From day one, we all knew that the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Milwaukee Brewers were two very similar teams, with the key similarities being their big-time power and an affinity for their home ballparks. The way the series has played out these last few days, then, shouldn't be a surprise at all.
The Brewers handily took care of business on their home turf over the weekend, outscoring Arizona 13-5 in the two Miller Park games. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder led that assault, with the duo going 9-for-16 with a pair of home runs. When Monday's travel day rolled around, the talk of the series was about nothing but "Beast Mode" and Milwaukee's stars possibly leading the Brew Crew to their first World Series in 29 years.
But then came Game Three at Chase Field. All of a sudden it was the Brewers who couldn't score a run and the Diamondbacks whose hard-hitting young stars were leading the way. The big fly came off the bat of Paul Goldschmidt, but Miguel Montero, Chris Young, Willie Bloomquist, and Ryan Roberts all contributed to Arizona's 8-1 throttling of the formerly invincible Brewers. With Game Four, Milwaukee gambled their Division Series lead on the bet that Randy Wolf would do less harm against a potent offense than Joe Saunders in the Arizona heat.
A first-inning explosion of five runs for Arizona, capped by a Ryan Roberts grand slam (the team's second in as many nights), relieved Milwaukee of that fantasy. The only question remaining was if Saunders would be able to keep the Brewers' bats in check well enough to make the early lead stick. For a while, Arizona had something to worry about there. Milwaukee kept putting baserunners on against Saunders in the early innings, but could never capitalize fully. They did score a run in each of the first three innings to keep the game close, but the Brew Crew could never break through for a big inning.
The third inning is a perfect example. Corey Hart led off the inning with a single and scored on the next at-bat when Jerry Hairston doubled to left. A walk to Braun, as he held off on a few pitches on the edge of the strike zone, brought up Prince Fielder with two on and no outs. Typically, that's a formula for a lot of runs. Instead, Fielder flew out to center, Rickie Weeks flew out to right, and Yuniesky Betancourt popped out to second to end the inning without any more runs scoring (or any runners even advancing). That combination of easy base hits and even easier outs plagued Milwaukee all night. By the time Arizona made it first 8-4 and then 10-4 off a pair of home runs in the sixth and seventh innings, the game was all but over. Even a ninth inning featuring the Braun-Fielder-Weeks triumvirate wasn't enough to make the game even remotely close. The Diamondbacks and Brewers, tied at two games apiece, will be heading back to Milwaukee for a Friday afternoon do-or-die game.
All four games of this series have hinged dramatically on the hometown team’s power and offense. Will that trend hold true on Friday for the Brewers, who won 57 games at home during the regular season and who get to put a rested Yovani Gallardo on the hill? Or will the magic of October seep its way through the Miller Park windows and give Arizona a trip into the NLCS?
It all comes down to a late-afternoon start between Ian Kennedy and Yovani Gallardo on Friday. No matter your expectations going into the series, that's something worth getting excited about.