ST. LOUIS — The Brewers came into Game 1 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals wanting to change some bad habits. In both the ALCS with the Angels and quasi-playoff series with the Orioles to end the season, the Brewers lost Game 1. On the road, they lost both games 8-3.
Oh, they changed. They changed in a big way. The Brewers squashed any doubts about how power might fare against speed in a truly dominating 10-0 win over the Cardinals in front of their home fans.
It was a huge win for the Brewers. It set a tone that they will be in control of this series from the beginning. And by winning the first game in St. Louis, the Cardinals already have their backs up against the wall. A second loss tomorrow, and you can pretty much chalk up a championship for the Brew Crew.
Gotta admit, I wasn’t particularly confident about this game. Not only due to the team’s recent history and that the game was in St. Louis, but that Mike Caldwell was on the mound.
Sure, Caldwell won 17 games this season, and was this team’s iron man throwing 258 innings. But he also looked gassed as a result, losing the second game against the Orioles and that first game against the Angels. Over his previous two starts, Caldwell went a combined 10 innings pitched, allowing 12 earned runs on 13 hits. He was a human pinata on the mound.
But Harvey Kuenn has pushed all of the right buttons this season, and he saw that his veteran hurler wasn’t right. Caldwell was skipped in the rotation in favor of Moose Haas for Game 4 of the ALCS, and maybe all he needed was some rest. He certainly looked well rested tonight.
Caldwell pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only three hits and one walk to the baffled Cardinals batters. Two of those hits were in the eighth inning, so his dominance over those other eighth innings was truly remarkable.
“Right at the start,” said catcher Ted Simmons, “he was throwing it right on the outside corner and he was painting the black.”
The Cardinals never had a chance.
But the Brewers brought an all-around attack to Game 1. They committed four errors as a defense in Game 5 of the ALCS and eight total in the series. But their glovemen sparkled in the field on this day without a defensive misstep.
And of course, you can’t talk about the Milwaukee Brewers without mentioning their offense, though they’ve admittedly been absent over the course of much of the past couple of weeks. They came after the Cardinals with 10 runs on 17 hits, never letting up until the final bell. The Brewers scored four in the ninth just for good measure.
One of the issues with the Brewers of late has been early scoring. The opposition has been taking the early lead, often leading to a Brewers loss (the team scoring the first run has won eight of the last 10 games). The Brewers put two on the board in the first inning today, thanks largely to a Keith Hernandez error with two outs, and never looked back.
Paul Molitor was the team’s star on offense, setting a World Series record with five hits, all singles. Three of the hits never made it out of the infield and another was a broken bat job.
“It’s the first time I have had three infield hits in a game,” said Molitor. “It wasn’t pretty.”
No, but they’ll look like line drives in the history books.
Robin Yount nearly matched him, collecting four hits, including a double. Before Molitor had broken the World Series record for hits in a game in the ninth, Yount and Molitor had each tied the old record with four.
“I had no idea,” said Yount. I’m still not swinging the bat that well. The ball just happened to go where the fielders weren’t.”
The top two batters have led the Brewers’ offense all season long. On this day, they went a combined 9-for-12 with two runs scored and four RBI. An incredible performance.
While others certainly contributed on offense (Ted Simmons, Charlie Moore and Jim Gantner all had two hits), there is reason for concern once you peel away the numbers. Offensive stars Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie and Gorman Thomas went a combined 1-for-12, and all hit close to .100 during the postseason. These three must get going for the Brewers to be successful in this series.
Despite all of their flaws, the Milwaukee Brewers are in prime position to win this World Series. Win Game 2, and all they need to do is win two of three at home. It’s that easy.