Cards Pound Brewers 12-3 To Even Series

Albert Pujols blasted three doubles and a homer, the rest of the lineup contributed 13 other hits, and the Cardinals whipped the Brewers in Monday's Game 2 to knot the series 1-1.

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Brewers vs. Cardinals, NLCS Game 2: A Closer Look

Monday night, the Cardinals pounded the Brewers into submission and evened the NLCS 1-1. Let's pull out the magnifying glass, shall we?

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Brewers vs. Cardinals, Game 2 NLCS: Highlights From The Live Blog

Albert Pujols hit a home run in the first inning on Monday, setting the tone for a crazy night in which the Cardinals outslugged the Brewers, 12-3, to pull even at one game apiece in the NLCS. The Cards combined for 17 hits on the night, including four by Pujols, who also drove in five runs. 

While Pujols was putting on his hitting clinic, Baseball Nation's writers were live-blogging the action. Here are the highlights of their in-game analysis:

• Tony La Russ rolled the dice and started Nick Punto:

That's right, Nick Punto. The same Nick Punto who is 1-for-7 this postseason (Ryan Theriot, who he is replacing, is 6-for-14, though he was 0-for-4 in Game 1). Punto did have the best offensive season of his 11-year career in 2011, hitting .278/.388/.421 in 166 plate appearances. And, he's 4-for-11 lifetime with a double off tonight's Brewers starter, Shaun Marcum.

Spoiler alert: It worked. Punto hit 2-for-4 with two RBI. Then again, I'm pretty even the Cardinals' bat boy had three hits with a couple of ribbies, but still. 

• The Cardinals struck first with Pujols' long ball ...

• ... and the Cardinals struck second with Pujols' two-run double

• Wasn't Shawn Marcum supposed to be good? Rob Neyer isn't sure if he deserves another start:

Will Ron Roenicke dare give Shaun Marcum another start?

After beating the Cubs on the 20th of September, Marcum had started 32 games, posted a 3.31 ERA and struck out roughly three times more batters than he walked.

Marcum has started three games since then.

On the 26th, he started against the Pirates and got knocked out in the fifth inning, allowing seven runs.

Last week, he started against the Diamondbacks in the Division Series and got knocked out in the fifth inning, allowing seven runs.

Tonight he started against the Cardinals in the League Championship Series and ... well, we don't know yet, exactly. We do know he's pitched four innings so far and given up five runs, leaving his Brewers in an early 5-0 hole.

• Rickie Weeks' hits a home run, cutting St. Louis' lead to 5-2. 

• Albert Pujols with another RBI. Neyer notes:

Let's be honest about this, though ... Tonight it looks like Albert Pujols is better, all by himself, than the 25 guys wearing Brewers uniforms.

• Things just got plain ugly in the seventh inning, with St. Louis scoring four more runs on six hits.

• Playing for pride, Prince Fielder did this in the eighth inning:

Fielderslamma

It'd be proud of that, but it was still an 11-3 game. The Cardinals got that run back with a David Freese home run one inning later

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NLCS Game 2: Albert Pujols, Cards Demolish Brewers, 12-3

Albert Pujols powered the Cardinals to an early lead, a big lead, then an even bigger lead, as St. Louis clobbered the Milwaukee Brewers, 12-3.

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Brewers vs. Cardinals: David Freese Piles On Because Why Not

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Prince Fielder turned an 11-2 ballgame into an 11-3 ballgame with an absolutely mammoth blast to the upper deck in right field. David Freese clearly thought that was a little too close for comfort, so in the top of the ninth, he added that run right back.

With one out, Freese faced Chris Narveson and got a low changeup over the plate. Freese went down and drilled a liner to the opposite field that kept carrying and carrying until it cleared the fence. It was the second home run in two days that Freese has hit to right, and the second of those home runs that didn't look like a home run off the bat.

In any case, it's 12-3, and the Cardinals have scored the second-most runs they've ever scored in a playoff game. They've scored 12 three other times, most recently in 2002; on 10/19/82, they scored 13. Their opponent in that game? The Milwaukee Brewers, of course.

