10/01/11 7:35 PM ET
Braun sets the tone with arm, delivers with bat
Brewers slugger throws runner out at plate, goes 3-for-4 in win
By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com
Braun needed three hits in the Brewers' final regular-season game Wednesday to secure the National League batting title. Instead, he went 0-for-4. But on the big stage in Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the D-backs on Saturday, Braun delivered.
The MVP candidate is best known for his heroics at the plate, but it was his defense that set the tone in the Brewers' 4-1 victory, as Braun threw out Willie Bloomquist at the plate in the first inning to save a run.
"That was perfect," said Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. "For me as a catcher, I couldn't ask for a better throw, it was right there. I just tried to get in front of the plate and wear it if I had to. ... He made a heck of a throw right there."
After Bloomquist singled to lead off the game and stole second base, Justin Upton delivered a one-out single to left. D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams sent Bloomquist, but Braun's throw arrived well before the runner.
Lucroy, who said he expected the D-backs to try to score as soon as the ball was hit, caught Braun's throw on two hops, dropped his knees to the ground and tagged Bloomquist for the second out of the inning.
It was just one of a few times that Braun drew a roar from the energized capacity crowd at Miller Park.
"It was big," said Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo. "He made a great throw. That base hit by Upton, I mean, who knows? That run scores, it might be a whole different ballgame."
Braun is certainly no stranger to performing on the big stage and coming up with big hits when the Brewers need them. Just a week ago, Braun delivered a no-doubt, three-run, go-ahead homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to help Milwaukee clinch the NL Central title.
In 2008, Braun delivered a similar home run when the Brewers clinched the NL Wild Card on the last day of the season. And in five career playoff games, Braun is batting .400 (8-for-20) with three doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored.
After popping out in the first inning, Braun singled to lead off the fourth Saturday, later scoring on a sacrifice fly by Jerry Hairston Jr. In the fifth, Braun singled again before doubling with one out in the seventh.
But just as important as Braun's hits was the number of pitches he saw from D-backs starter Ian Kennedy. In four at-bats, Braun made Kennedy throw 24 of his 111 pitches on the night.
"Brauny got to him," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "We got a little break there, too, with Brauny not squaring them up. Brauny, great day at the plate."
After Braun doubled on the fifth pitch he saw in his fourth at-bat, Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder crushed an 0-1 curveball, driving it over the right-field fence.
That homer knocked Kennedy out of the game and all but sealed the Game 1 victory for the Brewers.
"Whenever Brauny is fouling pitches off, taking tough pitches, you know, that's mentally tough on the pitcher," Fielder said. "He's making good pitches. And Brauny gets up there and sticks his bat out and hits a line drive. It will mess with the pitcher. I like it, because hopefully they're exhausted by the time they get to me."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.