Brewers say payback not in game plan

The Baltimore Sun

Did the Milwaukee Brewers really put retaliation ahead of a division race last week?

They'll never admit it, but the rest of the baseball world has its suspicions.

Trailing by a run against St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, the Brewers saw the game slip away in the eighth inning. They allowed four runs during a rally that began when Milwaukee reliever Seth McClung apparently hit Albert Pujols as payback for Prince Fielder being drilled in the second.

The Brewers lost, 7-3, preventing them from sweeping the Cardinals. They would have trailed the Chicago Cubs by one game in the National League Central with four to play.

Tempers already flared during the first two games of the series. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Brewers manager Ned Yost and bench coach Dale Sveum shouted obscenities from opposite dugouts Tuesday in an exchange, ignited by Milwaukee's Jeff Suppan buzzing Pujols, captured by television cameras and audio equipment.

The Brewers were convinced that La Russa ordered Brad Thompson to hit Fielder the next night with runners on second and third, first base open and two out. La Russa, of course, issued a denial.

"I swear on my animals," said La Russa, who owns a variety of dogs and cats. "That's all I can do."

Yost waited until the eighth and summoned McClung, who drilled Pujols in the back with his first pitch and was ejected.

"The pitch just got away from him," Yost said.

Sure it did. And one of La Russa's dogs ate his homework.

"The ball just got away from me," McClung said. "It's not the first guy I've hit. Why do you think Tampa traded me?"

Bonds' finale

Barry Bonds' last at-bat as a San Francisco Giant, and perhaps the last of his career, was a 400-foot fly ball to center field in an 11-3 loss to the San Diego Padres. He came out for a curtain call after embracing pitcher Jake Peavy, but didn't return when fans kept chanting his name after the game.

That might have something to do with Bonds heading to the parking lot several minutes before the final out.

The Giants announced that they won't re-sign Bonds, baseball's home run king, for 2008. He had missed 10 straight games with a toe injury and played only in the home finale.

"Yeah, I'm choked up. It's sad," co-owner Peter Magowan said. "In a way, you think back to all the happy times he was able to create for our fans, the excitement, the success we've been able to have. It's the end of an era.

"I'm sure he wishes he'd have hit three home runs in three at-bats, but he didn't. He was hurting."

Home and away

Playing at home should always be to a team's advantage. For the Los Angeles Angels, it's an absolute necessity.

Heading into the weekend, the Angels had the best home record in baseball at 54-27 - tied for the best in franchise history - but were 38-40 on the road. The team's batting average at home was .305, the third highest for an American League team since 1957, compared with .265 on the road. They averaged 5.7 runs at their ballpark and 4.55 on the road.

They also wanted to avoid traveling to Boston, where they lost five of seven games this season and have dropped 20 of their past 28. Their .401 regular-season winning percentage at Fenway Park is their second lowest of any current stadium in the league. The Angels are 1-4 in the playoffs, going back to games 6 and 7 of the 1986 AL Championship Series.

Their playoff rotation has John Lackey starting Game 1 of the Division Series. He's 1-4 with a 7.68 ERA in seven career games at Fenway, including 0-2 this season.

Quick hits

Pujols hit his 32nd homer in the first inning Wednesday, giving him 100 RBIs for the seventh straight year. Pujols is the only player to hit .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in his first seven seasons. ... After battling an assortment of injuries all season, Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer said he might need offseason surgery to repair a hernia.

Compiled from interviews and other newspapers' reports.

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