Fielder powers Brewers past Arizona in opener
Oct 1, 2011, 3:54 p.m.
(Reuters) - The Milwaukee Brewers, led by slugger Prince Fielder, launched the National League baseball playoffs with a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Saturday's opening game of their best-of-five division series.
Fielder, the burly, bearded power hitter who struck 38 home runs this season, belted a two-run shot in the seventh inning and set up the Brewers' first run with a double to lead the attack.
Yovani Gallardo, who was 17-10 in the regular season, registered the win by going eight innings and yielding one run on four hits, while striking out nine against just one walk.
Closer John Axford, who compiled 46 saves this season, shut the door with a one-two-three ninth to preserve the win.
Fielder did his damage against Arizona's Ian Kennedy, who posted a sterling record of 21-4 this season. Kennedy, who took the loss, left after the slugger's shot down the right-field line after giving up all four runs on eight hits.
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson lamented his decision to let Kennedy pitch to Fielder with Ryan Braun on second base after his third hit of the game.
"I left him in. It was a bad decision on my part, obviously," Gibson told reporters. "Obviously, we had different options.
"It didn't work out. He threw probably the worst pitch of the game," Gibson said about the curve that Kennedy offered the Brewers' clean-up hitter. "Fielder, give him credit. He put a good swing on it and hit it out of the park."
A defensive play by left-fielder Braun helped Milwaukee's cause in the first inning.
Braun threw out speedy Willie Bloomquist at the plate trying to score on a single stroked by Justin Upton.
"Brauny made a huge play in left to throw out the guy at the plate," said Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke.
"That gave Yo (Gallardo) some confidence to go back out and get the command down, which he did the rest of the game."
Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly to center that scored Braun, who raced to third base on a double by Fielder.
The Brewers added another run in the sixth when catcher Jonathan Lucroy singled home Yuniesky Betancourt.
Arizona's lone run came on a home run by Ryan Roberts in the eighth.
The NL-best Philadelphia Phillies host the wild card St Louis Cardinals later Saturday in the opener of the league's other playoff series.
Zack Greinke (16-6) is scheduled to start for Milwaukee in Game Two of the series Sunday, while the visiting Diamondbacks counter with Daniel Hudson (16-12).
(Writing by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Julian Linden)