MILWAUKEE — Brewers manager Ken Macha said Prince Fielder showed blinding speed during his mad dash to first. The Brewers slugger had a different term for it: panicked.
Whatever the description, Fielder legged out a two-out, eighth inning infield single that brought home the go-ahead run and the struggling Brewers rallied to beat the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals 5-4 on Wednesday night.
“No, it was just panicked speed, I guess,” Fielder said after being told Macha’s comments. “Yeah, just panicked.”
Fielder hit a slow grounder off reliever Dennys Reyes to shortstop Brendan Ryan with the bases loaded and Ryan’s off-balance throw to first baseman Albert Pujols wasn’t in time.
“I thought he was going to try to go to second or third,” said Fielder, who admitted watching the play the entire way down the line before panic set in. “I didn’t know he was going to get there that quick. I didn’t even think he was going to be able to throw to first, but he made a great play and I was able to leg it out.”
He had been 4 of 24 this season against St. Louis before his only single of the night.
“Five for 25,” Fielder joked. “With men in scoring position, I want to get them in. A hit is a hit. If I’d dragged bunted, I’d have been happy.”
Rookie Mat Gamel hit a two-run homer in the fourth, reliever Todd Coffey (4-1) got the win with two scoreless innings and Trevor Hoffman picked up his 19th save in 20 chances after working around Pujols and out of a bases loaded jam.
It was a much needed victory for the Brewers, who moved back within a game of St. Louis in the NL Central despite losing five of the last seven and trailing 4-1 in the fourth.
“We’re battling our way here,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “Coming back and tying the ball game up after they’d scored four was huge.”
In the eighth, Cardinals reliever Jason Motte (3-3) got the first two outs, but Craig Counsell doubled and Motte walked J.J. Hardy and Ryan Braun, the ninth free pass given out by Cardinals pitchers.
“I know Jason’s upset with himself, two outs and nobody on and couldn’t get the third out before you load the bases,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “That puts you in a tough spot.”
Reyes replaced Motte, but the Brewers’ All-Star first baseman came through with his 77th RBI this season. It was the second time this year St. Louis had given up nine walks or more after issuing 11 in an 8-4 loss to the Brewers on May 18.
“It is uncharacteristic,” Motte said. “But it’s one of those things that happened, just one of those games.”
The Cardinals missed two chances late.
In the eighth, Coffey stranded runners on first and second by striking out Ryan to end the inning, and Hoffman had to work out of a bases loaded jam. He allowed a leadoff double to Skip Schumaker and intentionally walked Pujols with one out in the ninth.
After catcher Jason Kendall made a falling grab in foul territory of Ryan Ludwick’s pop up for the second out, Hoffman walked Chris Duncan to load the bases and Yadier Molina grounded out to end it.
“That’s outstanding,” Coffey said. “He got it done.”
While Gamel homered in the fourth, he struck out twice with the bases loaded, including with two outs in the seventh after Braun had tripled and reliever Kyle McClellan had walked Frank Catalanotto and Mike Cameron. Fielder grounded out earlier in that inning.
“I’m sure after he came in the previous at-bat and didn’t get the guy in, his determination was that much greater,” Macha said.
The teams combined for seven runs in the fourth, with St. Louis taking a 4-1 lead off Brewers starter Jeff Suppan, but Cardinals counterpart Todd Wellemeyer giving it back off Gamel’s homer and an RBI single by Counsell.
“Bad inning,” La Russa said. “We scored and you need a shutdown (inning) and couldn’t shut them down.”
NOTES: Pujols finished 0 for 4 for the seventh time this season. … Brewers LHP Manny Parra will be recalled and start the series finale against RHP Joel Pineiro. LHP Chris Narveson was designated for assignment. … Brewers bench coach Willie Randolph was suspended for the game after being ejected the night before.