Weeks, Fielder power Brewers to win
Rookies hit their first career Major League homers
MILWAUKEE -- Years from now, if things go as planned, a whole lot more than 44,685 people will say they were at Miller Park on Saturday night.
But that's how many made up the third-largest crowd in ballpark history and saw super-prospects Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder hit their first Major League home runs in a 7-6 win over the Twins that gave the Brewers and their fans another indication that this is a franchise on the rise.
"It's big for the fans to see some of the [draft] picks pay off, because in the past, a lot of them didn't really pan out," said veteran outfielder Geoff Jenkins, Milwaukee's first-round pick in 1995. "Everything the organization told the fans about is actually coming true."
Said Brewers ace Ben Sheets, the team's first-round pick in 1999: "Should be a lot more nights like this to come."
Folks around Milwaukee sure hope so. Major League RBI-leader Carlos Lee hit a big two-run double as the Brewers chipped away against Twins ace Johan Santana (7-4), but most of the damage was done by the kids.
Weeks, a 2003 first-round draft pick, hit a first-inning solo home run that gave the Brewers hope after falling behind Santana, 3-0. Fielder, a 2002 first-round pick, hit a pinch-hit, three-run home run off Jesse Crain in the sixth inning to cap a comeback and power the Brewers to their fourth straight win.
"The biggest thing was that the homers came at a great time," Weeks said.
The same can be said for the team's sudden influx of prospects. Weeks, a 22-year-old second baseman, Fielder, a 21-year-old first baseman and J.J. Hardy, the 22-year-old shortstop, combined to go 4-for-7 Saturday with four runs scored and four RBIs on the same day that 21-year-old third baseman Ryan Braun, Milwaukee's top pick earlier this month in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, visited Miller Park for the first time.
Welcome to the future.
"They haven't been intimidated by the league," Lee said of the Brewers' rookies. "Every time they go to the plate, their confidence is enough that they feel like they belong here. And that's great, because the only thing that goes against you when you get to the big leagues is fear."
After his homer in the first inning, Weeks hit his first Major League triple in the fourth off Santana, and he walked before Lee's fifth-inning double cut the deficit to 5-4. Hardy, who doubled and scored on that play, batted again in the sixth against Crain and executed a sacrifice bunt that left a pair of runners in scoring position for Fielder, who jumped on the first pitch.
"I just tried to hit a line drive and it kept on going," Fielder said with a laugh.
Weeks advised Fielder to approach the at-bat that way. Good advice.
"The first pitch he got, I told him to go for it," Weeks said. "He got it."
Fielder got all of it. His 426-foot, opposite-field blast cleared the Brewers' bullpen in left-center field and gave Milwaukee a 7-5 lead.
"That's his swing," Weeks said. "He's a great power hitter, but at the same time, he can hit the ball the other way."
"I was going up there trying to drive the first fastball I saw," Fielder said. "Especially off the bench, I didn't want to be behind, 0-1. That's what I tried to do and I was able to go with the plan."
Matt Wise (1-2), who pitched a scoreless sixth inning, got the win, Ricky Bottalico surrendered a run in the seventh but preserved the lead and Julio Santana and Derrick Turnbow held the Twins scoreless over the final two innings. Turnbow, pitching in his third straight game, retired the Twins' Nos. 2-4 hitters -- all dangerous left-handers -- for his 14th save.
The bullpen's clamp-down preserved a memorable night for Weeks, Fielder and Brewers fans like Gary Nelson of Union Grove, Wis., who caught Fielder's home run on the outfield concourse and got to meet both rookies outside the clubhouse after the game.
"I want an autograph from Fielder and Weeks and I'm set," Nelson said.
Get them while you can. Fielder is probably headed back to Triple-A Nashville for the second half because the Brewers are set at first base with Lyle Overbay. Yost said again Saturday that the team will make a roster move on Fielder "when the time is right," but for now he is enjoying watching the duo in action.
"I don't ever see them apart," Yost said. "They both have great work ethic, they both know that they're talented players but they both know that they've got things they need to improve on. They work at it every single day. They feed off of each other in that respect."
Brewers starter Tomo Ohka surrendered three first-inning runs on a pair of homers for the second straight start, and Torii Hunter's second home run of the game in the fourth inning made it 4-1. It was 4-2 with two outs in the top of the fifth when Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau struck out but reached first base on a wild pitch as another Twins run scored.
"Any time you can beat Santana it means something," Yost said.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.