The First Step Toward a Championship
Never mind that Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder formed one of the most epic one-two punches in perhaps baseball history. Never mind that the team won a franchise-best 96 games during the regular season. And never mind that the team had three legitimate aces to form the front end of their starting rotation, and a bullpen that is the envy of all postseason teams.
It would have been a long offseason for Brewers fans to endure if there hadn’t been any championship games in Milwaukee.
So with Game 1 of what is sure to be a testy and classic matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals, I’m ready to declare the season a success no matter how the Brewers fare in the NLCS.
There is absolutely no love lost between the Brewers and the Cardinals. When Lance Berkman was questioned about that very topic, he replied simply and directly: “And that’s correct.” The last time these two teams saw each other, Chris Carpenter threw an f-bomb at Nyjer Morgan, who would have taken on the entire Cardinals roster had he not been restrained. I’m giving a better than 50-percent chances of a bench-clearing brawl.
That all adds to the high-tension that already accompanies a rematch of the 1982 World Series, won in seven games by the Cardinals. But the Brewers dominated the Cardinals in Game 1 of that series; lefty Mike Caldwell tossed a three-hit complete game shutout and the Brewers’ offense – Harvey’s Wallbangers – exploded for ten runs on seventeen hits. Molitor and Yount, yesterday’s Fielder and Braun, combined to go nine-for-twelve with two RBI each.
Caldwell was not a strikeout pitcher, but the Brewers send one out today in Zack Greinke, who had 201 strikeouts in only 171 innings during the regular season. Greinke was consistent with his strikeouts in his short start against the D’Backs in Game 2 of the NLDS (7 K, 5 IP), but allowed four runs on eight hits. Greinke, as he has all season, really struggled to keep the ball down in the zone, and three of the hits were home runs. Brewers fans won’t have much to cheer about today if he does that against a Cardinals lineup anchored by Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman.
But enough of the game minutiae for now. The Brewers have their first playoff series win since 1982. And that’s something even the Cardinals can’t ruin.