Kotsay's glove in St. Louis' four-run first inning.

"Well, Gomez is going to catch it," Roenicke said. "Gomez catches everything that's out there. He is a great defensive center fielder."

But with Carpenter on the mound, Roenicke felt more comfortable sacrificing some defense in center field to put Kotsay in the No. 2 hole of his lineup. This seemed to be a good move when the 35-year-old veteran outfielder drew a one-out walk in the first inning against Carpenter.

But with one out and runners on first and second, Kotsay killed a potentially productive first inning by getting doubled off second base on Prince Fielder's line drive to center field.

"In that first inning, there is a little adrenaline going," Kotsay said. "I got a little aggressive on the ball that Prince hit. I read it off the end of the bat a little bit. With Prince up, I read the outfield deeper than normal. The ball carried and got deeper than normal. I got in no-man's land.

"The rest is history. It was quite entertaining for everybody, but I was doing everything I could to get back to the bag. I fell a little short."

Adding injury to insult, Kotsay ate some dirt when his face slammed into the ground as he attempted to get back to second base. A short time later, he found himself making yet another unsuccessful dive as he attempted to catch Jay's liner.

"That ball was tailing away from me," Kotsay said. "It's a 3-2 count with a runner on second and a left-handed hitter up. You're looking to pull the ball. You're not looking to go to left-center with the ball. He got beat. It was a good pitch. The ball was just out of my reach. I made every effort to get it. I came up short and they built momentum on that play."

The Cardinals ended up scoring four runs before Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo recorded his first out with his 27th pitch of the first inning. The early cushion proved to be enough as Kotsay's home run ended up being the game's last run.

Staying true to his character, Kotsay proved very accountable after the game. At the same time, he found time to laugh about the fact that he has committed an error during three of the four games in which he has hit a home run this year.

"You can't view one play as the determining factor," Kotsay said. "We had many opportunities to get the hit. They did their job."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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