Brewers hope return home just what they need

Brewers hope return home just what they need

Brewers hope return home just what they need
ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers once more couldn't win with the talented Zack Greinke on the mound for Friday night's Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium, but they've been in that spot before. All of Greinke's losses in 2011 have occurred on the road.

So now Milwaukee goes back to Miller Park needing to win two more games to keep a magical season alive.

On Friday, the magic was missing as the Brewers committed four errors that led to three unearned runs in a 7-1 loss to the Cardinals, and that made them look nothing like a 96-win NL Central champion. They dropped two of three at Busch Stadium to put themselves in a precarious spot heading into Sunday's Game 6.

But maybe Milwaukee has the series right where it wants it. True, the Brewers' 39-42 mark on the road in the regular season is the only sub-.500 road record of a postseason team this year. But their 57-24 record at Miller Park was the best home mark in baseball, by far.

And after downer performances in Games 3 and 4 of the NL Division Series in Arizona, the Brew Crew made the NLCS by taking a 10-inning, 3-2 thriller over the D-backs in the deciding fifth game -- before a boisterous home crowd that should be just as stoked for Game 6 and, the club hopes, Monday's final game of the series.

"I have a lot of confidence in our guys," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "They are confident at home. We can win two ballgames at home."

If they can pull off victories on Sunday and Monday, Milwaukee will gain revenge 29 years in the making. In 1982, the Brewers were members of the American League and had a 3-2 lead on the Cardinals in the World Series by winning two of the three games at old County Stadium. But they went to the previous Busch Stadium and absorbed 13-6 and 6-3 losses, and ended up watching the Cards celebrate in front of giddy fans.

A victory Sunday would swing history solidly behind the Brewers.

Only one time in World Series play since 1975 and LCS play since 1985 -- when that round went to a best-of-seven format -- did a team that went home trailing, 3-2, win Game 6 and not win Game 7. That team was the 2006 Mets, which lost Game 7 to the Cardinals, who went on the win the World Series over the Tigers.

To prevail, however, the Brewers will have to leave behind the version of the Brew Crew that looked nothing like a World Series contender Friday night.

The first St. Louis run scored when right fielder Corey Hart smashed into the wall but couldn't come up with Yadier Molina's second-inning drive.

Third baseman Jerry Hairston dove to snare a line drive from the next hitter, Nick Punto, then allowed Jaime Garcia's hard grounder to scoot between his feet for a two-run error. Even if there was a play on the second runner, Molina, it wouldn't have mattered because Hairston committed obstruction in the basepath.

Rickie Weeks' fourth-inning throwing error didn't hurt, but Yuniesky Betancourt's botching of a Jon Jay grounder allowed Albert Pujols to drive in the Cards' fifth run.

The best way to prevent errors on this night was to not let anyone hit the ball. Greinke wasn't up to that task.

Greinke didn't manage a strikeout in 5 2/3 innings. The only other time in his career -- 197 regular-season starts and three in the playoffs, all this year -- he didn't manage a strikeout was a no-chance outing this past June 28 against the Yankees. Lacking his dirt-grabbing slider Friday, Greinke didn't have a hitter swing and miss until Matt Holliday did so on the 68th of his 95 pitches. Pujols whiffed on pitch No. 94, but chased Greinke with a single on a poorly located slider later.

Now Greinke is left hoping for some Brewers home magic to put the team in the World Series and give him another chance on the road, where he suffered all six of his regular-season losses and this one in the postseason.

"Going back home, we can play better than we have, and I'm sure we will the last two games," Greinke said.

Hairston is more than happy to leave St. Louis in the rear-view mirror.

On Hairston's diving play and on his error, he said either the lighting or the white towels waved by the fans, or the Cards' white uniforms, prevented him from seeing either ball clearly. Even if he'd seen Garcia's grounder clearly, Hairston might not have grabbed it. He expected it to bounce upward, but it hit the "lip" -- the area where grass meets dirt -- and stayed along the ground.

"That's not fun, but I hope it'll turn around for us," Hairston said.

Hairston has reason to hope. The familiar grounds of Miller Park await the Brewers.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.