MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Glendon Rusch can't remember ever having such
good control of his pitches, but the one toss he'll never forget
was a hanging, 77-mph curveball from Rick Helling.
Rusch sent it out of the ballpark for his first career homer,
putting an exclamation on his three-hitter and Milwaukee's 6-2
victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Milwaukee Brewers' home opener
Friday night. "I really didn't know what to do. I had never hit one before,"
Rusch said after his spectacular Brewers debut. "I probably made
it around the bases faster than I ever will." Rusch provided the left-handed pitching that Milwaukee has long
missed, and for one night at least, he also supplied the power that
Brewers fans feared was gone after he was acquired from the Mets
for slugger Jeromy Burnitz last winter. He became the first Milwaukee pitcher to homer since Paul Rigdon
connected off Rob Bell on Sept. 27, 2000 -- two days before the last
left-hander, Horacio Estrada, made a start for the Brewers. Rusch's two-run shot off Helling (0-1) in the fifth gave
Milwaukee a 3-0 lead. "You can't make mistakes like that, especially against the
pitcher," Helling said. "The energy of the crowd, the energy of
their team, you could tell changed. When the pitcher hits a home
run, it's a pretty rare occurrence, so I think that kind of
energized them a little bit and deflated us a little bit. "From there, the game was pretty much over. He pitched great
the rest of the way." The last Brewers pitcher to throw a complete game in the home
opener was Mike Caldwell in 1979. Rusch did it with uncanny control of his changeup, fastball and
curve. "I feel like I've got the best command of my changeup that I've
ever had," said Rusch, who attributed his control to job security
in spring training, which allowed him to work on the pitch without
fearing repercussions. And his other pitches were just as sharp. "All our hitters came back to the bench from the first inning
until the last inning saying that he was just painting,"
Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly said. "He just never made mistakes
over the heart of the plate. "He threw just enough offspeed pitches to keep us off-balance.
When he threw his fastball, he put it on the corners, at the knees
or elevated it out of the strike zone when he wanted to. It's just
a guy on top of his game." Even at the plate and in the field. He made a spectacular play
to rob Craig Counsell of a hit in the sixth. "This was Glendon Rusch's night," Milwaukee manager Davey
Lopes said. Alex Ochoa put the Brewers on top 1-0 in the fourth when he hit
Helling's 2-0 fastball for his third homer. Rusch homered into the right-field bleachers for just his
seventh hit in 111 career at-bats, and Jose Hernandez hit a two-run
shot off Mike Morgan that made it 5-0 in the sixth. Rusch, who didn't walk a batter and struck out five, surrendered
only an infield single to Danny Bautista in the fourth a solo homer
to Luis Gonzalez, his first, in the seventh, and a two-out solo
homer to Bautista in the ninth. "Well, he did a little better than I anticipated," Lopes said.
"I told him that two runs in seven innings would be good but he
just went two more innings and was even better." Helling (0-1) gave up three runs and five hits in five innings
in his first start since signing with the Diamondbacks. All he
could think about was the pitch to Rusch.
"Pitcher or not, a hanging breaking ball is the easiest pitch
to hit," he said. "You just don't expect those things to happen.
It just goes to show, you don't ever take anything for granted in
this game, regardless of who's at the plate."
The crowd of 43,005 was the fourth-largest at Miller Park,
site of this year's All-Star game. Former Milwaukee Braves Johnny
Logan and Gene Conley, who was the winning pitcher in the 1955
midsummer classic, threw out the first pitches along with former
Brewers Gorman Thomas and Larry Hisle. "It was a great day,"
Brewers president Wendy Selig-Prieb said. "We couldn't have
scripted this." ... It was 61 degrees inside Miller Park, where
the roof was closed. The 34-degree temperature outside would have
marked the third-coldest home opener at old County Stadium. ... The
Brewers made several stadium improvements, including an expanded
"batters' eye" behind center field to cut down on parking lot
glare, a painted outfield wall to commemorate the All-Star game and
a laser-leveled outfield grass. Brenly noticed the new turf right
away. "It was a hayfield last time we were in," he said.