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Prince Fielder's Titanic Homer Pulls Brewers Not-So-Close

It might have been the most irrelevant home run in NLCS history, but don't call it unimpressive:

Fielderslamma

If nothing else, Fielder's eighth-inning blast gave the Milwaukee fans -- most of whom have stuck around, even though it's well after 10 on a school night and their Brewers are getting blown out -- one more happy Game 2 memory. However irrelevant.

However high and far he hits 'em, though, they still count for just one run. So after eight innings it's Cardinals 11, Brewers 3.

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Brewers vs. Cardinals: Pujols Doubles To Lower Slugging Percentage For The Night, Cardinals Still Run Up The Score

It's worth wondering what happened in that alternate reality where Sam Holbrook didn't call Rickie Weeks out trying to beat a double play. The score would have been 7-3, with Jerry Hairston coming up with runners on first and third. It probably wouldn't have made a difference. But it could have.

What we do know is that the Cardinals turned this one into a laugher in the seventh inning, scoring two three four runs off the Milwaukee bullpen. With one out, Albert Pujols, feeling merciful, hit a measly double down the right-field line. But then everything fell apart. Miller Park started smelling like cheap cologne because it was singles night all up in the place.

pause until laughter subsides

Five straight singles after Pujols's double brought the score to 11-2, and barring a miracle comeback that will come up in every playoff series for the next 94 years, it looks like the Cardinals will head to St. Louis with the series tied 1-1. 

An unfortunate casualty:

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If he pitches shutout ball over his next 58 playoff appearances, he'll still have an ugly postseason ERA. 

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Brewers vs. Cardinals: Crew Squanders Golden Opportunity, With Help

The Brewers went into the bottom of the fifth trailing the Cardinals 7-2. They emerged from the bottom of the fifth trailing 7-2. For this, they have both themselves to blame, and another guy to blame.

Edwin Jackson started the inning, but did not start it well - he walked Corey Hart to lead off, and two batters later, he allowed Ryan Braun to smoke an automatic double to center field. That double chased Jackson from the game after 82 pitches, as Tony La Russa decided it was time to start playing the matchups.

In came Arthur Rhodes to pitch to Prince Fielder, and Rhodes walked Fielder on six pitches. That loaded the bases with one out for Rickie Weeks.

So that brought La Russa out of the dugout again, as he called on Lance Lynn. On Lynn's first pitch to Weeks - a low, away curve - he got the result he wanted, as Weeks bounced a grounder to short. Rafael Furcal flipped the ball to Nick Punto, who threw to Albert Pujols to complete the inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

Except:

Weeksdp

You can't really tell there, but Weeks was - very barely - safe at first, as his foot beat the ball to the bag. Sam Holbrook didn't think so, costing the Brewers at least one run. That one run would've only changed this from a 7-2 game to a 7-3 game, but the Brewers have sufficiently explosive an offense that that call could be a pretty big call.

Weeks produced a lousy ball in play, and that's his own fault. But that double play wasn't a double play, and well, it's a shame these things have to happen.

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Brewers vs. Cardinals: Albert Pujols Strikes Again, St. Louis Up 7-2

In the bottom of the fifth, Rickie Weeks got the Milwaukee fans excited with a two-run homer that finally got the Brewers on the board. Sure, the Brewers still trailed the Cardinals 5-2, but baseball! Hope! and Faith!

Except the Cardinals have this guy who puts a bad hurt on the baseball every time he comes up. Tonight, anyway.

In the first inning, Jon Jay singled and Albert Pujols homered.

In the third inning, Edwin Jackson and Jon Jay singled and Albert Pujols doubled.

In the fifth inning, Jon Jay doubled and Albert Pujols doubled.

That made the score 6-2, and Pujols made it 7-2 moments later when, always on the lookout for an opportunity to swipe an extra base, scored from third when reliever Marco Estrada buried a pitch in the dirt.

Hey, Pujols doesn't do everything. In the fourth, Nick Punto chipped in with an RBI single.

Let's be honest about this, though ... Tonight it looks like Albert Pujols is better, all by himself, than the 25 guys wearing Brewers uniforms.

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Brewers vs. Cardinals: Rickie Weeks Homer Brings Milwaukee Closer, Cards Still Lead 5-2

Rickie Weeks has a bad ankle, which led Rob Neyer to wonder if Craig Counsell was a better option. It's at this point that I'd like you to stop what you're doing, and laugh at Rob Neyer.

