MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Brewers were the best home team in baseball this season.
Now, they have to win on the road if they want to return to Miller Park. No easy task for this ballclub.
“I think it’ll work out for us,” said Prince Fielder, who can become a free agent after the season.
Albert Pujols drove in four of his five runs against Shaun Marcum, who had another shaky start, and Milwaukee’s bullpen was roughed up in a 12-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the NL championship series Monday night.
“We’ll be fine once we get out of this clubhouse,” Marcum said.
The Brewers were a major league-best 57-24 at home in the regular season and had won all four of their playoff games at Miller Park this year, including a 9-6 victory in Game 1 against the Cardinals.
Now, the best-of-seven series shifts to St. Louis for three games and Milwaukee will have to win at least once at Busch Stadium. The Brewers were 39-42 on the road during the season and lost both games in the first round at Arizona.
“It’s a different series. Different ballpark. Different team. Our rotation is different,” Brewers rookie manager Ron Roenicke said. “Everything is different.”
Yovani Gallardo faces Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter in Game 3 on Wednesday.
Fielder wasn’t sure if losing home-field advantage would matter.
“The series isn’t over yet,” he said. “We’ll see when the series is over whether it was impactful or not.”
The Brewers allowed 17 hits, and Marcum’s poor performance puts his role in doubt for the rest of the postseason. He is slated to be the Game 6 starter, if necessary, but he has allowed 30 runs over his last 33 innings.
“As far as I’m concerned right now he’s pitching again,” Roenicke said.
Marcum and Roenicke insisted Sunday that the right-hander hadn’t been hit hard recently, but was instead a victim of bad luck.
Not on Monday. He was tagged from the start.
Pujols homered to left with one out after Jon Jay had a bunt single that Marcum failed to field cleanly. Pujols stood at the plate and admired his drive to left field for a moment before flipping his bat away.
“Albert doesn’t miss too many pitches on the plate,” Roenicke said. “They did a good job of really squaring up the mistakes that we made.”
Marcum put his hands on his hips in disgust but didn’t behave in the manner he did during a loss to Arizona in Game 3 of the division series, when he tossed his glove in the air after Paul Goldschmidt’s grand slam.
In the third, Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson hit a blooper that center fielder Nyjer Morgan couldn’t come up with on a dive. Jay singled with one out and Pujols brought them both in with a double, clapping and pointing to the sky.
Nick Punto added an RBI single in the fourth and Marcum left after the inning.
“It’s seven hits and three of them were hit hard,” Marcum said. “Been going on for the last six weeks.”
Milwaukee also must find answers after its bullpen faltered. Brewers relievers had a 1.14 ERA in 71 innings in September and a 1.77 ERA in six postseason games before Monday.
Marco Estrada, Kameron Loe and Chris Narveson all gave up runs to the Cardinals.
Narveson was Milwaukee’s fifth starter this year and Estrada was a spot starter when Zack Greinke was injured, leaving Roenicke with a couple of options if he wants to pull Marcum from a potential Game 6.
Estrada allowed two runs in the fifth, when Pujols hit an RBI double and scored on a wild pitch. Loe was even worse, allowing six hits and four runs while recording only one out in the seventh.
Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, David Freese and Punto all had RBI singles to make it 11-2, and Freese homered off Narveson in the ninth to give St. Louis a 12-3 lead.
“We didn’t execute today in two big areas of the game, defensively and pitching,” Roenicke said. “We’re not going to beat them if we don’t execute in those two areas.”
Rickie Weeks hit a two-run homer in the fourth to cut St. Louis’ lead to 5-2. He bounced into a double play with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth.
Weeks — hobbled by the lingering effects of a left ankle injury July 27 — appeared to beat the throw to first base and seemed upset when he was called out.
Weeks could be seen asking, “Are you serious?” to first base umpire Sam Holbrook, but Milwaukee’s shaky defense and lack of a strong relief made a potential rally moot.
“You guys saw the replay,” Roenicke said. “That was a big play.”
Fielder homered in the eighth to make it 11-3, the fourth postseason homer of his career to break the franchise record he had shared with Paul Molitor and Ted Simmons.
Marcum was acquired in December in a trade with Toronto for prospect Brett Lawrie and made a big impact early in the season, racing out to a 6-1 record.
After slumping through the early summer, he appeared to turn his season around when he allowed four runs in a span of five starts, including a one-hit performance in seven innings in a win over Houston on Sept. 4.
He’s been awful since then, giving up five runs or more in five of his last six starts and compiling a gaudy 8.18 ERA in the process that’s left both him and Roenicke searching for an explanation.
Many of Miller Park’s fans left by the eighth, but those who stuck around cheered loudly when the Brewers finally got Pujols to ground out. He finished 4 for 5 with a homer, three doubles, three runs and five RBIs.
Now, those fans are left to wonder whether the Brewers will be back.
“It’s 1-1,” Fielder said. “It’s not over.”
Copyright Associated Press