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Brewers first NLDS priority: Defend home turf against D-backs

David Brown
Big League Stew

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MILWAUKEE — Nobody in the major leagues gets better home cooking than the Milwaukee Brewers. And it's not just from tailgaters grilling scintillating beer-battered bratwurst in the parking lots outside of Miller Park.

The Brewers earned home-field advantage in the NLDS by dominating inside their home stadium during the regular season. They went 57-24 here, good for a franchise-record .704 winning percentage, in front of more than 3 million fans — also a team record.

Those facts leave Arizona outfielder Chris Young impressed, but not in awe. The D-backs took two of three at Milwaukee in July — one of only six series the Brewers lost at home this season. Arizona went 43-38 on the road overall.

"Oh, I don't think Miller Park's too difficult to play in; I think Miller Park is nice," Young said coyly. "They have a great fanbase; they always come out and support their team. The energy's high. Any place you have a lot of fans with high energy, that's an easy place to play for me. Miller Park, Chicago, Philly. Those are the places that you want to play in, just because there are so many people who love baseball in those areas."

BUT 57 WINS, CHRIS. FIFTY-SEVEN!

"Nah, we just have to win two of them," Young said. "That's the mentality you have to have. The majority of teams play better at home. We do, too. But you just have to be better that day."

Offensively, the Brewers were much better at Miller Park, finishing with a home batting line of .277/.344/.461, along with 102 home runs. Their .805 OPS dwarfs their .698 mark on the road, where they hit 19 fewer homers.

Prince Fielder hit .326 with 24 homers here, compared to .272 with 14 homers on the road. Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks were much more potent at home, too.

Milwaukee's Game 1 starter, Yovani Gallardo, beat the D-backs here in that July series. He seemed a bit concerned about being too excited by the atmosphere of being at home to open the playoffs. He hopes that current players who experienced Milwaukee's playoff berth in 2008 will remember that series to help take ooff some of the edge. {YSP:MORE}

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"I think the whole — it's going to be tough," Gallardo said. "It's going to be kind of tough to block it out, but I think that's going to be the hardest challenge for me and for all of us. But yet again in 2008, as far as for myself and all the other guys, we experienced it a little bit. And we know what to expect. And we know what it's like, and I think it will help us out."

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson expects a raucous atmosphere, but doesn't think it necessarily translates into an overwhelming advantage — as long as his team doesn't let it.

"I know it's going to be crazy here," Gibson said. "It's going to be noisy. All the things that we work on — communication, understanding each others' body languages, this is when it all comes into play."

Young seems to be on the same page.

"We play good at home, but we play good on the road as well. We haven't let the energy or the crowds get into our heads. We've been able to keep our composure and go out and play the same game we play all of the time."

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