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CBSSports.com Senior Baseball Columnist

Exhilarating win gives these Brewers their own postseason legacy


MILWAUKEE -- Crowd screaming, hearts pounding, 10th inning, tied score, playoffs, Nyjer Morgan cracked a J.J. Putz pitch up the middle ... close your eyes, and you could see Robin Yount.

Center fielder racing in, Carlos Gomez streaking around third, play at the plate, October ... close your eyes, and you could see Paul Molitor.

Rollie Fingers, Ben Oglivie, Ted Simmons, Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper ... it was the weirdest thing. Close your eyes for a fleeting second and they all showed up as Game 5 raced through Friday night here more swiftly than Gomez on the bases. Not that the 44,028 packing every crevice of Miller Park on the wildest night of baseball here in 29 years had planned to close their eyes that often. But. ...

Oh. My. Lord.

Or better yet, following the Brewers' sensational 3-2, 10-inning survival kit of a win over Arizona, as Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin screamed to Mark Attanasio when he finally found the owner in a champagne-drenched clubhouse:

"Heart attack! Oh my God, I'm usually the calm guy. How could you be calm today?"

NLDS: D-Backs at Brewers
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No chance.

Not when Arizona grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third on Justin Upton's homer. Not when the Brewers tied it at 1-1 in the fourth, took a slim 2-1 lead in the sixth. And certainly not when John Axford, who had converted 43 consecutive save opportunities, gave it up in the ninth on a double, a single and a Willie Bloomquist safety squeeze that sucked the air right out of the joint and sent this elimination game careening into extra innings.

Close your eyes and there was ... Rollie Fingers?

"We've heard so much about 1982, it's nice to start our own legacy," left fielder Ryan Braun said amid the postgame pandemonium. "Winning our division wouldn't have been enough. It's about having success in the postseason.

"I think now we've at least accomplished enough, and we're proud of our season, we'll see what happens from here. But we needed a win today to really have our own legacy."

That legacy was written in ink in the 10th when, with one out, Gomez singled, swiped second and Morgan punched a 2 and 2 pitch through the box and onto the center field grass.

National League Championship Series, here they come.

"It means a lot," said Prince Fielder, the impending free agent, who surely saw his Brewers life flash before his eyes as the Snakes, who led the majors with 48 come-from-behind wins, fought back in the ninth. "I'm just glad I was able to do it with this team, for a lot of friends, teammates, my kids, my wife. ..."

The record will show that they won it Friday night when Morgan, or "Tony Plush," or hell, maybe both of them, chopped that single that scored Gomez. But that just locked in the final score. Truth is, these Brewers long ago won their first playoff series in 29 years.

They won it in 2002, when they picked Fielder in the first round of the draft, and in 2005, when they chose Ryan Braun in the first round of the draft.

They won it last winter, when Attanasio and Melvin decided to swing for the fences and keep Fielder, rather than preemptively trade him because he will become a free agent this winter. They won it during the offseason when Melvin acquired starting pitchers Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke, who was warming in the bullpen during the incredibly tense 10th and who now will start Game 1 of Milwaukee's first-ever NLCS.

They won it in March, when Melvin acquired Morgan because Corey Hart was opening the season on the disabled list. They won it in July, when Melvin acquired set-up man Francisco Rodriguez from the Mets.

"We needed every one of these pieces," Attanasio said. "One of the neat things about this team is, we use all of our pieces. You saw Craig Counsell in there tonight, you saw Carlos Gomez in there tonight, and you saw Jerry Hairston in there tonight."

It took a village. It took a team. It took an entire Brew Crew.

Ahead 2-1 in the ninth with nobody out and runners at the corners, the Brewers were expecting Bloomquist's safety squeeze.

"We talked on the mound about it," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "We talked about how it probably would be harder for him to bunt on a curveball than on a fastball."

So in came the curve from Axford, but give Bloomquist credit. He got the bunt down and the run in anyway.

Gomez had come in to play center field in the eighth. Morgan, who had platooned with Gomez earlier in the year, shoved over to right field. Both can out-run lightning. But could they out-sprint the years, all the way back to 1982?

"There are too many things to talk about," Melvin said, a sentence that nicely encapsulated the evening. "It was a fabulous game."

"This is one for the ages, it really is," Attansio said, and tell that to those Brewers fans who tailgated at old County Stadium all those years, bundled up for April games, sweated through July evenings and never could live 1982 over again no matter how hard they tried.

"The fans played under pressure, too," Melvin said, correctly, of a raucous crowd that was beside itself when the Diamondbacks tied this thing in the ninth and made them sweat all over again. "That was a pressurized game. They didn't give up when they tied it up."

They only dug in deeper. The Brewers. Their fans. An entire sports-obsessed city whose hardball history has been more hard than ball, especially in October.

"Oh, the euphoria," Attanasio said. "I just can't tell you. The tension in the eighth and ninth innings, and then the euphoria in the 10th.

"I'll never forget it."

Nor will anybody who was in the park -- or within shouting distance -- on the best night of baseball in Milwaukee since 1982.

"I loved it, man," Braun said of the tension, the nerves, the euphoria, the entire package. "That's what it's about. That's why you compete, that's why you put all your work in.

"To have that opportunity to do something special for your team, your organization, for the city you play in. So it was fun."

Fun. This entire past 10 days of baseball has been sheer joy, hasn't it? From the crazy end to the season to three of the four division series maxing out at five games?

"It's all about how you finish, not how you start," Morgan said not long after he turned the TBS airwaves blue. "Of course, it started off slow, but Plush is always going to finish strong, baby. Whoooo!"

"It was just a great baseball game," said Counsell, who entered at second base in the ninth, a Milwaukee native whose father once worked in the Brewers clubhouse. "You weren't a baseball fan and you watched this game, it made you a baseball fan."

From Tampa Bay to New York to Philadelphia to St. Louis, there's been a whole lot of that going around lately.

Somebody told Melvin that Morgan had some juicy things to say postgame, and the GM quipped, "I might have to start my tweeter account" to keep up with him.

On this night in Milwaukee, anything was possible. Outside, hundreds of fans stayed and cheered and hooted and hollered. The players took the party back to the field. Cigar smoke and autumn air mingled like old friends. Fielder went over to the stands and poured champagne over fans.

Sometime during the celebration, they opened the Miller Park roof, which had been closed for the game. At least, I assume they opened it. Possibly, the fans blew it off with their noise. Who knows?

The moon was shining brightly through the black night sky, the blue and gold confetti was still swirling through the air, you looked up ... and it looked like the first snow flurry of the season.

Too many times, Old Man Winter blew in and iced over too many Brewers seasons. Not this time. Greinke ready to start Game 1 of the NLCS? Close your eyes, and you could see Moose Haas ... or Pete Vuckovich.

"This is one for the ages," Attanasio said. "It really is."


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