It’s been a near guarantee for weeks now, but tonight the Brewers made it official: They are in the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Both teams started tonight with a scoreless first inning. In the top of the second, Willson Contreras his a ball sharp to right center field, but Lorenzo Cain ran it down and caught it. He was a bit shaken up but remained in the game. However, he did come out of the game at the start of the fifth inning, and the official report was right hip discomfort.
THIS MIGHT BE CATCH OF THE YEAR! #ThisIsMyCrew pic.twitter.com/rZq1QcgQUy— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) September 18, 2021
After that catch, the offense backed up the team with some run support. Manny Pina led off the second inning, and he hit a home run to center field to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead. However, the Cubs responded right away, playing some small ball with three singles and a groundout to tie the game at 1-1. That lead wouldn’t last though, with Eduardo Escobar hitting a home run in the bottom of the third to re-take the lead at 2-1. However, the Cubs responded again with an Ian Happ home run in the fifth, and they took a 3-2 lead. Once again, the Brewers responded, with a Christian Yelich double and Luis Urias single in the fourth to tie the game at 3-3. They would take the lead again in the sixth, when Jace Peterson led off the inning with a first pitch blast that went out for a home run, giving the Brewers a 4-3 lead.
Meanwhile, Corbin Burnes was a little off in his first start after his combined no-hitter. He pitched six innings, allowing six hits and three walks. The strikeouts were still there though, as he struck out 11 in the start. However, with the Brewers ahead, he had them in line for the win. Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t hold that lead. Brad Boxberger took the seventh, and he allowed a two-out home run to Willson Contreras that re-tied the game at 4-4. That was all he allowed, and Devin Williams worked around a walk in the eighth to preserve the 4-4 tie.
The Brewers wouldn’t be denied tonight, though. Leading off again in the eighth inning, Manny Pina put the Brewers up for good, hitting his second home run of the night to give the Brewers a 5-4 lead.
The strikes AGAIN! Brewers LEAD!#ThisIsMyCrew pic.twitter.com/i3Jo6Fff5b— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) September 19, 2021
However,t he brewers weren’t done there. Pablo Reyes hit a one out double to put another runner in scoring position. Then, with two outs, Kolten Wong hit a line drive right at first baseman Frank Schwindel that deflected off his glove. Wong reached with a single, but Reyes tried to score from second. Second baseman Matt Duffy backed up Schwindel and threw home, and had Pablo Reyes beat. However, Reyes made an incredible dodge of the tag to score, and the Brewers had a 6-4 lead. The Cubs would challenge the play but it was upheld after replay.
What an INCREDIBLE slide by Pablo Reyes to score pic.twitter.com/GHT51Jb6Es— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) September 19, 2021
From there, Josh Hader took the ninth looking to clinch the win and the postseason spot. He started with a walk to Trayce Thompson, and an Ian Happ single gave the Cubs two baserunners with one out. However, Hader struck out Contreras (who was then ejected by the home plate umpire), and then after a double steal, struck out Patrick Wisdom to end the game.
Manny Pina led the offense tonight with a 2-for-3 game (both hits home runs) with a walk, and Pablo Reyes also added two hits. Each of the starting position players had a hit tonight except for the Cain, who did draw a walk in one of his two plate appearances.
The Brewers did need a bit of help to clinch tonight. Fortunately, the other teams in the race with them struggled as well. The Reds lost to the Dodgers 5-1, and the Padres lost to the Cardinals 3-2. Those losses ensured that the worst the Brewers can finish is the second wild card spot, so they are now guaranteed to be in the playoffs. They are the third team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot, and this is the earliest they have clinched a playoff spot in franchise history.
While the playoff spot is clinched, the Brewers still have a little work to do to wrap up the NL Central. Their magic number sits at 3 with the Cardinals winning today, and won’t be able to clinch until the upcoming series against the Cardinals at the earliest. The Brewers are still on track to be the first team to wrap up a division title with a 12 1⁄2 game lead over the Cardinals, though the Cardinals have won 7 straight and 9 of 10. Their magic number can get a little lower with a sweep of the Cubs in tomorrow afternoon’s game. Eric Lauer faces Adrian Sampson to finish the series. First pitch is at 1:10 pm.