Brewers believed all along they could catch Cubs and win NL Central
CHICAGO — All month long, the Milwaukee Brewers eschewed the common belief that their only path into Major League Baseball’s postseason was through one of the two National League Wild Card spots.
And every time an outsider scoffed at the notion, every time somebody doubted their resolve, the Brewers pulled off a shocker.
But those who bought into the patience the Brewers were preaching were rewarded Monday afternoon when Milwaukee clinched the National League Central Championship by stunning the Cubs, 3-1, in a Divisional Tiebreaker Game at Wrigley Field.
“We’ve been playing so good, especially in the month of September,” first baseman Jesus Aguilar said. “Nobody believed in us except us.”
Aguilar wasn’t trying to play up the underdog role, either. Most observers considered the Brewers’ chances of winning the division almost non-existent a month ago when they opened September with a loss to the Nationals and fell five games back of the front-running Cubs.
Milwaukee won 13 of its next 19 to get within two games of the Cubs with a week to play and it was still a two-game deficit last Wednesday when the Brewers clinched a playoff spot with a sweep of the Cardinals.
Again, the Brewers maintained the belief that the race was far from over and, again, they were right. A sweep of the Tigers last weekend left the Brewers and Cubs tied through 162 games, forcing the one-game showdown Monday afternoon.
“We understand what we needed to do in September,” center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. “Our main focus was to win series, each and every one. We were able to accomplish that, and towards the end, we swept two teams and found a way to win the division.
“That’s what we set out to do but to actually go out there and do it; it just shows the heart and the mentality that this team has; never give up, continue to fight each and every day in each and every at-bat.”
When it was finally over, the Brewers weren’t telling anyone they told them so, but it wasn’t hard to read between the lines.
“These guys have always believed that they were going to win the division,” general manager David Stearns said. “You never head talk about the wild card in this room which is pretty remarkable since we were five games back at the beginning of September.
“The guys in here kept their sights on the division. That was always their goal. It served us well to keep battling, and with six games left, they believed they had a chance to make some headway.”
Winning the division comes with more than just bragging rights over a heated rival or the chance to hang another banner on the Miller Park facade; the Brewers also get to take a much-needed break.
They’ll watch the Cubs in the NL Wild Card game Tuesday night, return to the ballpark Wednesday for a workout and return to action for Game 1 of the National League Division Series Thursday at Miller Park, where they could very well run into the Cubs yet again.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if we did play them again,” Cain said. “I wouldn’t expect anything less. That team is really good, really consistent and they can flat out play.
“We’ll see what happens. We still have to go out and compete. Regardless of who we play, we have to play our butts off.”
The Brewers also locked up home-field advantage through the NLCS, something that should come in handy as they look to continue their quest.
“We understand what our main goal is. That’s to get to the World Series. When we do play again, we’ll bring our A-game and be ready to go.”