Brewers return home trailing Cardinals 3-2 in NLCS
AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) – Shaun Marcum thinks people really want to see two aces face off in Game 7 with the NL pennant on the line. He can go a long way to forcing that matchup with a strong effort Sunday.
Marcum will get the ball for Milwaukee when it faces Edwin Jackson and St. Louis in the league championship series, with the Brewers trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. If the Brewers win, Yovani Gallardo would pitch against Chris Carpenter on Monday night.
“I think I’m on the bandwagon with everybody in here, probably everybody in the country that wants to see Yo versus Carp in Game 7,” Marcum said. “I’m going to try to get the ball to Yo.”
This series has been more about what comes next on the mound.
St. Louis has taken the lead in every game of the series and the Cardinals bullpen is 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA in 21 2-3 innings over the first five games. Manager Tony La Russa has made 23 pitching changes using all eight of his relievers.
“In the end, players decide, pitchers decide who plays,” La Russa said. “We’re all basically reading basically the same. We just have different weapons. When you watch the game tomorrow, the players will decide.
“Edwin’s going to decide how far he goes. It depends on how he’s pitching. I don’t go in thinking let’s get 5 1-3 from him. I don’t think anything. I just watch the game.”
Cardinals closer Jason Motte said La Russa is deflecting credit he deserves for his managing in this series.
“He knows how to push the right buttons. You can say what you want, but it’s worked so far. He knows so many stats and so many numbers and situations, this and that, everything he does, he does it for a reason,” Motte said. “We go out there, the way I look at it, the phone rings, we’re ready to go. It doesn’t matter what inning.”
Miller Park’s retractable roof will be closed for Game 6, the same conditions that Milwaukee played with in all three wins in the NLDS against Arizona. The roof was open in the first two games against the Cardinals.
“It’s going to be noisy no matter if the roof’s open or closed,” Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal said. “No problem. It’s a regular game.”
Milwaukee won a major-league best 57 times at home during the regular season, and four more in the postseason. But St. Louis won the most recent one at Miller Park and needs one of the next two for its 18th NL pennant.
“Our record kind of speaks volumes. Our crowd has been outstanding for us all year,” Brewers third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. said. “We feel confident at home. Hopefully we’ll play tomorrow like we always have here.”
The NL winner hosts the World Series opener against Texas or Detroit on Wednesday night.
Milwaukee set a franchise-record with 96 wins this season, six more than the Cardinals, but the NL Central champions are on the brink of elimination because starters have stumbled.
No one has been worse than Marcum, who has given up 30 runs in his last 33 innings dating to September. He allowed five runs in four innings in a 12-3 loss in Game 2 and is 0-2 with a 12.46 ERA in the postseason.
Marcum said he feels fine physically. Manager Ron Roenicke has mapped out a plan if Marcum struggles early, but ruled out Gallardo.
“This is definitely the biggest game of my career, probably all the guys in the clubhouse, too, except for the few that have won the World Series,” Marcum said. “Definitely a big game, but it’s baseball. It’s another game. You just got to take it at that. We can’t put too much pressure on ourselves.”
Marcum said his recent struggles have centered on an inability to throw his fastball in any count, but he’ll have little choice against the Cardinals.
“That’s, for me, one pitch that I have to use or I’m not going to be in the game that long,” Marcum said.
Not that the Cardinals starters have been in the game very long, either. The rotation is 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA over 22 1-3 innings in the NLCS. The bullpen, which was shaky until midseason, has picked up the rest of the way.
“I’m too busy worrying about what hitter is coming up next to be looking over my shoulder,” Jackson said.
According to STATS LLC, St. Louis could become the first team without a starter to reach the sixth inning in the first six games of a postseason series since the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers.
“It’s not necessarily the formula for success you might lay out at the beginning of the series, but I think that just shows this team has come a long way from where we were in the beginning and middle part of the season, our bullpen is one of our strengths,” Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman said. “Those guys have done a tremendous job and at this point, it’s whatever it takes. If it takes a bullpen game again tomorrow, we’ll try to do that.”
Milwaukee’s bullpen – considered a strength after posting a 1.14 ERA in 71 innings in September – has given up nine runs in 15 1-3 innings of LCS play.
“It’s not about stats, it’s not about trying to keep a starter out there to get a W, it’s about getting your team the win, because that’s what’s going to keep you progressing in the playoffs,” Brewers closer John Axford said. “Individual stats don’t really matter.”
Milwaukee committed four errors for the first time all season in a 7-1 loss in Game 5 on Friday night and fell an error shy of the LCS record of five in a game shared by the 1974 Dodgers and 1976 Yankees. The Brewers can’t repeat that performance if they have any hope of extending the series to a deciding Game 7.
“Every time we’re pushed, I think we play well,” Roenicke said. “Certainly we’re being pushed right now.”