MILWAUKEE — In a Milwaukee Brewers clubhouse filled with oversized personalities, the first shot at the rival St. Louis Cardinals going into Game 1 of the NL championship series came from a surprising source: Starting pitcher Zack Greinke, whose bout with social anxiety disorder typically makes him one of the least likely players to pop off.
“They think his presence, his attitude out there sometimes is like a phony attitude,” Greinke said. “And then he yells at people. He just stares people down and stuff. And most pitchers just don’t do that. And when guys do, I guess some hitters get mad. Some hitters do it to pitchers. But when you do that some people will get mad.
The NL Central champion Brewers send Greinke to the mound for the series opener against the wild-card Cardinals and lefty Jaime Garcia on Sunday. With a World Series trip on the line in a rematch of the 1982 Series, an already-simmering rivalry could reach a new level of intensity.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa vigorously defended Carpenter, saying he was “very disappointed” with Greinke. La Russa said any team in the league, including the Brewers, would be happy to have Carpenter on their staff.
“That’s a bad comment to make unless you know Chris Carpenter,” La Russa said. “Our attitude is we look at ourselves and we grade ourselves. And even if we don’t like what’s happening on the other side, we don’t make a — it’s not our business, unless somebody crosses the line. So I think the Brewers should take care of their players.”
Not just foes on the field and in the division, the Cardinals and Brewers are a study in contrasting approaches to the game. The Cardinals aren’t prone to over-the-top celebrations, and don’t particularly like it when the Brewers do so.
“Sometimes, that exuberance can spill over into a realm that I don’t feel is appropriate,” Lance Berkman said of the Brewers. “But I’m not the czar of baseball, either. So that’s all I can say about it.”
Brewers players make their “beast mode” celebration gesture after any significant play, talking big and — so far, at least — backing it up. Milwaukee finished six games ahead of the second-place Cardinals this year.
“They’re more of an old-school (team) and we’re kind of a new school,” Corey Hart said. “We’re exciting and high energy. To be honest about it, that’s why we probably clash a little bit because of the differences. But I feel we both respect each other. They respect us and we respect them. You can’t let the differences get in the way of the fact that both teams are pretty good.”
“I don’t think that’s a fact,” Carpenter said. “I think we have great respect for them. I hope they have the same for us.”