ARLINGTON, Tex. -- Maybe the biggest games the Brewers won this season were the final two games against Pittsburgh. With those wins, Milwaukee secured homefield advantage in the Division Series -- a key factor, as the Brewers won Game 5 in a walkoff at Miller Park to advance to the NLCS.
MILWAUKEE -- A standing ovation had greeted him in the batter's box, but now Prince Fielder looked confused. Umpires' arms arose around the field. Someone had called time -- who wasn't immediately obvious -- and the sold-out Miller Park crowd continued to serenade the Brewers' All-Star first baseman. Whether it was an enticement for him to re-sign as a free agent or just a farewell tribute thanking him for his service, didn't quite matter at the moment, given the numbers on the scoreboard.
The Rangers wrapped up the AL pennant Saturday night in Game 6 against the Tigers. The Cardinals hope to do the same Sunday night in Game 6 against the Brewers, while the Brewers hope to ride their considerable home-field advantage to a comeback win in Game 7 and the second pennant in franchise history. According to Elias, out of the 52 best-of-seven series in baseball history to be tied 2-2 after four games, as this one was, the winner of Game 5 went on to win the series 36 times, or 69 percent of the time, and has won 10 of 13 such series (77 percent) in League Championship play.
The Brewers' victory in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series was huge for two reasons. First, it guarantees that the series will return to Milwaukee, which is particularly significant given that the Brewers had the best home record in baseball this season and are 4-1 at home this postseason. Second, it prevented them from falling behind 3-games-to-1 in this best-of-seven series, a hole only 8 of 72 teams have ever climbed out of in major league history.
MILWAUKEE -- Tony La Russa concluded his pregame remarks late Monday afternoon with a gentle reminder that while the Brewers have this season experienced great offensive success at Miller Park -- where they were, at the time, 61-24, due in large measure to a home output of nearly 4.9 runs per game -- his Cardinals can produce runs as well. In 85 road games, in fact, St. Louis had averaged more than 5.0 per game, and this season they had scored more runs in Milwaukee -- 45 -- than any team but the Brewers. "We hit here, too, and we like hitting here," La Russa said.
MILWAUKEE -- The ball Nyjer Morgan struck off Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz was bounding its way up the middle and toward the outfield, but his celebration didn't wait for the formality of Carlos Gomez to round third and score the game-winning run.
Five keys to the Brewers-Diamondbacks National League Division Series -- a battle between the presumptive top two finishers for the manager of the year award, Arizona's Kirk Gibson and Milwaukee's Ron Roenicke -- which begins Saturday afternoon at Miller Park:
Professional sports teams are attempting at a furious rate to lure fans away from the comfort of their couches to live games. And sweet technological upgrades to their home venues become a bigger selling point every year.
In 2002, Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox hit 20 home runs in the first half of the season. This was good enough to win him a spot in the Home Run Derby at Milwaukee's Miller Park, where at the end of a long, draining day, he came just short of besting eventual winner Jason Giambi for a spot in the finals, finishing third overall with a dozen home runs.
MILWAUKEE -- The old skipper saw the new hero in the middle of the visitor's locker room at Miller Park. "Hey," Dallas Green growled as he grabbed Pat Burrell by the shoulder, moments after the Phillies' 6-2 in Game 4 of the National League Division Series. "I was waiting for that," Green said, then laughed. "I told everyone: I was waiting for that!"
MILWAUKEE -- All of Miller Park remained in a surreal holding pattern, the end of the 26-year Playoff Drought Era so tantalizingly close, the only thing left in the way being three Mets outs, 900 miles to the East at Shea Stadium. The Brewers' workday was already done, their shirts already untucked -- as is now a standard post-victory ritual -- after downing the Cubs 3-1 in the 162nd game of the year. Cheerleaders stood stoic atop the home dugout, holding pyrotechnic devices in the off position, waiting, like the rest of the crowd, for closure in a wild-card drama that had been tied entering the final day of the regular season. Brewers players, who had arrived at the park Sunday morning with suitcases packed for a potential one-game playoff in New York on Monday, sat scattered about the dugout swilling Miller Lites, and then began a slow retreat into the tunnel. Their stadium had temporarily turned into the World's Largest Sports Bar, with 42,599 patrons and Marlins 4, Mets 2 on the
MILWAUKEE -- The rumor began, like so many do, here on the Internet. Or maybe it started in a bar, if you believe the guy who started the rumor. Either way, when a commenter on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Brewers Blog claimed, at 9:03 a.m. Friday, that Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy had suffered a hand injury in the mosh-pit that greeted Ryan Braun's walkoff home run the previous evening -- and claimed that a source "just informed me that [Hardy] might be out for the rest of the season," it spread through Brewtown like Wild Card Wildfire.
