MILWAUKEE -- You know you've got a good ballgame on your hands when a triple play is fourth on the list of defensive gems. That may have been the case Sunday, when the Brewers and Giants locked into a duel of pitchers and defenders that finally ended in the bottom of the 12th inning, when Milwaukee's Prince Fielder slugged a home run for a 2-1 win that averted a San Francisco sweep. Third baseman Casey McGehee initiated the Brewers' first triple play in more than a decade but was far from the only defensive star. For San Francisco, left fielder Eugenio Velez set the tone when he laid out for an outrageous catch in the first inning, and third baseman Pablo Sandoval preserved a 1-1 tie with a diving catch to strand the bases full of Brewers in the 10th. For Milwaukee, catcher Jason Kendall dove toward the seats to catch a foul bunt in the top of the 10th inning after the Giants put their first two men on base.
"You knew somebody was going to score eventually," McGehee said. "Luckily, it ended up being us when Prince hit that big homer." McGehee had a big sixth inning. After Brewers starter Braden Looper surrendered successive singles leading off the frame, Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand smashed a grounder right to McGehee, who was positioned hear the line. McGehee stepped on third base and fed to Felipe Lopez at second, who relayed to Fielder at first for the Brewers' first triple play since the 1999 home opener against the Cubs. The play helped Looper combine with five Brewers relievers to work 11 scoreless innings after Looper surrendered a run in the top of the first, his only blemish while matching a season-high with seven innings pitched. Winner Mitch Stetter (4-1) retired all three Giants he faced in the top of the 12th inning before the Brewers won it in right-hander Merkin Valdez's second inning of work. Valdez (2-1) struck out Ryan Braun, but Fielder yanked an 0-and-1 pitch down the left-field line for his 37th home run and his Major League-leading 123rd RBI. "I was just looking for a ball to square up," said Fielder, who hit his homer just as the clock was about to strike 5 p.m. CT, three hours and 53 minutes after Looper's first pitch. "At this time of day, it's a little tough, so you're just trying to make a good swing at it. Square it up, see what happens." Fielder rounded the bases and took a big jump toward home plate and his waiting teammates, who all tumbled backward as Fielder held his hands in the air. Asked about his postgame choreography, Fielder said simply, "It's a team thing." Less graceful was his belly flop in the second inning. Fielder launched himself toward second base for a double off San Francisco starter Jonathan Sanchez, who allowed only two other hits and one Brewers run in six quality innings. Fielder may have gotten more height than distance, and he was able to laugh along after the game. "I panicked," he said. "When I think I'm going to be out, I jump at the bag because I'm scared to be out." You couldn't blame Fielder for being chipper after the game, because he didn't face any more at-bats against the parade of Giants relievers throwing high-90s gas. The Brewers stranded a runner in scoring position in the sixth, seventh, eighth, 10th and 11th innings before finally pushing ahead in the 12th. "It's unbelievable," Fielder said of the San Francisco bullpen. "It's tough. When they throw 99 [mph] on the black, it's hard to do anything with it. They're a winning team for a reason." "Everybody out there throws a gazillion mph," said Lopez. "Their whole pitching staff is good. I think that's why they're in the race, because they have good hitters over there who aren't hitting right now. Every game they win or lose is by one run." At the plate, though, the Giants continued to struggle. After beating the Brewers, 3-2, in each of the first two games of the series, they came out swinging against Looper. Velez doubled leading off the game and scored two batters later on Pablo Sandoval's single for a 1-0 lead. But Velez would prove the final Giants hitter to touch third base. Looper scattered five hits after the first, and David Weathers, Trevor Hoffman, Todd Coffey, Claudio Vargas and Stetter followed with a scoreless inning each. Coffey nearly picked up the win in the 10th, when the Brewers loaded the bases against Giants reliever Bob Howry. Kendall worked into a 3-and-0 count, looked at a pair of strikes and then hit a smash that seemed destined for left field. Instead, Sandoval snagged it with a dive. "The game could have been over 30 minutes earlier," McGehee said. "Sandoval made a great play." Rowand, the victim of the triple play, was looking for positives. Here's one: The Giants returned to AT&T Park on Sunday night just two games back in the National League Wild Card race. "We had a lot of our guys hit balls good to the warning track," Rowand said. "We battled and ended up coming up a little short today. We hit some balls good and we didn't give up and kept battling inning after inning. You have to take that into account and move on to the next day." "It was good to finally push though in one of those," McGehee said. "It seems like we've had a few of those games lately but we just haven't been able to get it done. It was nice to be on the other side of it today."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.