Brewers 2, Dodgers 1
Ryan Braun became the player Los Angeles Dodgers fans love to hate after he beat out Matt Kemp for the NL MVP award last season. On Tuesday night, he showed how well he responds to the hostility.
Braun hit a two-run homer in the first inning, leading the Brewers to a 2-1 victory and helping first-time starter Mike Fiers spoil Kemp's return from the disabled list.
The crowd of 51,137 jeered Braun lustily every time he came up - as they did in Monday's opener of the four-game series. He answered them with a first-pitch drive into the right field bullpen after Nyjer Morgan singled with one out in the first inning. It was his 14th of the season, two more than Kemp, who had missed the previous 13 games because of a left hamstring strain.
''I wouldn't say it was something I wasn't anticipating,'' Braun said of the booing. ''As a competitor, I kind of makes it fun. It's not something I would choose for it to be, but it certainly makes it enjoyable. More than anything, it was nice to get on the board early.''
Braun helped lead the Brewers to a franchise-record 96 victories and a berth in the NLCS with 33 homers, 111 RBIs and a .332 average - compared to Kemp's 39 homers, 126 RBIs and .324 average. The first time Kemp came up, he was welcomed with chants of ''M-V-P! M-V-P!'' But he struck out and finished 1 for 4.
''I felt good. I didn't feel uncomfortable at all,'' said Kemp, who homered twice during his two-game minor league rehab stint. ''I'm not rusty. I had some pretty good at-bats, so I felt happy with what I did today, other than the fact that we lost. I was a little frustrated the last two weeks, watching the other guys play, but they definitely took care of business while I was gone.''
One fan displayed his contempt for Braun during the Dodgers' third, throwing a baseball back onto the field after the Brewers' left fielder picked up a foul ball A.J. Ellis hit down the line and tossed it into the stands. When Ethier flied out to Braun to end the fourth, Braun faked like he was going to throw it to the fans - but kept it and trotted in.
''It didn't really surprise me too much when they threw it back,'' said Braun, who grew up in Southern California and made plenty of visits to Dodger Stadium. ''There's a lot more energy here right now than I've seen in a long time. I mean, when Manny Ramirez was here, there was definitely some excitement. But it's different right now.
''The way they're supporting their team right now is really special,'' he said. ''I think they recognize that the team is on its way to a special season and the fans are really fired up about the direction this organization's headed, the way everybody's embracing the new ownership group.''
Mike Fiers (1-0) allowed a run and five hits in seven innings, striking out three and walking none in his first major league start and third appearance after being recalled from Triple-A Nashville. The 26-year-old right-hander gave up his only run when Andre Ethier doubled home Ivan De Jesus in the sixth for his NL-leading 43rd RBI.
Fiers' catcher was Martin Maldonado, who also was promoted from the Brewers' top farm club Tuesday after Jonathan Lucroy was placed on the disabled list because of a broken right hand that is expected to sideline him for at least six weeks. It was the first time in Brewers history that both members of their starting battery were making their first start in the majors.
''It's good that we could do that together,'' Fiers said. ''Me and Marty always work great together. He knows my pitching and everything I do and what pitches. He's a great catcher and I love the fact that he caught me tonight. I've been working with him for the last couple of years and we have great chemistry.''
Fernando Rodriguez pitched a perfect eighth, and John Axford got three outs for his ninth save in 10 chances. Kemp ended a nine-pitch at-bat with a leadoff double against Axford and Ethier was hit by the right-hander's next delivery. Jerry Hairston Jr. grounded into a double play, sending Kemp to third, but he was stranded there when James Loney grounded to short.
Dodgers 21-yearold right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (0-1) made his seventh career start and first this season, allowing two runs and four hits over seven innings with four strikeouts and a walk while filling in for the injured Ted Lilly.
''The difference from last year is that I was better able to locate my off-speed stuff, and that set up the fastball,'' Eovaldi said. ''I got it up and down in the zone and it confused the hitters. It felt good. I hope I'm here to stay this time.''
NOTES: All four members of the Dodgers' record-setting 8 1/2 year infield - Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Bill Russell and Davey Lopes - threw a ceremonial first pitch in unison. ... Mickey Hatcher, who was fired as Angels hitting coach on May 15, sat in the owners box next to his former Dodgers manager, Tommy Lasorda, and received a warm greeting from the crowd when he was shown on the video board. ... Fiers was the seventh pitcher to start for the Brewers - one more than last season, when they used the fewest in the majors. ... All five games between the teams so far have been decided by one-run margins.