The greatest baseball game ever played in Milwaukee

Posted: October 12, 2011 by jkdalemu in MLB

The greatest baseball game ever played in Milwaukee had it all, but what exactly makes up the greatest game?

Friday, October 7, 2011: The date of the best game in Milwaukee Brewers recent history. And by recent, I really mean in the last 29 years – since 1982 at least. Friday’s game had everything a classic game should have: an amazing atmosphere, opposing pitchers going inning for inning like two prized fighters, big-name players setting up in the spotlight, unsung heroes and a nail-biting finish. Without all of these key elements, my memory of this game would surely fade over time – just like many of the Brewers games I’ve attended.

The Milwaukee Brewers aren’t known for a rich winning tradition. While the Brewers have had many outstanding players and played many memorable games over time, because of their lack of success in the postseason, memories fade. The games I’ve attended usually run together in my mind – until I witnessed the NLDS Game 5 in Milwaukee.

The Brewers have played many games at Miller Park and County Stadium, but nothing could match the atmosphere during NLDS Game 5. After coming back from Arizona, where attendance was under 80% of the stadium’s seating capacity, the Milwaukee Brewers home crowd was pumping at over 100 % capacity. Standing room only. With the series matched at two games apiece, every fan knew what was at stake. If the game turned ugly, our Milwaukee Brewers would be done. If the Brewers started out of the gate with a big lead, the party would start early. There was not one fan in the stadium who wanted to be outside tailgating instead of inside watching the game. As lineups were announced and rally towels began to swirl, every fan knew this would be a close game with the high caliber starting pitchers battling against each other.

As Yovanni Gallardo ran out to take the field, his stats from Game 1 were flashed on the scoreboard. With an ERA near 1 and a solid eight innings pitched of only four hit baseball, as a Brewers fan, it was hard not to feel confident. Yovanni is the Brewers’ young ace, always up for the big game. He has pitched in the playoffs before and learned from his experience. Opposite Gallardo was Ian Kennedy, a potential Cy Young award winner. Kennedy was a 20 + game winner in the regular season who was proven nearly impossible to beat when he was on. Kennedy pitched Game 1 against Gallardo and lost after a questionable decision to pitch to Prince Fielder (which resulted in a home run). With the high caliber of pitchers, every fan knew it would take a big-name talent to step up into the spotlight and to carry their team to victory.

Entering the playoffs, I’m sure it was hard for big market sporting fans to believe that three potential MVP candidates would come from the two small market teams in this series. As the MVP bunch stepped up to the plate, I (well, the entire home crowd) grew anxious. We all knew someone would strike. We figured since the Brewers have two potential MVP players versus the Diamondbacks’ one, their odds were better. And we were sadly mistaken.

Justin Upton hit an early-inning solo home run. Was that all Ian Kennedy needed? It certainly looked like it could be. The next big moment from our MVP bunch was less dramatic, but equally important. After a game tying sacrifice fly by Jerry Hairston, Ryan Braun placed himself into scoring position by doubling to start the 6th inning. With Ryan Braun on 2nd base and Prince Fielder drawing a walk, the Brewers needed someone to drive in a run to take the lead. In arguably the most important inning of the season, the Brewers found their unsung hero.

Yuniesky Betancourt joined the Brewers before the 2011 season as a supplemental throw-in on the Zack Grienke trade. While many fans looked forward to Zack Greinke joining the team, many fans feared the negative affects of Yuniesky joining our team. After a less than good regular season, Yuniesky hadn’t won many fans over. Typically an early pitch swing tendency guy, he wasn’t known for many outstanding offensive moments during the 2011 season. With Ryan Braun on 2nd base, Prince on 1st base and Yuniesky at the plate, there was no better time for him to finally win over some of the local fans. After taking two pitches from Kennedy, Betancourt belted a single that brought the speedy Braun home from 2nd. There it is Milwaukee, you have your unsung hero. Now you just need your revamped bullpen and closer to hold it. Easy enough, right?

After an easy 7th inning with Takashi Saito on the mound, the Brewers entered the 8th inning with a one run lead, only needing six more outs. K-Rod, who is known for his 20 minutes of terror be puts fans through, lived up to the nickname during his biggest outing of the year. After striking out one of the Diamondback’s hottest hitters Paul Goldschmidt to get a 2nd out, K-Rod loaded the bases, walking Chris Young. This left the bases loaded for the “Tat Man” Ryan Roberts. K-Rod forced a ground ball which brought the Brewers into the bottom of the 8th.

As John Axford entered in the 9th, the Brewers (well, at least the fans) felt confident. With arguably the best closer in the league entering, everyone expected an easy, stress-free finish. But Gerardo Parra had a different plan. Leading off with a double and eventually scoring on a squeeze play, the Diamondback’s managed to tie the game in the 9th inning.

Every fan at Miller Park seemed shocked. Most everyone was worried that this was a sign it wasn’t meant to be. Milwaukee baseball would be over here and now. Everyone was asking, “How could this happen with Axford? He has been so good all year.” The Brewers (after nothing happened in the bottom of the 9th and top of the 10th) entered the bottom of the 10th with the bottom of the order batting. After Counsel grounded out, Carlos Gomez, a defensive substitution, singled and then stole second. Then Milwaukee’s newest fan favorite, Nyjer Morgan (Tony Plush, Tony Clutch, Tony Tombstone, etc.), was up. He’s to thank for the storybook walk off single – the game winning hit – which sealed not only the NLDS Game 5 win, but also made Game 5 the best game Miller Park has ever hosted.

No matter what happens the rest of the year, I, and likely the rest of the 44,000+ fans in attendance that night, hold a lasting memory that will stand the test of time. After watching two aces go inning for inning, MVP candidates make their last claims to the award, unsung heroes build their own legacy and a nail biting extra innings finish, no one can debate that this was indeed the greatest baseball game ever played in Milwaukee.

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