Today was just about the craziest day in baseball that I can remember. So many things were on the line going into the final day of the 2011 season. In some scenarios we would have had the pleasure of watching two one-game playoffs on the same day; that didn’t happen, but here’s some stuff that did:
The Brewers capped their best season in franchise history, becoming the first Brewers squad to earn 96 victories. Their win versus the Pirates also earned them home field for their NLDS match-up against the NL West-Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Yovani Gallardo will start game 1 for Milwaukee at home on Saturday.
Zack Greinke surpassed 200 strikeouts while earning his 16th win of the season Wednesday night; he improved his record at Miller Park this season to 11-0 (the Brewers are 15-0 in Greinke starts at home). Greinke and Yovani Gallardo are the only two teammates in Brewers history to have 200 punch-outs in the same season.
Prince Fielder earned a walk in his final at-bat of 2011. That walk left his batting average for the season at .299, leaving the quest for his first .300 season short once again. The base-on-balls did however give Fielder more walks (107) than strikeouts (106) for the season. Pretty neat.
Ryan Braun did not win the batting title, going 0-for-4 while Jose Reyes got on base via a bunt single in the first and was subsequently pinch-ran for per his request so that his average would remain higher than Braun’s. Bush. League. Braun finished the year at .332, Reyes at .337.
Albert Pujols recorded the first season in his career in which he failed to hit .300 and drive in 100 runs. Pujols finished with a .299 average and 99 RBI.
The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp hit his 39th home run Wednesay; however that left him one short of becoming the fifth player in MLB history to record a 40/40 season.
Following Boston’s knack for collapsing, Adrian Gonzalez (.338) lost the AL batting title to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.344) after leading the race for almost every single day throughout the year.
Detroit closer Jose Valverde finished the season a perfect 49/49 in saves.
Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox were literally one strike away from a victory, yet the Boston closer ended up blowing the save and allowing Baltimore to win. Three minutes later the Tampa Bay Rays, who had just gotten out of a first and third nobody out situation in the eighth, walked-off with an Evan Longoria homer that squeaked inside the left field foul pole. Tampa Bay was down 7-0 to the Yankees going into the eighth inning, but thanks to sound baseball and a three-run Longoria bomb, the Rays pulled within one going into the ninth. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon pinch-hit Dan Johnson for Sam Fuld with two outs and the bases empty. Johnson was hitting .105 with one home run on the sesason. On a 2-2 pitch, Johnson crushed a home run deep into right field which barely snuck fair for a home run. The Rays were literally one strike away from losing, yet they scratched and clawed their way to an improbable AL Wild Card birth.
And lastly one more word about the NL batting title race I’ve been covering for quite some time… I think this excerpt from Tim Kurkjian’s ESPN.com article titled “Remembering the Amazing Ted Williams” says it best, and keep in mind how Reyes asked to be removed after a first inning bunt single…
“When he got to the final day of the season, a doubleheader at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Williams was hitting .3996, which rounded off to .400. Red Sox manager Joe Cronin gave Williams the option to play that day. Williams said if he couldn’t hit .400 from the beginning to the end of a season, he didn’t deserve it.
“I asked him about that final day,” Gwynn said, “and he said, ‘Hell yeah was I going to play.”’
