Lucroy lifts Crew to Opening Day win in 10th
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jonathan Lucroy was mobbed by his jubilant teammates as the crowd of 45,781 saluted the catcher with a big “Luuuuuuc” that reverberated throughout Miller Park.
For the first time in years, the Milwaukee Brewers and their hearty fans capped off opening day with a win.
Lucroy hit a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning and the Brewers beat Colorado 5-4 on Monday, ruining the first game for new Rockies manager Walt Weiss.
“We just continued to compete, continue to stay optimistic, stay positive,” Ryan Braun said. “We know eventually we’re going to find a way to score runs. It’s a great sign that we were able to come back and win a game like this.”
It was Milwaukee’s first win in the opener since it beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 in 10 innings at Wrigley Field on March 31, 2008. The Brewers hadn’t won a home game on opening day for six years, providing a compelling reason for the thousands of fans who tailgated for hours before Monday’s first pitch to continue celebrating Lucroy’s well-placed fly ball when they returned to the parking lots around the ballpark.
Rickie Weeks sparked the winning rally when he stole second after he was hit by a pitch with one out. Adam Ottavino (0-1) then issued an intentional walk to Braun and lost Aramis Ramirez to another walk before Lucroy ended the game with a fly ball to center field.
“The thing that hurt was the hit batter,” Ottavino said. “I had him 0-1 and tried to come inside. I just nicked his foot and it started all the trouble.”
Ramirez also had a two-run double in Milwaukee’s three-run eighth inning, and Jim Henderson (1-0) worked a perfect 10th after John Axford blew a save opportunity on his 30th birthday.
Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler homered for Colorado, which wasted a terrific start by Jhoulys Chacin. Fowler had three hits, and Tulowitzki and Gonzalez each had two.
“We were facing their No. 1 pitcher. We connected the ball pretty well against him,” Gonzalez said. “It was just one bad inning in the eighth inning and that was it. We have to feel good about ourselves. We battled the whole game. That happens sometimes. There has to be a loser.”
Weiss got a one-year deal when he was hired in November after Jim Tracy stepped down following a franchise-worst 64-98 season. Before moving into the dugout with the Rockies, his only head coaching experience was one year at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo.
And it was quite the opener for the 1988 AL Rookie of the Year with Oakland.
“It’s a little different `cause you’ve got to think ahead of course a lot more than you do as a player,” Weiss said. “As a player you’re not really going through all the ‘What ifs’ in your mind as you do as a manager. But, you know, I felt good about the way our guys played.”
Chacin pitched 6-2/3 innings of one-run ball and the Rockies carried a 3-1 lead into the eighth inning. But it all fell apart in a hurry.
Braun drove in a run with an infield single to shortstop before Ramirez sent a 2-2 pitch from Wilton Lopez into the left-field corner, picking up right where he left off last season when he led the National League with 50 doubles.
Norichika Aoki trotted home from third and Braun came all the way around from first, raising his right arm in celebration as he crossed the plate with the go-ahead run.
“I was hoping a cloud would come through,” said Ramirez, who had to deal with some shadows on the field before his key hit. “I got lucky.”
But Axford yielded a first-pitch homer to Fowler after he struck out the first two batters in the ninth. Axford, who blew nine save opportunities a year ago, was booed as he trudged off the mound after striking out Josh Rutledge to end the inning.
Aoki also had a solo homer for Milwaukee, which is hoping to make it back to the playoffs after finishing strong last season. Yovani Gallardo allowed 10 hits in his fourth consecutive opening day start, but limited the damage by holding the Rockies to three runs in five innings.
“He was in trouble every inning, still only gave up three runs,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “I think when you don’t have your good stuff and keep your team in the ballgame like he did, even though offensively we didn’t do much there until the eighth inning that shows you know how to get out of trouble.”
Gonzalez led off the third with a single into right field and Tulowitzki drove the next pitch over the wall in right-center for his first homer since he connected against Houston on May 28. The two-time All-Star played in just 47 games last season due to a groin injury that eventually required surgery to remove scar tissue.
Gonzalez connected in the fifth, leading off with a drive to right. He made the All-Star team for the first time in 2012, but is coming off a lackluster finish at the plate — .222 in August and .262 in September and early October.
“If we play that way for a lot of games, we’re going to be fine,” Gonzalez said. “We’re going to have better results.”
Notes: Aoki also hit his first career homer off Chacin last season, an inside-the-park liner in Milwaukee last April 20. . . . Joseph Attanasio, the father of Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, performed the national anthem at the home opener for the ninth consecutive season. Asked if his dad practiced, Attanasio said: “He started singing ‘O Sole Mio’ on the plane ride here.” . . . The Rockies opened on the road for the fifth time in the past six seasons. . . . It was the fifth-largest crowd in Miller Park history.