In the top of the sixth inning, the sun and shadows from the window panels at Miller Park started creeping between the pitcher's mound and home plate.
Considering the way Yovani Gallardo was dealing, that's the last thing the Arizona Diamondbacks needed to see. After he escaped the top of the first inning, when Ryan Braun threw out Willie Bloomquist at home plate, Gallardo took over Game 1 of the National League Division Series for the Milwaukee Brewers, getting ahead of hitters with his fastball and relying on great control of a sharp, down-breaking curveball to get strikeouts, routine fly balls and easy grounders. The only hard-hit balls off him were Justin Upton's scorched single in the first and Lyle Overbay's deep ball to center in the seventh that Nyjer Morgan tracked down on the warning track.
Gallardo was a bit of the surprise starter for the Brewers, considering Zack Greinke led the NL in strikeout rate, was 9-3 with a 2.56 ERA in the second half and was 11-0 at home. But Gallardo finished the regular season so strong -- 36 strikeouts in his final three starts -- that manager Ron Roenicke bypassed his final start and held him back for the opener.
For teams such as Milwaukee that don't have an obvious No. 1 guy, it can be the most important decision a manager makes all postseason. Since 1995, teams that win the first game of the division series are 47-17 in taking the series -- including 29-3 in the National League. So while some were wondering why Gallardo got the ball over Greinke, he showed why on this day. His curveball was so good that at times the Diamondbacks knew it was coming and still couldn't do anything with it.
The Brewers were helped by two questionable decisions by Arizona manager Kirk Gibson. Now, generally speaking, intentional walks are a bad idea. The risk of opening up a big inning by putting more runners on base outweighs the benefits gained from facing a weaker hitter or gaining a platoon advantage.
The first decision came in the sixth after Yuniesky Betancourt tripled with two outs to bring up No. 8 hitter Jonathan Lucroy, with the Brewers leading 1-0. This is often an automatic intentional walk situation in the National League, especially in a one-run game. But Gallardo is a good hitter -- .221 this year, with four doubles and a home run, nine homers in his career. I can't fault Gibson too much for this one. Ian Kennedy even made a good pitch to Lucroy, a riding fastball that Lucroy managed to bloop into left field for an RBI single.
The second decision, however, was the game-breaker. In the seventh, Braun doubled with two outs to bring up Prince Fielder. Now, Fielder led the majors with 32 intentional walks for a reason. Against right-handed pitchers, his OPS of 1.046 was second-best in baseball to Miguel Cabrera. In Milwaukee, where Fielder had an OPS 227 points higher than on the road, he's like Babe Ruth. He loves Miller Park as much Brewers fans love beer and tailgating. Down 2-0, with two outs and a right-hander on the mound and right-handed Rickie Weeks on deck, you simply cannot let Prince Fielder beat you.
The postseason is not the time to show extraordinary faith in your players.
Kennedy hung a curveball inside and Fielder lined it into the first few rows in right field. Brewers 4, Diamondbacks 0. Game over.
After the game, Gibson admitted to making a mistake: "I left [Kennedy] in and that was a bad decision on my part."
Gallardo gave up a home run to Ryan Roberts in the eighth, losing his shutout and failing to become the second Brewers starter in their postseason history to allow no runs (Mike Caldwell threw a 10-0 shutout in Game 1 of the 1982 World Series). But he recovered to strike out Gerardo Parra, Sean Burroughs and Bloomquist, his seventh, eighth and ninth K's of the game.
John Axford, he of the 1890s mustache and 43 consecutive saves chances converted, came on to finish it off. And now the Diamondbacks have to face Greinke in Game 2. Roenicke is looking pretty good right now.
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.