Sun. Final: Brewers 3, Cubs 1
By Todd Welter
Next game: NL Division Series Game One
CC Sabathia was soaked in champagne and he could not be feeling any better.
In fact, his 39 other teammates and coaches had the same feeling as the Milwaukee Brewers clinched their first postseason birth since 1982 with a 3-1 win over the Cubs. CC Sabathia pitched a complete game on his third consecutive start going on three days rest. Ryan Braun's two-run homer to left in the eighth put the Brewers in October.
"This has been unbelievable with the way the team has embraced me," Sabathia exclaimed. "I came in midway through the season. I feel like I have been here all year. We definitely deserve it."
As Braun was mobbed by his teammates coming into the dugout, the two heroes embraced. Both knowing that all CC had to do was get three more outs and the Brewers would have a 3-1 win and the chance for October glory.
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After the Mets' loss started the celebration
"CC has been beyond anybody's expectations, beyond what anybody could have ever imagined," Braun felt. "In my opinion, by far the best player in baseball."
On his 122nd pitch, Sabathia got Derrek Lee to ground into a double play and the hugs and celebration broke out but the champagne corks were not popped until minutes later after the Mets completed their demise. Two home runs by the Marlins' Wes Helms and Dan Uggla broke a 2-2 tie in New York and gave the Marlins a 4-2 win, and the Brewers the NL wild card.
The clubhouse erupted into a frenzy. Champagne was sprayed everywhere and the players mobbed Sabathia in the middle of the room chanting "CC, CC, CC."
"The most unselfish athlete probably in the history of this game to do what he did," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "He did everything for this city and this team. It's got to down as the most unselfish thing an athlete could do."
The celebration then poured out onto the Miller Park field as 45,299 people waited for their heroes who exercised a 26 year playoff drought demon.
"It means so much to this city obviously they've been through a lot over the past 25 years of not getting an opportunity to go to the postseason," Braun said. "For us as a team, we've overcome a lot of adversity. It's been an extremely dramatic year. It ends on a high note."
The playoffs almost seemed impossible just a few weeks ago after the Crew blew a four-game lead in the wild card at the start of September. Milwaukee lost 11 of its first 15 games to start the month. The team had fired manager Ned Yost with twelve games to go and were in a deep tailspin. The Brewers went 6-1 down the final stretch to makeup for the dreadful September start. Pitching performances by CC Sabathia and the bullpen, shrewd gambles by interim manager Dale Sveum, big hitting from Prince Fielder, and two historic home runs by Ryan Braun put the Brewers into territory that this franchise has not been in since 1982.
"This is something since I signed in 1982 that I always dreamed of, unfortunately it took 26 years," Sveum said. "At least in any capacity, I was part of it. Hopefully, we can take it to a further level."
"We didn't take the regular road," Craig Counsell said. "We took the fun path. We made it exciting."
Just like this entire month, this was not an easy victory. The Cubs pitching staff made it an enormous challenge just to get base runners, let alone score runs. Through six innings the Brewers only had one soul reach base. A combination of Angel Gumzan, Chad Gaudin, Neal Cotts, and Kevin Hart combined to retire 18 straight batters after Mike Cameron started the game with a single. The Crew struck out seven times during the dry spell.
The Brewers finally broke through in the seventh as Ray Durham led off the inning with a double off Sean Marshall. He got to third on Ryan Braun's ground out. He got some company on the bases when Marshall intentionally walked Prince Fielder. Michael Wuertz relieved Marshall and loaded up the bases with a walk to J.J. Hardy. Corey Hart then struck out on three straight swings. Craig Counsell did what Hart could not and that was stay patient at the plate. Counsell watched as Wuertz threw him four balls to pick up the key RBI. Jason Kendall grounded into a fielder's choice to end the threat.
Braun's moment came the next inning when Cameron hit a one-out single. Braun came to the plate with two-outs and on the first pitch he saw from Bob Howry, he blasted that pitch to the left field bleachers. Howry (7-5) took the loss for serving up that gopher ball.
"I was looking for something over the plate that I could get the barrel on and the rest is history," Braun said.
The Cubs got on the scoreboard first in the second inning. Aramis Ramirez led off the inning with single. He got to third on Prince Fielder's error and scored on Ronny Cedeno's ground ball.
Sabathia (11-2) picked up his 11th win as a Brewer as he allowed just four hits and struck out seven. The Brewers now have an October date with the Philadelphia Phillies. Game 1 will be Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the city of brotherly love.