...

Good. With that out of the way, we can discuss the Rickie Weeks home run in the bottom of the fourth inning, which cut the Cardinals' lead to 5-2. Prince Fielder opened the inning with a double, and Weeks hit the homer on a fastball on the inside corner.

And to be fair this Neyer character, Weeks hasn't looked especially good so far this postseason, hitting just 1-for-18 in the Division Series against the Phillies, but he looked like the player the Brewers were expecting to anchor the middle of the order in the playoffs.

The Brewers were down 5-2 in the fifth inning of Game 1, so the deficit shouldn't seem insurmountable. Still, it's probably not the best idea to keep giving up runs to the Cardinals. Not like most pitchers have a choice, though, especially against this Pujols character.

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Brewers vs. Cardinals: Cards Score Again, Lead 5-0

Here in Game 2 of the NLCS, Shaun Marcum is having another lousy outing, but for three innings at least he had the excuse that he was having a lousy outing because of Albert Pujols, who drove in the Cardinals' first four runs. Marcum lost that excuse in the fourth.

Leading off, Yadier Molina worked a long at bat against Marcum, and then ripped a low-inside fastball into left field for a double. Two batters later, unusual starter Nick Punto grounded a low curveball right back up the middle to score Molina, and the Cardinals extended their lead to 5-0.

Marcum retired the next two batters to keep the damage there, but with five runs, seven hits, and one strikeout through four frames, he's been ineffective, and there's action in the Milwaukee bullpen. Should his spot come up to the plate in the bottom of the fourth, it wouldn't be surprising at all to see Ron Roenicke pinch-hit. Side note: Ron Roenicke looks like Zack Greinke in 30 years. Stop and think about it.

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Is There Something Wrong With Shaun Marcum?

Let's assume for the moment that this National League Championship Series is extended to six games (which seems exceptionally likely right now) ...

Will Ron Roenicke dare give Shaun Marcum another start?

After beating the Cubs on the 20th of September, Marcum had started 32 games, posted a 3.31 ERA and struck out roughly three times more batters than he walked.

Marcum has started three games since then.

On the 26th, he started against the Pirates and got knocked out in the fifth inning, allowing seven runs.

Last week, he started against the Diamondbacks in the Division Series and got knocked out in the fifth inning, allowing seven runs.

Tonight he started against the Cardinals in the League Championship Series and ... well, we don't know yet, exactly. We do know he's pitched four innings so far and given up five runs, leaving his Brewers in an early 5-0 hole.

We also know that in his last 13⅓ innings, Marcum has walked seven batters and struck out six. And in the process, he's given his team very little of chance of winning in each of those three games.

Maybe it's just a blip. But don't be terribly surprised if Marco Estrada or Chris Narveson starts Game 6.

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Brewers vs. Cardinals: No, Seriously, Albert Pujols Is Good; Cards Lead 4-0

I'll assume that because no one commented on the last update that I posted -- with a title of "Albert Pujols Is Good" -- everyone assumes that I'm just making stuff up. Look, you can be a cynic if you want, but you have to believe me on this: Albert Pujols is good. There are statistics that prove it. Don't make me dig them up.

He's especially good at hitting baseballs, and with one out and two on, Pujols drove a ball to dead center. Nyjer Morgan twisted around a bit in his pursuit, crashing into the wall without coming up with it. In the interests of science, I'm obligated to let you know that Morgan running into a wall is 344% less funny than Shane Victorino running into a wall. Sorry, Phillies fans, this is just an objective truth.

The double drove in two runs, putting the Cardinals up 4-0, and it made Shaun Marcum make one of those "can't believe I threw a strike to Pujols" faces, though it could have been a "can't believe I gave up a hit to Edwin Jackson" face.

Also of note: Edwin Jackson is still controlling this entire postseason.

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Brewers vs. Cardinals: Milwaukee Threatens, Doesn't Score

The Brewers came back from a big deficit in Game 1 of the NLCS, so being down 2-0 probably isn't a big deal to a team with their kind of firepower. The problem with that firepower, though, is that it isn't distributed evenly. After the Braun/Fielder/Weeks troika, the hitters start to get a little pedestrian.

