Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 10/1/11
MILWAUKEE -- It didnt take much creativity for the Milwaukee Brewers to grab a 1-0 series lead over the Arizona in the NL Division Series on Saturday. Their season-long model for winning worked to perfection. Milwaukee's 4-1 victory started with a masterful outing from starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo, was bolstered by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder and was sealed by John Axford's first postseason save. "When 'Yo' and our starters go out there and pitch like that, that's the start of it," Fielder said. "It just helps relax the offense as a whole. Obviously, when me and Braunie do well it helps, but I think it starts with our pitching." True, Gallardo did put the Brewers in position to take Game 1 at Miller Park, but without backup his efforts could have meant little. In eight innings, Gallardo gave up one run on just four hits while striking out nine batters to tie a franchise postseason single-game record set by Don Sutton in Game 3 of the 1982 ALCS. After some early-struggles with command, Gallardo settled down and baffled Arizona hitters, who were caught watching Strike 3 six times. In a series expected to hinge on pitching, Gallardo set the tone. "Our pitcher gave us a chance to win," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "That's really all you can ask for. Pretty model game, I think." Entering the playoffs, Gallardo had had double-digit strikeouts in three straight starts after reaching 10 only twice all season previously. "I think he's been great his whole career, but if you really look at the last month it's like he's really taken a step forward and he's been dominant," Braun said of Gallardo. "He's thrown the ball better probably over the last month than I've ever seen him. I'd put him up there with any other ace in baseball." The Brewers' hitters took advantage of their opportunity to put the game away, particularly the big-time bats in the middle of the lineup. Braun went 3-for-4 and scored twice while Fielder was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer off Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy in the seventh inning. The Brewers have won plenty of games without Braun and Fielder doing the heavy lifting, but there's no question they are the driving force behind the Milwaukee offense. "If your stars don't produce, you're putting a lot of pressure on everybody else to try to pick it up," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Thats not how we rolled this year. We rolled because Braunie and Prince did their thing and everybody else fit in well with either getting on base for them or contributing down in the bottom of the order." Arizona manager Kirk Gibson disclosed after the game that he let Kennedy decide whether to walk Fielder with Braun on second base. Kennedy, a Cy Young candidate clearly confident in his ability, decided to pitch to Fielder. Again, the cogs were turning smoothly and Fielder capitalized on Kennedy's mistake, as he has with so many others. Capping the model that helped the Brewers' to a franchise-record 96 wins in 2011 was closer John Axford, who pitched a perfect ninth inning to shut the door. It was his 44th consecutive save conversion. "It was just all around good baseball," said Fielder, who later called his home run the most significant of his career. Milwaukee's model may seem basic, as pitching and hitting are the natural combination to win in baseball. But what sets the Brewers' model apart is the consistency with which its pieces perform and the high level at which they do it. Though there's still plenty of baseball to play, the Brewers have thus far displayed their superior plan for winning games. If the model keeps working, Milwaukee could continue to use it deep into October.
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