Braun’s tiebreaking three-run homer sends the Brewers to their first division win since 1982.
With chants of “MVP” from the 44,584 fans (the 33rd sellout of the season at Miller Park) resounding throughout Miller Park, Ryan Braun worked the count to 3-1 before Hensley made the fatal mistake of leaving an 81-mph slider in the strike zone.
Braun gracefully swung and crushed the ball, sending it 450 feet out to left-center, where it bounced off the bottom of the scoreboard. Braun knew it was out of the park as soon as he hit it. He lifted his bat in the air and screamed toward the Brewers’ dugout and the crowd before beginning his 32nd trip around the bases this season. “It’s eerily similar,” Braun said. “Just the whole feeling of the game, the fact it was 1-1 in the eighth when I got the at-bat. The atmosphere, environment, anxiety, and the crowd. It literally felt identical.”
When the dust settled, Axford came in and made quick work of the Marlins for his 44th save. The rest is history…
Twenty-nine years after the Milwaukee Brewers clinched the American League East title behind Don Sutton in Baltimore, the Brewers wrapped up their first National League Central title at Miller Park Friday night with a 4-1 win over the Florida Marlins .
To say the Brewers “delivered” would be an understatement:
- Prince Fielder, with a solo home run in the second inning – a hit that stood as the only point for the Brewers until the eighth inning, started the offensive rally.
- There was Yovani Gallardo, who struck out 11 batters in 7 1/3 innings. Although falling short in his bid to become the first Brewers pitcher to win 18 games since 2005, his performance was unparalleled.
- And then there was the 1-2 punch of Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford. “K-Rod” took the ball from Gallardo and struck out both batters he faced, and then Axford closed the door for his team-record-tying save.
But the win was only part of the deal for the Milwaukee Brewers and their fans. Part one of two, you might say. Everyone was forced to wait another 25 minutes until the Cubs beat the Cardinals. The Brewers took in the moment in their clubhouse, watching the final out on a TV. Once that part of history unfolded, part two was complete and it was time for the celebratory champagne spraying.
“It’s special,” a soaked Braun said in the midst of the celebration. “In 2008, when we went to the postseason for the first time in 26 years, you really realized how much it meant to everybody in the city, everybody in the state. To have an opportunity to win the division is that much more meaningful. This is something that we set out to do from the beginning of the year, and it’s just a very rewarding feeling to know that when you go out as a group of men, you support each other every day, you compete every day that you can do something like this for the organization, the city and the whole state of Wisconsin.”
The Milwaukee Brewers still have five games left in the 2011 season to add to their current total of 92 victories. With the franchise record at 95, there may be more celebrations in the Brewers’ future. By no means will it be an easy record to break. The National League Central division winner has yet to win a single playoff game since 2006. They could also be forced to open the postseason on the road against the Philadelphia Phillies if they don’t protect the one-game lead they hold over the NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks for the NL’s second seed. Nevertheless, celebration is currently in order and that story is surely to develop over the next few games. Nights and opportunities like the Brewers win last night don’t come along very often in Milwaukee.
The Bigger Picture:
All over baseball, celebrations were in order. The Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Texas Rangers each clinched the division Friday night. Only once, on October 5th, 1985, had three division spots been decided on the same day. Remarkably, all six divisions are locked up with still five days left in the regular season. Not since 1986, when there were only four divisions, had they all been sealed so early in the baseball season.