The Milwaukee Brewers try to secure their first trip to the League Championship Series since 1982 this evening when they play a decisive fifth game in the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Miller Park.
After winning the first two games of this series in convincing fashion the Brewers were handled in the desert, as the Diamondbacks evened this best-of- five set with a 10-6 win on Wednesday at Chase Field.
Ryan Roberts' grand slam was one of four home runs hit by the Diamondbacks, who also slugged their way to an 8-1 win on Tuesday. Arizona hasn't advanced to the NLCS since 2007.
"It feels like it's a brand new series," said D-backs center fielder Chris Young, who homered twice in Wednesday's win.
After Milwaukee's MVP duo of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder combined to go 9- for-16 with six runs scored, six RBI and two home runs during Games 1 and 2, they were just 3-for-14 with an RBI, three walks and two strikeouts in the two games at Chase Field.
"I think a lot of teams really play off of momentum changes," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "I think our team hasn't really been that way this year. I think we've been in so many ups and downs that they're really good at turning the page. They don't necessarily worry about that bad game that they played the day before. They'll bounce back and have a nice game."
The Brewers, though, are still one win away from advancing to their first championship series since 1982, when they beat the Angels in the ALCS before falling to St. Louis in the World Series.
Now they return home, where the Brewers were a major league-best 57-24. And tonight will have their ace on the hill in righty Yovani Gallardo, who won Game 1 of this series by allowing a run and four hits in eight innings.
"He's our ace," Fielder said. "We'll live and die with him."
Gallardo led the team in wins (17) and strikeouts (207) while working 207 1/3 innings, and pitched the team's only complete game. He was also a horse down the stretch for the Brewers, as he pitched to a 1.77 ERA and struck out 36 batters over 20 1/3 frames of his final three regular season starts.
"This is what it comes down to," Gallardo said. "That Game 5. Win or go home. We all know that in this clubhouse. We're going to come out prepared and see what happens."
Arizona will have its ace on the hill as well as Cy Young Award candidate Ian Kennedy will be looking to bounce back from a rough Game 1 outing. Kennedy gave up four runs and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings on Saturday.
"I think Ian is the guy you want on the hill in Game 5 on an elimination game like this," closer J.J. Putz said. "I think everybody in our clubhouse is excited to go out there and see him do what he does."
Kennedy enjoyed a breakout campaign this past season, going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA. He ended the year strong winning 13 of his final 14 decisions, including his last six.
"I think just using that experience, just like any experience, you learn from it," Kennedy said. "You try to build and learn the positive things from it. I've definitely got the first one under my belt. And this one hopefully helps me my next start."
History is not on the side of the Brewers tonight, as there have been 28 decisive Game 5s and home teams are an even 14-14 in those contests. Also, road teams are 9-6 in Division Series Game 5s (both leagues combined) since baseball went to the eight-team playoff format in 1995.
National League road teams have won the last three decisive Game 5s, but the last NL home team to win a Game 5 was the 2001 D-backs, who went on to win the World Series.
Of the last nine opening-round series to go to a Game 5, the home team has won only one of those contests
Arizona won four of its seven meetings with the Brewers in the regular season.