After yet another incredible Craigtember that saw an 11-game winning streak push the Brewers to an NL Central crown, it’s back to October for the third year in a row.
The Brewers know the chaos of the Wildcard Game, and luckily avoided it this year. But there was more excitement there this year, with the Minnesota Twins ripping out the hearts of the Los Angeles Angels, who had finally made it to the postseason with Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Despite their best efforts, the Twins stole the game on the road in 12 innings, winning 7-4 on the strength of 4 home runs.
In the National League game, the Mets ended up with a Mets-like end to their season, with high-priced closer surrendering the go-ahead run to the Padres trying to protect a tie in the top of the 9th inning. As is typically the case, the New York media skewered management for the decision to pitch a closer in a tie game, even though it was likely the right decision.
NLDS Game 1 - Nationals 19, Brewers 7
This is not the impression you want to make on a, well, national stage against the defending World Series champs.
Brandon Woodruff was bad, allowing 6 runs in 4.1 innings before being replaced by Drew Rasmussen, who proceeded to allow 5 runs without recording an out in the 5th inning. Josh Lindblom relieved both of them, and managed to escape with “only” 3 earned runs after allowing 6 hits — including 2 home runs — over 2 innings. Eric Lauer officially ended up with 0 earned runs in the box score, but that’s due to an error on Luis Urias that allowed Lauer to escape the blame for 5 more runs coming across over 1.1 innings.
The Brewers’ bats did chase Scherzer after just 2+ innings and 4 runs, but it was never going to be enough with a pitching performance that reminded plenty of folks of the pitching nightmares the team endured back in April.
NLDS Game 2 - Nationals 14, Brewers 9
Again, the Brewers’ bats tried to keep up the best they could with Christian Yelich leading the way with 3 RBI in a 2-for-4 night, but Milwaukee got the Bad Freddy Peralta in this one, leaving them to play catch-up from the start.
Peralta allowed 7 runs over 3.1 innings, and Angel Perdomo put to rest any hopes of a slugfest win by allowed 4 runs on 6 hits while only getting 3 outs. The Brewers tagged Stephen Strasburg with 5 ER over 6.1 innings, but Brad Hand threw a perfect final 2 innings to slam the door on any potential late-inning rallies.
NLDS Game 3 - Brewers 12, Nationals 3
Back home and facing elimination, it was the Brewers’ turn to pick up a blowout win. The pressure to win could have proved to be too much, but Milwaukee jumped on deadline acquisition Steven Matz for 5 runs in the first inning, including a 2-run blast by Omar Narvaez.
Yelich did almost everything else himself, going 3-for-3 with 2 doubles and a walk, scoring 3 runs and driving in 2 others. That allowed Brent Suter to cruise, allowing just 1 earned run over 5.2 innings to breathe new life into the team’s chances in the series.
NLDS Game 4 - Nationals 9, Brewers 8
For a moment, it looked like we were in for a repeat of Game 3. The Brewers jumped out to an early lead, scoring 3 in the bottom of the 1st inning. But that just proved to be the start of a wild back-and-forth battle that saw the Brewers’ season end in heartbreak in extra innings.
Washington would score 4 runs off of Adrian Houser in the top of the 3rd inning, chasing him early in another must-win game. The Nationals added another run in the top of the 5th inning, but unlike other games in the series, the Brewers did not let this one get out of hand.
They responded with 4 runs of their own in the bottom of the 5th inning, thanks to a pair of 2-run homers by Yelich and Narvaez. The 7-5 lead held until the top of the 8th, when Josh Hader would have another memorable meltdown against Washington in the postseason. After getting ahead of Juan Soto 1-2 with 2 outs in the 8th, Hader surrendered a mammoth 458-foot home run that cleared Bernie’s Slide in left field, sucking the air out of Miller Park and tying the game.
After trading zeroes for three innings — including both teams using their closers in the 10th — Craig Counsell opted for Eric Lauer instead of a second inning from Ken Giles. A lot of that had to do with match-ups: Eric Thames was leading off the 11th inning, with switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera to follow (and the right side being his less powerful side), and lefty-swinging Adam Eaton due up 4th in the inning if anyone got on.
That plan almost worked. Lauer struck out Thames to start the inning, but the play to make Cabrera flip to the right side backfired — even though 21 of his 22 home runs in the regular season came from the left side, Cabrera was able to lift a flyball out to left from his weaker side to give the Nationals an 8-7 lead. Possibly rattled by giving up the go-ahead home run, Lauer fell behind Carter Kieboom 3-1 before surrendering another homer. Lauer was able to get through the rest of the inning without any further damage, but that damage was significant.
A worried Miller Park crowd was almost immediately brought back to life in the bottom half of the 11th, though, when Avisail Garcia jumped on the first pitch he saw from Daniel Hudson, homering off the batters eye in dead center.
Keston Hiura walked on a 3-2 pitch to bring Yelich up as the go-ahead run, and Miller Park grew louder with every pitch in the at-bat — only to let out a groan when Yelich struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch. Hoping to avoid further drama, Davey Martinez made a pitching change, replacing Hudson with his former closer before the team acquired Hand — Sean Doolittle. The All-Star reliever fell behind Ryan Braun 3-2, but got him to fly out to center for the second out. That brought up Narvaez, who may have been too anxious to swing, flying out to shallow right field on the first pitch he saw to end the game — and the Brewers’ season.
The Nationals went on to face the Dodgers in the NLCS, while Cleveland swept the Yankees and the Astros survived a 5-game series against the Twins in the AL to round out the Final Four.
The Astros steamrolled Cleveland in the ALCS, rolling to a sweep and another American League pennant. The Nationals put up a fight against the Dodgers, taking the series to 6 games, but Clayton Kershaw got the chance to prove doubters wrong, finally turning in a dominant performance in a series-clinching game, holding the powerful Nationals lineup to 1 run over 5.2 innings while striking out 9 as LA held on for a one-run win.
Given the Astros’ cheating scandal from 2018, a Houston-LA rematch in the 2020 World Series seemed too good to be true from a storyline perspective. Would the story be different this time around?
The Astros jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead in Game 1 and never looked back. Justin Verlander threw 8 shutout innings in Game 2, allowing just 2 hits before handing the ball to Roberto Osuna for the save. The Astros took a commanding 3-0 lead in the Series after Jose Urquidy outdueled Kershaw in LA. And then Houston scored in each of the first 5 innings in Game 4, cruising to a 6-3 win and one hell of a statement for their second World Series win in three years.
There are occasionally storybook endings in baseball. But mostly, there are super villains.