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Greatest Games of the 21st Century #3: Braun Delivers the Division

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You're not going to believe this, but the Brewers secured a historic win on the strength of a late Ryan Braun homer.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Forget everything.

Forget Dino Laurenzi. Forget the leaked suspension, the drawn out appeal, and the overturned decision that incensed the commissioner's office. Forget that unfortunate news conference on the Maryvale infield. Forget the Kwik Trip ads that looked like Braun's video application to join the cast of Jersey Shore. Forget the whispers to strip him of the MVP and give it to Matt Kemp. Forget Biogenesis. Forget the suspension that stuck, Milwaukee's worst baseball moment. Forget the thumb. Forget everything.

It's September of 2011, and everything is grand. The Brewers offense is a juggernaut, and leading the charge is sure-fire future Hall of Famer Ryan Braun. Wrapping up the finest season a Milwaukee Brewer has posted since Rockin' Robin hung 'em up, the Hebrew Hammer is making the Brewers front office look like absolute visionaries for signing the slugger to a historic 8 year, $45 million dollar contract after less than a year in the big leagues. He's hitting .332/.397/.597 with 33 home runs and stolen bases, bringing the MVP award back to the Good Land for the first time since 1989.

In 2008, the Brewers had finally broken through the postseason glass ceiling, and many fans were excited just to be party to an October baseball game that meant something for the first time since long before your author was born. Three years later, expectations had evolved: simply getting in was no longer going to cut it -- this team was destined for greater things.

The 2008 squad was your shitty ex from your freshman year, constantly creating unnecessary drama -- y'all had fun together, but who can live like that every day? The 2011 Brewers were the nice girl you met at the Whole Foods, and after a slow start, things kept mostly happy and stable -- the Brewers held a division lead that never dropped below 4.5 games after mid-August. Entering the final week of the season, clinching the division crown seemed like a mere formality.

Nobody gets away from the drama forever, though. I know your type. Rest easy, my friends, we can kick up a fight over which way to squeeze toothpaste out of the tube (from the bottom, you monster).

With the magic number at 2 following a Cardinals loss on a Brewers off day, Milwaukee entered play on Friday, September 23rd with a chance to clinch the division at home against the Florida Marlins. Prince Fielder put the Brewers on the board early, pounding a 2-2 offering from Chris Volstad into the Toyota Territory to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead. It's never so simple as that, though, and a couple of innings later Yovani Gallardo gave the run back on a Bryan Peterson single --  yes, that's the same Bryan Peterson that slashed .216/.260/.294 for AAA-Colorado Springs last year. Meanwhile in St. Louis, the Cubs and Cardinals had exchanged runs similarly. All four teams entered the eighth inning with a single run.

Corey Hart got things rolling in the bottom of the eighth with a double after Jerry Hairston Jr. led off the inning with a strike out. Nyjer Morgan followed with a walk, bringing 44,584 frenzied Milwaukeeans to their feet as the best hitter on the planet sauntered into the batters box.

You don't need me here. Baseball is magic, and this game writes itself. He did it twice in 2008. Y'all thought he was finished? ROLL THE FOOTAGE.

You've gotta sit through the 2008 call to get to the money shot here, so I'm really sorry to have to put you through that. Immediately after the swing, Braun puts his bat to the sky and looks at his owner. "I have brought you here. You will go as far as I take you." There's a 40% chance Braun knew that ball was gone before he even got out of the dugout. Clutch dingers grow in his backyard like weeds, and he harvests them as you or I might send the children out to pick dandelions when they've been naughty. It's 2011, and in a baseball kingdom with a Prince, Braun is your king. Forget everything.

In St. Louis, Alfonso Soriano did the Brewers a solid, clubbing a three-run shot of his own to put the Cardinals behind the eight ball. 20 minutes after Milwaukee finished things with the Marlins, confetti fell from the Miller Park rafters, returning to field after a three year layoff. For the first time since 1982, the Brewers were division champions.