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Pressure is on Brewers

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Michael Hunt
October 12, 2011
— When my plane landed Tuesday at Lambert International, the flight attendant completed her welcoming spiel with a “go Brewers.”

Naturally, a murmur went through the cabin.


What did she say?


As pitchers-turned-commentators Dennis Eckersley and Boomer Wells were up in first class, I wasn’t able to hear their reactions. But some of the St. Louisans onboard seemed to take it in the spirit in which it was given. Like Milwaukee, this is a very good and passionate, if somewhat insular, baseball town.


But that’s not a Brewers-Cardinals problem here in the NLCS. It’s more of a MLB-TV problem. The last four teams in the tournament—the Brewers, the Cardinals, the Rangers and the Tigers—don’t exactly have national appeal. If the Dallas-Fort Worth area were just a tad farther north, it would be a Midwest invitational. And you know how that plays in Peoria, if nowhere else.


Again, that’s not the Brewers’ concern. Nor is all those World Series flags planted in Busch Stadium or all those statues of all those Hall of Famers outside the park that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and his top aide, Gord Ash, were admiring just before their team milled about in unseasonably humid weather.


The Brewers’ issues are narrow, specific and manageable. If they want this series to return to Miller Park, it pretty much comes down to Game 3 tonight.


Simply, Yovani Gallardo must pitch the game of his career. We all know he’s 1-7 lifetime against the Cardinals. He has to pitch so well that he cannot count on more than a handful of support runs against Chris Carpenter at home. You know Carpenter is coming back for Game 7 if there is a Game 7, so the Brewers have to get to him now in a game that should have far less scoring than the debacle in the valley Monday night.


That means the Brewers can’t take a chance with Nyjer Morgan in center field, not the way he misplayed a couple of balls in the third inning of Game 2. The anticipated low margin of error for Gallardo vs. Carpenter means the Brewers have to go with Carlos Gomez chasing ’em down.


They’ve seen the benefits of replacing Casey McGehee with Jerry Hairston at third base in the playoffs. With Shaun Marcum suddenly getting sideways and Randy Wolf looking so hesitant and hittable in Arizona, the Brewers no longer have the time for just about any player to rediscover their game.


“When you’re in the regular season, you wait things out,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “In the playoffs, you can’t have that weeklong slump. You can’t stick with it. You’re going to stick with Ryan (Braun) and Prince (Fielder), but the other guys, sometimes you need guys who are hot.”


All the Brewers really need from Gomez is to get a better jump on the ball in a stadium that is less hitter-friendly than Miller Park. But more than that, they’ve got to get the game of Gallardo’s life or this series might not get out of St. Louis.


Someone asked Cardinals manager Tony La Russa if he found it “incongruous” that his team is 7-1 against the Brewers’ ace.


Said La Russa: “Incongruous? Is that like Washington, D.C., Congress?”


OK, so La Russa won’t be headlining a comedy club after Game 3, but he knows how both teams can hammer the ball if Gallardo or Carpenter find a little too much of the plate.


“Look at Gallardo,” La Russa said. “He has excellent command of several of his pitches. But we like our chances because we like Carp.”


It’s going to be a lonely feeling for the Brewers in this place if they don’t win.


A solitary voice on an airplane is nice, but what the Brewers really need is for Gallardo to pitch like it’s Game 7.


For most practical purposes, it is.



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