Fielder sets Brewers' season RBI mark
First baseman passes Cooper with 127th RBI on sac fly
MILWAUKEE -- Prince Fielder is the Brewers' new king of run production.He was denied in the first inning and again in the seventh on Saturday, but not in the eighth, when Fielder lifted a sacrifice fly off Astros closer Jose Valverde to break Cecil Cooper's 26-year-old franchise record for RBIs in a single season. Cooper drove in 126 runs in 1983; fellow first baseman Fielder notched No. 127 with 14 games left to play in 2009. "It's about time," said Fielder, who had been tied with Cooper since Sunday, six days earlier. "I've had so many opportunities over the past week and I haven't been able to get the job done. I finally was able to come through." Fielder's RBI put the finishing touches on the Brewers' 7-2 win over the Astros and snapped his five-game streak without an RBI. It was his longest spell all season, and he's started all 148 of Milwaukee's games. Cooper had a front-row seat for the record-breaking RBI. He's now the Astros' manager. "It's a cool achievement, just to be lumped with a guy like 'Coop,'" Fielder said. "He's a great player, and this organization has had a lot of great players." Said Cooper: "My congratulations to him on it, but I'm thinking more about wins and losses right now." Fielder nearly broke the record an inning earlier, when he singled up the middle with runners at first and second base. But Jody Gerut got a late break from second and was held by third-base coach Brad Fischer. When Fielder saw the stop sign go up, he hopped near first base in frustration. Fielder also came close back in the first, when Felipe Lopez was at third base with two outs. Fielder lifted a fly ball to the left-field corner, but former Brewers teammate Carlos Lee tracked it down on the run. In the eighth, he finally broke through. Lopez held at third on Ryan Braun's single despite Fischer waving him home, and Fielder followed with a long fly ball to center field. After Lopez scored easily, Fielder answered a curtain call from the 37,783 fans in the stands. "I've had so many opportunities, and I haven't been driving in runs with men in scoring position," Fielder said. "That was more frustrating than not getting the record. That's my job on the team." Did he think he had it in the seventh? "That was a tough read," Fielder said. "I thought I might have had it when Carlos made that good play in left." Fielder was doused in beer as reporters crowded around his locker, the remnants of a postgame celebration organized by Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman has held several such gatherings for milestone achievements this season, and it meant a lot to Fielder. "When you have a Hall of Famer say congratulations, that's pretty cool," Fielder said. His teammates were happy to take part. "That's a special milestone for Prince," said catcher Jason Kendall, who notched his 2,000th hit earlier this year. "He'll keep grinding and add a bunch more to it. It's just special to be a part of." When you consider that he entered the day batting .299 with 39 home runs, Fielder is having one of the finest seasons in franchise history. He entered the night with an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) of 1.003, and only twice has a Brewers player with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title finished a season above 1.000. Fielder did it in 2007, when he set a franchise record with 50 home runs and finished with an OPS of 1.013, good for third in National League MVP balloting. Paul Molitor posted a 1.003 OPS in 1987, when he finished second in the American League with a career-best .353 batting average and led the league with 41 doubles. Molitor ran fifth in the AL MVP race that year. Cooper's 1983 season must also be on the list. He tied Boston's Jim Rice that year for the AL RBI crown while batting .307 with 30 home runs and 37 doubles. It was an especially remarkable season considering that Cooper essentially matched his numbers from a fabulous 1982, when he hit .312 with 30 homers, 38 doubles and 121 RBIs. Fielder still has time to add to his own numbers. He's currently tied with Jeromy Burnitz for the most walks in a single season in Brewers history (99, Burnitz set the record in 2000) and needs one more homer for 40. Fielder would have to get outrageously hot over the final two-plus weeks to break his own home run record. "I think there's some other things that guys want to do," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "He's got 39 homers. [Ryan] Braun has 29 homers, [Mike] Cameron has 19. You get stuck on that nine number." At least the RBI record is in the books. "The opportunities had been there," Fielder said. "I was getting frustrated."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.