So when the Brewers are getting things from that bottom of the order -- as they have been for a lot of the postseason -- it's especially frustrating when they don't cash in. With one out, Jerry Hairston and Yuniesky Betancourt, who have been Paul Molitor and Robin Yount so far in the playoffs, hit back-to-back singles.

Jonathan Lucroy worked the count 3-1 before swinging at ball four against Edwin Jackson. He eventually flew out to right field, which brought up Shaun Marcum. Fans of the American League are laughing at us purists right now, but Marcum worked a five-pitch at-bat against Jackson! We get very excited about that sort of thing.

Besides, it just would have been Casey McGehee DH'ing. Don't act so cocky.

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Brewers vs. Cardinals: Albert Pujols Is Good, Cardinals Lead 2-0

There are a lot of misused splits when people try to analyze the postseason, but one of the ones I truly believe in is the split that indicates that Albert Pujols crushes right-handed pitching. Maybe it's a small sample -- a decade or so -- but it really looks like he's a player who hits righties hard. Lefties, too. Pitchers, mostly.

With that in mind, it's probably not a surprise that Pujols was nonplussed by Shaun Marcum's fastball, crushing it over the left-field fence for a 2-0 lead. It's the second straight game in which the Cardinls have jumped out to an early lead, and it's the third straight Marcum start in which he's been drubbed early. Jon Jay, with one out, set up the homer with a perfect bunt single.

If you go back to Marcum's last regular-season game against the Pirates, he's given up 16 earned runs in his last 10⅓ innings. Brett Lawrie could have done that.

But after a walk to Matt Holliday, the Brewers got out of the inning on a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play when Tony La Russa worried you weren't paying attention to who was managing.

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Brewers Adjust NLCS Game 2 Lineup, With Cardinals Righthander Edwin Jackson Pitching

In Game 1, the Cardinals started lefthander Jaime Garcia against the Brewers. Monday night, they’ll go with righthander Edwin Jackson, so Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has made a couple of shifts in his lineup to match:

1. Corey Hart – R – RF
2. Nyjer Morgan – L – CF
3. Ryan Braun – R – LF
4. Prince Fielder – L – 1B
5. Rickie Weeks – R – 2B
6. Jerry Hairston – R – 3B
7. Yuniesky Betancourt – R – SS
8. Jonathan Lucroy – R – C
9. Shaun Marcum – R – P

Nyjer Morgan, whose last plate appearance put the Brewers in this series with his single against the Diamondbacks, will play center field (instead of Carlos Gomez) and bat second. Jerry Hairston remains at third base, but drops to sixth in the order. In recognition of his home run in Game 1, Yuniesky Betancourt gets dropped in the order from sixth to seventh.

The Brewers had 11 hits and three home runs Sunday and are hitting .324 as a team this postseason. Jackson will have to be at his best tonight.

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Tony La Russa Makes Minor Tweak To Cardinals' NLCS Game 2 Lineup

There is just one change that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has made to his Game 2 lineup, compared to the nine that started Game 1 (besides the obvious difference of a new starting pitcher). See if you can spot the subtle change.

Rafael Furcal – S – SS
Jon Jay – L – CF
Albert Pujols – R – 1B
Matt Holliday – R – LF
Lance Berkman – S – RF
Yadier Molina – R – C
David Freese – R – 3B
Nick Punto – S – 2B
Edwin Jackson – R – P

That’s right, Nick Punto. The same Nick Punto who is 1-for-7 this postseason (Ryan Theriot, who he is replacing, is 6-for-14, though he was 0-for-4 in Game 1). Punto did have the best offensive season of his 11-year career in 2011, hitting .278/.388/.421 in 166 plate appearances. And, he’s 4-for-11 lifetime with a double off tonight’s Brewers starter, Shaun Marcum.

Sometimes, hunches and matchups work. We’ll see if La Russa’s little switch pays off this evening.

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Brewers vs. Cardinals, NLCS Game 2 Preview: Time, TV Schedule, Lineups And More

The Milwaukee Brewers look to take a 2-0 lead in the NLCS on Monday as they face the St. Louis Cardinals.

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