In case you haven’t heard, the Milwaukee Brewers are heading to the National League Championship Series. Nyjer Morgan slapped a walk-off, seeing-eye single up the middle scoring Carlos Gomez in the 10th inning of the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS, giving the fans at Miller Park (including myself) a finish they will never forget. The Brewers defeated Arizona 3-2, capping a magical night in Milwaukee. Perhaps this is our season… Perhaps it is ‘written in the stars’…
After leaving Milwaukee with a 2-0 lead in their NLDS clash with the Diamondbacks, the Brewers promptly dropped games 3 and 4 in Arizona. With back-to-back losses by Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf, the Brewers will put their entire season on the line Friday evening at Miller Park, where they own a Major League-best 59 wins in 2011 (including the postseason). Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo will once again face Arizona’s 21-game winner, Ian Kennedy. There’s not much more to say –a trip to the League Championship Series is on the line. The same goes for the Yankees-Tigers series as well as Cardinals-Phillies.
The Milwaukee Brewers, fresh off a game 1 victory at Miller Park behind their ace Yovani Gallardo, gave the ball to Zack Greinke on short rest and inched a bit closer to their title dream. The Brewers won 9-4 thanks mostly to a five-run sixth inning sparked by Jonathan Lucroy’s go-ahead safety squeeze. Greinke went five innings in his postseason debut, allowing four runs on eight hits (three home runs), no walks and seven strikeouts. Ryan Braun had three hits for the second straight game and launched his first postseason dinger. With Fielder flexing his muscles (he hit a bomb in game 1), Braun hitting .750, and the bullpen pitching lights out, it looks like the next game at Miller Park will be in the National League Championship Series. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Milwaukee’s next game is in Arizona, where they’ll send Shaun Marcum to face Josh Collmenter. As always, Go Brewers! 9 wins away from a World Series title…
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. “
Zack Greinke was brilliant in six of his seven innings Thursday night in Arizona, but that wasn’t enough. Two fourth inning mistakes would haunt the Brewers as they fell to the D-backs 4-0, splitting the four-game series at Chase Field. Justin Upton and Miguel Montero both went yard in the decisive fourth, tagging Greinke with his fourth loss of the year. Kelly Johnson added a home run, his 17th, in the eighth that put the Brew Crew away. Diamondbacks ace Ian Kennedy (11-3) tossed seven sparkling innings in the desert, scattering four hits while silencing the Milwaukee bats to the tune of zero runs. Once Kennedy exited due to a high pitch count, Milwaukee got a rally going. Corey Hart singled to left to start the inning and Nyjer Morgan was immediately hit by a pitch. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Ryan Braun, running gingerly due to his ailing knee and hamstring, grounded softly into a double play. Prince Fielder followed by striking out on three pitches and finished the series 1 for 16. The Brewers also squandered a bases loaded opportunity in the fifth inning when Morgan flew out to center. Milwaukee was shut out for the second time in the last four games and tenth time overall this season, all on the road. The Brewers now head to AT&T Park for a three-game set against the defending champion Giants before having an off day on Monday. Tomorrow, Shaun Marcum (8-3, 3.39 ERA) toes the slab for Milwaukee and will face San Francisco right-hander Matt Cain (8-5, 2.99 ERA).
The Milwaukee Brewers send Zack Greinke to the mound tonight looking to take three of four in Arizona. Milwaukee has won four of its last five games on the road, reversing their losing trend when away from Miller Park. Here is Ron Roenicke’s lineup for the ballgame tonight, which resembles something that you might see in game 1 of a playoff series should the Brewers’ win the National League Central.
1. Corey Hart – rf
2. Nyjer Morgan – cf
3. Ryan Braun – lf
4. Prince Fielder – 1b
5. Rickie Weeks – 2b
6. Casey McGehee – 3b
7. Yuniesky Betancourt – ss
8. Jonathan Lucroy – c
9. Zack Greinke – rhp
The Diamondbacks send their best pitcher to the hill in Ian Kennedy, a ten game winner with a 3.39 earned run average and 113 strikeouts in 135.1 innings.
2B: Braun (21).
HR: Braun (18).
RBI: Braun 2 (66); Lucroy (37); Morgan (22); Weeks (43).
Outfield Assist: Braun (Drew at home).
SB: Weeks (8).
CS: Betancourt (3).
What a thriller in the desert. Milwaukee starter Chris Narveson pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only four base hits while striking out four and walking none in a no-decision. He was staked an early 1-0 lead thanks to Ryan Braun’s first inning solo shot, his second in the past two games. Jonathan Lucroy added an RBI double in the seventh, however Arizona would rally to score twice and tie the game in the bottom of the eighth thanks to Willie Bloomquist’s double off of Francisco Rodriguez. Milwaukee reliever Takashi Saito entered the game in the bottom of the ninth looking to push the Brewers into extra innings. After a lead off double and wild pitch, Arizona found themselves with the winning run – Justin Upton – on third base with no outs. Saito escaped the jam with two groundouts to Casey McGehee and a flyout to Nyjer Morgan. Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson decided to go with Ryan Cook in the top of the tenth, a 24-year-old making his major league debut. Veteran Mark Kotsay started Cook’s career off with a single which was followed by a Corey Hart walk and a balk. Nyjer Morgan promptly sliced a single into right field giving Milwaukee a 3-2 lead. With runners on first and third and nobody out, Ryan Braun slapped a sharp single into right scoring Hart and putting the Crew up 4-2. Cook was lifted in favor of Alberto Castillo who got Prince Fielder to ground into a double play. D-backs reliever Sam Demel then gave up an RBI-single to Rickie Weeks, scoring Morgan and giving Milwaukee a three-run cushion in the tenth. McGehee was called out on strikes for the third out but the damage was done. Brewers’ closer John Axford secured the win, earning his 26th save in the process. Overall, an improbable win for the Brew Crew who moved into sole possession of first place and once again showed why they are the NL Central favorites. Milwaukee won their second consecutive game without a hit from Prince Fielder. Ryan Braun, with three base knocks, pushed his batting average to .320. Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew left in the fourth inning with a fractured right ankle. Carlos Gomez also left in the fourth with a broken collarbone and could miss the remainder of the year. Regardless, the Brewers look to be serious contenders who could make a deep postseason run. Zack Greinke will start game four of the series as Milwaukee looks to take 3 of 4 at Chase Field.