Late heroics lift Milwaukee to victory
Fielder's walk-off shot keeps Brewers on pace in NL Wild Card
MILWAUKEE -- Prince Fielder and the Brewers did not gain any ground in the National League Wild Card standings Tuesday night.That didn't stop them from celebrating like they had just won the World Series.
Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall and Fielder all delivered the kind of late-inning clutch hits that have been missing for the Brewers this month. Fielder's line-drive homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth sealed a seesaw, 7-5, win over the Pirates in front of 36,612 giddy fans at Miller Park.
The Brewers danced off the field with a win that breathed a bit more life into the team's postseason hopes.It came less than two hours after the Mets closed out a 6-2 win over the Cubs to retain the lead in the NL Wild Card race. Milwaukee sits one game behind New York with five games to play. That sounded a lot better to acting manager Dale Sveum & Co. than two games back with five to play. It was mostly thanks to Fielder -- who is hitting .412 during a 13-game hitting streak with six home runs and is the reigning NL Player of the Week -- who appears to be carrying the Brewers through their most important month in 26 years. "I really haven't felt like that," Fielder said. "I know it's a big situation, but I just want to be as relaxed as possible. These are serious games, but you can't play baseball like that." Brewers closer Salomon Torres (7-5) worked around an infield hit and a walk in the top of the ninth inning before Pirates righty T.J. Beam (2-2) retired the first two hitters he faced in the bottom half. Ryan Braun, who reached 100 RBIs with a triple in the first inning, kept the inning alive with an infield hit up the middle to set up a showdown between Beam and Fielder. Fielder faced a pair of similar opportunities last week in Chicago, first on Sept. 16 when he batted with runners at the corners, a run already across and the Brewers trailing Kerry Wood and the Cubs by a run. Fielder struck out looking, buckled by a breaking ball from Wood. Two days later, Fielder batted against Wood in the top of the 11th inning in a tie game. Again he struck out, this time swinging, and the Cubs went on to win in the 12th. Fielder would not be denied Tuesday. Beam left just enough hang on a slider, and Fielder hammered it out to right-center field, scoring Braun and, at the same time, matching him at the 100-RBI mark. "I picked the toughest time to do it," said Fielder, who finished 1-for-5. "I think I left a small village on base before that, but I'm glad we were able to win." The Brewers have won two in a row for the first time since Sept. 5-6 against San Diego, and will have CC Sabathia on the mound Wednesday on three days' rest. Acting manager Dale Sveum, who said he's treating every day like it's Game 7 of the World Series, was spared by Fielder from emptying his bullpen at the start of the final week. He was also happy to see a few more clutch hits from a slumping offense that had shown signs of life in an 8-1 win in Cincinnati on Sunday. "That's part of the problem, why we got in this position," Sveum said. "The fact of the matter is the guys came through the last couple of days to get the job done." The teams traded barbs starting in the bottom of the seventh inning, when Cameron delivered a two-run double that gave the Brewers a 4-3 lead, their first advantage since the Pirates spotted two unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning. Pittsburgh staged an unlikely rally of its own in the top of the eighth inning against Guillermo Mota, by far Milwaukee's most reliable reliever over the past two months. He owned an 0.83 ERA and had allowed no home runs over his previous 23 appearances, but walked Doug Mientkiewicz on four pitches leading off the inning. Right fielder Steve Pearce followed and ripped an 0-1 slider into the netting above the Brewers' bullpen in left-center field for a two-run homer and a 5-4 Pirates lead. It was Pearce's second big league home run, and the first off Mota since July 9. "He's aggressive," Fielder said of Mota. "Whenever you play with no worries or whatever, stuff like that is going to happen. You can't second guess yourself." Jason Kendall tied the game with a two-out double over Pearce's head in the eighth inning. Fielder then won it in the ninth. "Obviously, every at-bat means a lot to the Brewers," Pirates manager John Russell said. "They are going to be tough outs late in the game because they have a lot riding on this." The Pirates gave away at least one out in the first inning, when a pair of errors gift wrapped a pair of Brewers runs. Left fielder Nyjer Morgan botched Cameron's fly ball, and center fielder Nate McLouth was charged with a throwing error on Braun's RBI triple -- allowing Braun to motor all the way home for a 2-0 Brewers lead. The Pirates answered in the second inning with three runs against Dave Bush, who loaded the bases with three walks, including a two-out free pass to opposing pitcher Jeff Karstens. Morgan delivered a two-run single, and Freddy Sanchez followed with another RBI single for a 3-2 Pittsburgh lead that stood into the seventh. "We had a very rough couple of weeks, and we're fighting just to get back on track, playing the way we know we can," said Bush, who did not allow another run before he exited following the fifth. "This is right back where we wanted to be."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.