PITTSBURGH -- Perhaps 54 is Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder's magic number. Fielder was homerless in 53 at-bats entering Thursday's series finale against the Pirates when he stepped to the plate and launched a solo shot to center field leading off the second inning. The Brewers didn't stop there, hitting three more home runs as part of an historic, 20-0 win that finished a three-game sweep. The win took precedence, but ending the home run drought was a close second on the list of reasons for Fielder to smile on the flight back to Milwaukee. He also waited until his 54th at-bat in 2008, when he ended the power outage with a game-winning homer against the Cardinals.
"At least I know I can do it," Fielder said. Fielder ended the 2008 regular season with 34 home runs. He followed in 2009 with 46, one shy of Albert Pujols' Major League-leading total. With No. 1 of 2010 out of the way, Fielder figures he can move on. "Not that results are everything, but when you know the talent that you have, it gets frustrating when you [don't show it]," Fielder said. "You want your talent to be there, no matter what month it is, no matter if it's a pick-up game." Fielder has a history of slow starts beyond his 53-at-bat home run droughts in 2008 and 2010. As a rookie in 2006, Fielder started the year 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts before he hit a bloop, game-winning single to beat the Pirates in the third game of the season. In 2007, he didn't hit his second home run of the season until April 20. Last season, he didn't hit his second homer until April 25. In all of those instances, the home runs eventually started flying out of the ballpark. That's why he tried not to worry this time around. "You know that, but when you're in the game you want what you can do now," he said. "After the game, you have to think about [your past success] so you don't squeeze your head off." Fielder homered Thursday with a sore left hand, though manager Ken Macha insisted that the problem was nothing more than soreness. It had nothing at all to do with the beating Fielder delivered to a bench in the dugout during the team's last homestand -- an incident that was caught on camera by ESPN. Instead, Fielder's hand is sore from the steady stream of up-and-in pitches that opposing pitchers have been pounding him with. The "injury" -- to use that term loosely -- has not kept Fielder out of the lineup. He has started all 15 games this season after starting all 162 games last season, and he played in his 200th consecutive game on Thursday, the longest active streak in the Major Leagues.