MILWAUKEE — This wasn’t a game the Milwaukee Brewers had to win so much as one they couldn’t lose.
Momentum is an unquantifiable yet imperative thing, especially in a short series like this. Had the Brewers lost, having played near perfect until blowing a two-out lead in the ninth, well, it would have been deflating, the kind of defeat that lingers long after the game ends. But winning, and doing it in such dramatic fashion, that’s going to be the kind of boost a team can ride like a wave.
“We could not not win that game,” Ryan Braun said after the Brewers scratched out a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Mike Moustakas’ RBI single in the10th.
“We know how good they are, we know how good they are at home,” Braun added. “So that was just a game we couldn’t lose. Fortunately, we didn’t.”
Game 2 of the best-of-five NL Division Series is Friday afternoon.
To win a title — heck, sometimes just to win a game – you need some breaks. Talent and savvy and focus, too, of course. But things can turn in the smallest of moments, and you have to hope a few of those fall in your favor.
They did for the Brewers early on. Thanks to an early two-run homer by Christian Yelich – c’mon, who else did you think it would be – and a sparkling performance by their bullpen, which combined to allow just one measly hit through the first eight innings, Milwaukee was cruising.
Sure, they might have blown the opportunity to tack on a couple of extra runs, leaving runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings. But this isn’t soccer or football, where how much you score has an impact. The end result is all that matters.
Until that result changes.
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Jeremy Jeffress, who’s been so solid for Milwaukee, gave up singles to the first three batters in the ninth inning, including Charlie Blackmon’s run-scoring drive into right field. Nolan Arenado followed with a sac fly to tie the score.
Even then, it could have been worse. Blackmon initially hit what looked like an RBI double to the deep corner in right. But replays showed it had gone foul by centimeters, and the call was overturned.
“If that lands, (it’s) second and third with nobody out and one run already scored,” Yelich said. “They always say it’s a game of inches, and today it really was.”
Other teams might not have fared as well after such a swing in momentum. Been able to put the inning behind them and focus on the game they could still win rather than the one they had almost lost.
But the Brewers are nothing if not resilient. This is, after all, the team that was five games behind the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 2 yet wound up as NL Central champions.
“We’ve been down a lot but never been out,” Curtis Granderson said, “and you saw that again tonight.”
It started, of course, with Yelich. He quickly fell behind Adam Ottavino 0-2, yet kept grinding away until he was on first base with a full-count walk. He took second on a wild pitch.
The Rockies opted to pitch to Travis Shaw to set up the force out, which they got on Granderson’s grounder. But it also meant the Brewers now had runners at the corners, leaving the Rockies no choice but to pitch to Moustakas.
That would be the same Moustakas who has six homers and 15 RBI in the postseason. The same Moustakas who helped the Royals win the World Series a few years back.
The same Moustakas who soon made the Rockies pay, lofting the ball into right field for the game-winning run.
“Look, Moose has been in those spots,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “You try not to make the situation too big, and he did a great job of it and finally got a pitch to hit.”
Sometimes you get lucky, and the breaks fall your way. And sometimes you win a game you absolutely cannot lose.
Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour
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