Fiers stifles Dodgers while filling in for Garza
Righty, making first start of '14, allows one run over eight innings
MILWAUKEE -- Mike Fiers sat alone on the Brewers' bench in the middle of the eighth inning Saturday and stared up at the full moon which had risen over Miller Park. With his eight-inning performance in the books, the standing ovation from 40,553 fans having quieted and his team's 4-1 win over the Dodgers only three Francisco Rodriguez outs away, Fiers later said he was thinking about the late mother whose image is tattooed on his right forearm.
He had a sense she was watching.
"This is the first year my mom hasn't seen me pitch, and it's kind of hard to talk about," said Fiers, who tried anyway. "That's why I got the tattoo, because I always feel like she's with me."
Beyond the sentimentality of it, this was an important night for the Brewers, who got home runs from Khris Davis and Carlos Gomez to beat Los Angeles for the second straight night -- ensuring they would win the series no matter what happens against Clayton Kershaw on Sunday afternoon.
Milwaukee has taken two series in a row after winning only one of the previous nine. The rest of the National League Central lost Saturday, so the Brewers' lead in the division grew to 2 1/2 games over the Pirates, three games over the Cardinals, six games over the Reds and 15 games over the Cubs.
That they made those gains with Fiers pitching in place of an injured Matt Garza only added to the drama. Fiers was sensational for the Brewers during a stretch in the middle of 2012 -- beginning with a victory at Dodger Stadium -- before falling on hard times that trickled into a tumultuous 2013. Fiers was demoted from the big leagues. His mother, Linda, grew gravely ill from complications of Lupus. He went home to Florida to spend time with her after suffering a broken arm when he was struck by a line drive on his 28th birthday. Just as Fiers was ready to resume throwing, his mom passed away on July 24.
A little more than one year later, "Here I am again," Fiers said. "Just trying to show them I can still pitch."
The 29-year-old right-hander did that ably. Fiers surrendered only three hits and won as a Major League starter for the first time since September 2012. He didn't allow a hit until Adrian Gonzalez's one-out home run in the fourth inning, the first baseball hit past a Brewers infielder. The other two Dodgers hits were singles. Twenty-one of Fiers' 24 outs came somewhere on the infield, either by ground ball, pop up, caught stealing or his five strikeouts, including a whiff of Justin Turner to punctuate Fiers' night.
"He's tricky," said the opposing pitcher, Zack Greinke, a Brewers teammate back in 2012. "I looked at his Minor League numbers this year and they're great. I was asking some of their people why he wasn't up here before. I thought it was because the rest of their starters were doing so well."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Fiers "didn't seem afraid of us at all," but expressed puzzlement that he was able to breeze through eight innings pitching mostly with his modest fastball.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke explained.
"He's got a lot of deception," Roenicke said. "You saw tonight, most of his pitches are 90, 91 mph. There's a lot of 89s but they all have a lot of life on them. When he's feeling good physically and mentally, that ball really comes out well. That's a good-hitting team. He threw a lot of fastballs that were getting by guys."
Greinke had more velocity but less success. In the second inning, Scooter Gennett singled before Davis got on top of a Greinke fastball well above the strike zone and hit it into the visitors' bullpen in right-center field.
It was Davis' 19th home run this season, matching Mark Reynolds' team high, and Davis' 30th career home run in his 161st game.
"I thought that was a pretty safe place to go," Greinke said.
The Brewers added two more runs in a sixth inning that began with Gomez banging a home run off the left-field foul pole. Greinke was out of the game after 83 pitches and six innings, having allowed four earned runs on eight hits, with one walk and six strikeouts. He's 0-2 here as a Dodgers starter after Greinke's teams went 25-1 the first 26 times he took the mound at Miller Park, including a pair of Brewers victories in the 2011 postseason.
Fiers is scheduled to start again on Thursday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, where he is likely to receive a cooler reception than the one that celebrated the end of Saturday's gem. As Fiers walked off the mound, teammates and fans alike stood and applauded.
"It's what you dream of as a kid," Fiers said. "Especially those situations -- close game, eighth inning, trying to get to the best closer in the league. And it was awesome."