Greinke struggled at times, but reliever Takashi Saito got Cardinals star Albert Pujols to ground into a key double play in the seventh. Francisco Rodriguez pitched a hitless eighth and closer John Axford threw a hitless ninth for a save.
Game 2 is at Miller Park on Monday night. Shaun Marcum starts for the Brewers against Edwin Jackson.
“We’ll come back out,” Cardinals star Lance Berkman said. “The same thing happened to us in the first game against Philly. We were able to regroup.”
David Freese hit a three-run homer off Greinke in the fourth, and the Cardinals led 5-2 in the fifth.
But Milwaukee made it tough on Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia, who left after giving up Fielder’s homer. Garcia, who hit Fielder with a pitch earlier in the game, gave up six runs and six hits in four-plus innings with three walks. He took the loss.
Greinke earned the win despite his uneven outing, giving up six runs and eight hits in six-plus innings. He left the game to a standing ovation after giving up a leadoff single to Rafael Furcal in the seventh.
The Cardinals took a three-run lead into the fifth before Garcia allowed a leadoff single to Corey Hart and a double to Jerry Hairston Jr. Braun hit a two-run, ground-rule double to right and with the crowd still saluting him, Fielder hit the first pitch from Garcia deep to right for a two-run homer, giving the Brewers the lead.
Fielder then showed off his repertoire of celebrations, giving the team’s “Beast Mode” gesture upon his arrival at home plate and exchanging mock knockout blows with Braun as he trotted back to the dugout.
That was it for Garcia, who left with no outs in the fifth and his team down 6-5. It that wasn’t the end of trouble for the Cardinals, though.
Reliever Octavio Dotel fielded Rickie Weeks’ grounder and threw the ball away, allowing Weeks to go to second on the error.
Betancourt — who batted .252 in the regular season with 13 homers — then sent a 2-1 pitch from Dotel deep to left, where it flew into the Brewers’ bullpen and was fielded on the fly by Milwaukee bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel. Hanel pumped his fist, Betancourt circled the bases and the crowd continued its inning-long eruption.
Betancourt has taken plenty of criticism this season, but might be among the rare group of athletes who say they don’t pay attention to the critics and actually mean it. Through an interpreter, Betancourt said he manages to avoid criticism because he doesn’t speak much English.
“I don’t really pay attention to what the critics say,” Betancourt said.
With the score 8-5, Pujols came to the plate with runners on first and third and no outs in the seventh. Pujols broke his bat on a double-play grounder — a run scored, but the Brewers had limited the damage.
Betancourt doubled in the seventh and scored on a single by Jonathan Lucroy.