CHICAGO -- The Brewers the Cubs in the National Central tiebreaker game in Wrigley Field on Monday. As a consequence, the Brewers have won their first division title since 2011 and finished ahead of the Cubs for the first time since 2014.
That's increasingly relevant, as the "Are the Cubs and Brewers true rivals?" question continues to make the rounds. It was almost a month ago that Cubs lefty Cole Hamels in essence, said, . Since Hamels made those comments, the Brewers are 18-6. That's of course not a direct rejoinder, but it's a pleasing coincidence if you're a Milwaukee rooter.
Chicago is of course the hulking metropolis, while Milwaukee is the smallest market in baseball. The Cubs are a national brand on par with the Yankees and Red Sox. The Brewers are ... not that. For some time in the baseball sense and a long time in the cultural sense, Milwaukee has been the little brother.
So the Brewers' win on Monday ended the Cubs' mini-dynasty atop the division, but there's also the matter of fan representation. Since Milwaukee quakes in the shadow of Chicago, just 90 minutes or so up I-94, you get a lot of Cubs fans in attendance when the two teams meet at Miller Park. Sometimes, the acoustics are such that it sounds as though the visiting fans outnumber those of the home squadron. Maybe that's even the case. This, of course, was the thrust of Hamels' quip -- how is this a rivalry when Brewers fans can't even defend their turf?
No one at Wrigley on Monday can possibly think Brewers fans came close to outnumbering Cubs fans, but it was the strongest Wrigley showing of Brewers fans that pretty much anyone can remember. You saw them filing in in great numbers, you saw swaths of blue and gold in the stands, and you heard "MVP" chants that bordered on booming whenever Christian Yelich came to the plate. You heard Milwaukee in Chicago on Monday, and that's a change.
Here's one of those blue-and-gold swaths reveling with their players not long after Anthony Rizzo came about 10 feet from tying this thing up:
That's just a sampling, as you can tell from the crowd noise. It was as much of a Brewers day as is possible in such hostile territory.
Maybe the Cubs prevail in the Wild Card Game and then barrel through the Brewers in the NLDS to reassert their dominance of the division and the rivalry that may or may not exist. For now, though, little brother is the one standing over big brother, who should probably stand up, dust himself off, dab at his bloodied lip, and apologize for his assumptions.