We can all hope the next progression leaves us feeling better than we do tonight.
Regardless of how it ended, this was, simply put, a magical season.
Early on, it felt like that magic could translate into the team’s first World Series appearance in 36 years. Christian Yelich, this year’s presumptive National League MVP, the man who carried the Brewers across the line so many times in the second half when no one else in the lineup could, gave the Brewers a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning with a screaming line drive of a home run that barely got high enough off the ground to clear the fence.
Miller Park came unglued, and it felt like a continuation of Game 6 was in the cards. But the Dodgers lineup was too good -- and Jhoulys Chacin’s control too shaky -- for any momentum to last very long.
Manny Machado rebounded from a nightmare of a Game 6, starting his night with a surprise bunt single on a 3-2 count. Cody Bellinger followed that up by crushing a 2-2 two-seam fastball from Chacin that broke right over the middle of the plate. That gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead that took the air out of Miller Park early.
That home run -- and the ringing double by Yasiel Puig that followed -- caused Craig Counsell to start warming Josh Hader in the 2nd inning. Chacin was able to get through the rest of the 2nd inning without allowing any more damage.
From there, Hader laregly dominated, throwing 3 shutout innings. His velocity did start to dip in the 3rd inning, though, and his control started to fade. He was able to work around a leadoff walk by getting a free out on a sacrifice bunt and striking out 2, but that -- and the need to try to get some offense going -- caused Counsell to pinch-hit for Hader and prevent him from pitching a 4th inning.
Multiple times, the Brewers threatened to tie the game, but couldn’t push that second run across. Travis Shaw led off the bottom of the 4th inning with an absolute rocket of a double off the wall that was measured at 108.7 mph, but was left stranded. In the next inning, a 2-out double by Lorenzo Cain chased Walker Buehler from the game, but a should-have-been double by Christian Yelich that would have tied the game was robbed by an incredible circus catch by Chris Taylor in left field.
If that didn’t crush the spirits of the Miller Park faithful, the next half inning did. With Hader out of the game, Xavier Cedeno was called on to face Max Muncy, but Muncy beat the shift by sneaking another single on a grounder just to the left of second base. Jeremy Jeffress replaced Cedeno, and after Justin Turner jumped on a first-pitch fastball for another single, Yasiel Puig dove for a ball that was out of the zone and hit it out of the park for a back-breaking 3-run home run to make the score 5-1 in favor of the Dodgers.
The Dodgers were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position in Game 7 before that home run, and Puig was 0-for-5 with 5 strikeouts in his career against Jeffress. We could probably take those as cues that it just wasn’t meant to be for the Brewers.
From there, the offense was unable to mount a comeback. Ryan Madson nearly threw 2 hitless innings before Orlando Arcia singled with 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th inning, causing Dave Roberts to call for Kenley Jansen early. Jansen ended up throwing 1 1/3 hitless innings, striking out 3 while throwing 12 of his 15 pitches for strikes. Not taking any chances, Roberts used Clayton Kershaw in the 9th inning to secure the final three outs.
The Dodgers entered the NLCS as heavy favorites, but the Brewers made them earn every inning of the past 7 games. There’s plenty of heartbreak in getting so close and seeing it slip away, but unlike 2011, this feels like it’s just the beginning for this group.