The electric atmosphere at Miller Park last night, when the Brewers clinched their first NL Central Division Championship since 1982, came with plenty of questions. Despite an evaporating magic number, many wondered just how much of a lock the Brewers were for the postseason with a surging Cardinals club hot on their heels. An inconsistent offense has left plenty of runners stranded, and regulars like Casey McGehee, Jonathan Lucroy, and Yuniesky Betancourt are all just a few at-bats away from extended slumps.
That offense let some opportunities slip by again last night, but the Crew’s MVP-caliber sluggers provided all the momentum the Brewers would need. Prince Fielder led off the scoring with a towering solo shot to right in the second. That was all for the Brewers until the eighth when Ryan Braun hammered a 3-1 slider into left center for three runs. The mash brothers were all smiles afterwards, and in Prince’s case, a few tears.
While Braun and Fielder grabbed the highlights (including an amazing diving double-play catch and throw by Braun), their effort would have been wasted if not for Yovani Gallardo and the bullpen. Gallardo delivered one of his sharpest outing of the season, allowing only 1 run while striking out 11 over 7.1 innings. Francisco Rodriguez struck out the remainder of the eighth, and Axford picked up his 44th save, tying Francisco Cordero for the club single-season record.
And with that, the Brewers are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, potentially as the number two seed. And that’s where the Brewers want to be, as it would prevent them from having to face the Phillies in the NLDS if the Braves should win the NL Wild Card.
I know Brewers fans have been through a lot of heartache over the years (I can’t help that my mind occasionally wanders back to the waning days of the 2007 season), but I strongly advise everyone to take a break and enjoy this for a while. The Brewers are in the playoffs, guaranteed, and we all know that anything can happen there. So no mulling over the faults of the club or projecting how they will fare against their playoff competition. Lets just ride out the last of the regular season and try to accumulate enough wins to stay ahead of Arizona.
Magic Number Watch: 0!!!