Fielder's first hit gives Brewers sweep
Turnbow saves all three games of season-opening series
MILWAUKEE -- After two terrible games to start his season, Prince Fielder reassured observers -- and maybe himself -- that, "I can hit a little bit."
He got a very little hit on Wednesday night, but it couldn't have been bigger for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Fielder snapped an 0-for-11 start with a broken-bat bloop single in the eighth inning that gave the Brewers a sweep-clinching 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of 15,430 fans at Miller Park.
"I didn't really panic, but it was like, 'Geez, am I ever going to get on base again?'" a smiling Fielder said afterward. "I'm glad I was able to do it."
He was hitless in his first 12 plate appearances, including seven strikeouts and one walk, not exactly the kind of start the Brewers envisioned when they traded steady first baseman Lyle Overbay to the Blue Jays to open an everyday position for Fielder.
With Wednesday's game knotted at 2 with one out in the eighth, following walks by Geoff Jenkins and Bill Hall, Fielder fought off an 0-2 pitch from Roberto Hernandez and dumped it into shallow left field. Jenkins motored home, and the Brewers were on the way to their first three-game sweep of the pesky Pirates since August 2003.
"It was the right pitch, right situation, bad results," said Hernandez. "Sometimes you have to tip your hat. We have been beating him all series [by] pounding him up. He just happened to flare a ball in there."
"He's [Fielder's] been putting a lot of pressure on himself and that's usually what it takes, some little hit to get him going," said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who hit his second home run of the series in the fifth.
"I think he was pretty down, but he's too good of a hitter to keep down."
Milwaukee starter Tomo Ohka was outstanding in seven innings of work, holding the Pirates to one earned run on five hits. Matt Wise (1-0) got the win after working a scoreless eighth and Derrick Turnbow notched his third save in as many games.
Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead when Jenkins lost a fly ball in the lights in right field in the second inning, then pulled even in the top of the sixth when Ohka left a pitch up in the zone to outfielder Jason Bay, who crushed a 440-foot home run to center field.
Milwaukee scored both of its earlier runs in the fifth inning, when Hardy homered off Duke and Lee scored on an error by shortstop Jack Wilson. The Brewers left the bases loaded in the first two innings against tough Pirates left-hander Zach Duke, who limited Milwaukee to five hits in six innings.
"There were times last year where he would give us an opportunity in the first couple of innings and we wouldn't capitalize and then he would just nail down," Brewers manager Ned Yost said of the 23-year-old Duke. "We finally broke through."
Yost dropped Fielder from fifth to seventh in the batting order for Wednesday's game, but stood by his rookie first baseman.
"I may move him up or down, but I'm not taking him out of the lineup no matter what happens," Yost said before the game. "He'll get his occasional day off just like everybody will get, but he doesn't have to worry about coming out of the lineup. He's playing."
Fielder went 0-for-9 and struck out seven times in his first two games as a Brewers regular. He whiffed in all four plate appearances on Opening Day, and then three more times on Tuesday. All seven of Fielder's strikeouts came swinging.
In the eighth inning of Tuesday's win, the crowd did its best to support the 21-year-old, offering an impromptu standing ovation. Fielder flew out to center field.
"I appreciate it," said Fielder, who was so locked into his at-bat he didn't notice the ovation. "It's a little tough right now, but I'll be all right."
Fielder is traditionally a slow starter, but his professional resume is pretty impressive. In parts of four seasons since the Brewers made him the seventh overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, Fielder has hit .288 with 91 home runs and 327 RBIs in 448 Minor League games.
"I think I can hit a little bit," Fielder said. "If I can go out there and get one, I can hopefully get the confidence back and turn it around."
That finally happened on Wednesday, after Fielder got some words of wisdom from Yost.
"He told me to go out there and play, and don't worry too much about where I'm hitting right now [and] play good defense," Fielder said before the game. "I can hit. It's just a matter of time before I get it turned around. No worries."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.