The moment the Mets' latest implosion officially ended Wednesday, at about 10:15 CT, Brewers savior CC Sabathia was busy insisting to a pack of reporters that he felt just fine throwing 107 pitches on three days' rest; that his latest tour de force -- an 11-strikeout, seven-inning outing in a win over the Pirates that evened the NL wild-card race -- had not put any undue strain on his left arm. Sabathia also said that he'd be perfectly willing to do it all over again, three days later against the Cubs in the regular-season finale. "Whatever it takes to get us in the playoffs," he explained, "that's what I'll do."
Ryan Braun, the Brewers' wunderkind of a No. 3 hitter, is as particular as they come. Before he feels fully comfortable in the batters' box, an elaborate routine must play out. It is not always the same, but tends to include scooping up dirt with his hands; wiping them on his pants; un-Velcroing each batting glove, then re-Velcroing it; adjusting his helmet; tugging at the front shoulder of his jersey, then the back shoulder; adjusting his pants near the cup and waist; waving his bat so it points out toward the pitcher, and then finally cocking it into a waggling, ready position. This is generally repeated between each pitch.
It's only July. So went the refrain sung in the Brewers and Cubs clubhouses at Miller Park leading up to Game 1 of the four-game NL. Central showdown between Milwaukee and Chicago. But on Monday night a roar rang out in the ballpark after Alfonso Soriano waltzed home for the game-winning run in the ninth inning -- a roar that could be heard all the way back in Wicker Park -- and by then it was more than clear that this wasn't just another game in July.
When Brewers owner Mark Attanasio's car got stuck in traffic on I-94 on the way to a game the other day (yes, there is heavy traffic in Milwaukee on game days now), he hopped out of his vehicle and scaled a four-foot fence in hopes of seeing every last pitch. Luckily, a security guard recognized the Los Angeles interloper who's done everything he can to become beloved in down-to-Earth Milwaukee. So the guard approved Attanasio's illegal fence-hopping and ushered him in to see his team, the best Brewers team in decades.
Every year around this time, the familiar wanderlust rises again. As if carried on a summer breeze, it floats in and wraps itself around us, pulling us toward the open road. The lucky ones among us give in to the urge and allow it to take us across the country, from stadium to stadium, ballgame to ballgame. The rest of us dream of the journey, promising ourselves that one of these days we'll get out there and discover America, one ballpark at a time.
On the day he seemed sure to cement his place in the Hall of Fame, Mets left-hander Tom Glavine entered the visiting clubhouse at Milwaukee's Miller Park at precisely 4:07 p.m. CDT (Cooperstown Definite Time). A clubhouse attendant did a double take upon sighting Glavine and said, "There you are, I was looking for you."
Barry Bonds has not hit a home run in a couple of days -- man, is this guy a slacker or what? -- so we now must prepare for the real home stretch. Bonds probably won't play Sunday here in Miller Park, since it's a day game after a day game and there's evidently some union rule about 43-year-old sluggers with leaden legs getting too much sunshine on weekends. Even if he defies the accepted protocol and plays Sunday -- Bonds does defiance pretty well, if you haven't noticed -- he probably won't play much. Let's put it this way: He won't play too much.
The boos rise up through the opened roof into a clear Wisconsin sky, a hearty mid-America let-him-have-it kind of greeting. But as deep-throated as they get -- and, for a second or two early in Friday's game, it's practically boisterous here at Miller Park -- they lack a real conviction. After the first pitch, the razzing dies out and the good people of Milwaukee sit and watch, just like a lot of baseball fans all over the nation, waiting for Barry Bonds to do what he's no doubt destined to do.
When Francisco Cordero makes his ninth-inning trek from the bullpen gate to the pitcher's mound at Miller Park, he is accompanied by theme music on the Brewers' PA system; a dominant closer, after all, is nothing without a trademark song to announce his arrival in loud and sinister fashion.
The beer-and-brats capital of the United States is fast becoming the home of the long ball as well, thanks to Prince Fielder and shortstop J.J. Hardy. At week's end the Brewers led the majors in home runs with 58, and Hardy (14) and Fielder (12) ranked one-two in the National League. (Braves third baseman Chipper Jones also had 12.) When Milwaukee third baseman Craig Counsell looks at the list of NL leaders, he shakes his head and says, "O.K., Prince, I can see that one; he's supposed to hit bombs. But J.J.? Anyone who told you they expected this is crazy."
For some people, baseball season starts when pitchers and catchers report. For others, it's when Manny Ramirez hosts a Bar-B-Que. But it's not really baseball season until Zack Hample catches his first foul ball.