Williams went 4-for-5 in the first game, the Red Sox overcame an 11-3 deficit to beat the A’s, 12-11, and Williams raised his average to .404. He insisted on playing the second game, and he went 2-for-3 to finish the season at .406. In the doubleheader, with all the pressure of .400, he went 6-for-8. “
No, that’s not a typo. The Milwaukee Brewers clinched their first division title in 29 years today when they defeated the Marlins 4-1 and the Cubs topped St. Louis 5-1. In an eerily similar scene to 2008, Ryan Braun crushed what turned out to be a game-winning three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth with chants of “MVP” coming from the stands. It was an electric atmosphere in Miller Park with the players anxiously watching the Cubs-Cards game on the big screen right along with fans. What a moment for a squad built from the ground up. Teammates Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Yovani Gallardo and Prince Fielder have experienced all of the ups and downs together over the years. There is not a fan base or group of players around that deserve a division title more. John Axford locked it down in the ninth to tie a franchise record with 44 saves. With a spectacular full-extension diving catch turned double play and a super clutch three-run bomb, Ryan Braun all but locked up the National League MVP award in my opinion. There’s not much more to be said about the Brewers that hasn’t been said already; and with that, Milwaukee fans can look forward to next Saturday when the NLDS begins. Go Brewers!!! 11 wins away from a World Series title…
With a 3-for-4 performance in Milwaukee’s 8-1 win over the Reds, Ryan Braun overtook Adrian Gonzalez for the highest batting average in all of baseball. Braunie is currently hitting .336, slightly ahead of Adrian’s .333. The victory shrunk Milwaukee’s Magic Number to four. The Cardinals play tonight, so stay tuned because we may be sitting at three when you awake tomorrow morning.
Ryan Braun solidified his case for NL MVP (if he hadn’t already) with a two home run performance during a Friday night win in Cincinnati. The two blasts made Braun the second Brewer to accumulate 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same season, the first being Tommy Harper in 1970. “I’m really proud,” said Braun. “There’s a reason it’s only been done one other time in franchise history. It’s a hard thing to do.” The Brewers beat the Cincinnati Reds 6-3, eliminating them from playoff contention, while the Brewers shrunk their Magic Number to 7.
Oh yeah, Wolf got the win to improve to 13-9, Prince went deep for his 33rd, Kotsay and Kottaras also went yard, and Axford picked up his 43rd save (40th in a row).
Here are Braun’s numbers and National League rank in each category.
AVG: .330 (2nd)
OBP: .396 (4th)
SLG: .590 (1st)
OPS: .986 (1st)
HR: 30 (T-8th)
RBI: 99 (5th)
R: 100 (T-1st)
SB: 31 (T-7th)
The Milwaukee Brewers continued their winning ways Sunday afternoon, sweeping the Houston Astros with a 4-0 win at Minute Maid Park. Shaun Marcum pitched seven innings and allowed only one hit en route to his 12th victory of the season.
Ryan Braun overtook Jose Reyes for the National League batting title, going 3-for-3 with a home run (26), walk, and three runs batted in (94), to raise his average to .335.
The Cardinals beat the Brewers 8-3 Wednesday night at Miller Park. Whatever. Milwaukee holds a 8 1/2 game lead over St. Louis and looks to be a lock for the postseason. Let’s just get to the Braun stuff.
Ryan Braun went 2-for-4 with a RBI (89) triple (5), raising his batting average to .333. When Braun sliced one into deep center field in the third inning, the ball skipped off the wall and the fielder fell down. Braun had an easy inside-the-park homer, however, he lost his footing coming around third base and fell, quite dramatically, and was subsequently tagged out. Gotta love the guy for hustling. I’m sure it’ll be on ESPN’s not-top 10.
Meanwhile, Jose Reyes went 2-for-4, putting his average at .336.
1st inning v. RHP Rodrigo Lopez; bases empty, 2 outs
Strike (looking), Doubled to deep left, 1-1, 2B
3rd inning v. RHP Rodrigo Lopez; bases empty, 1 out
Strike (looking), Ball, Ball, Ball, Ball, Walked, Stole 2nd, 1-1, 2B, BB, SB
5th inning v. RHP Rodrigo Lopez; runners on 1st and 2nd, no outs
Ball, Ball, Ball, (Double steal – runners on 2nd and 3rd), Strike (looking), Doubled to deep left scoring Hart and Morgan, Scored on throwing error, 2-2, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB, R, SB
7th inning v. RHP Jeff Samardzija; runner on 1st, 1 out
Ball, Strike (looking), Strike (foul), Ball, (Hart to 2nd on wild pitch), Ball, Foul, Foul, Ball, Walked, 2-2, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, R, SB
Final Line: 2-for-2, 2 doubles (33), 2 RBI (87), 2 walks, run scored, stolen base (30); batting average rose to .333