All photos of Brewers game #161 and Playoff Rally available on Flickr.
Here it is, about 90 minutes before first pitch of the Brewers' first postseason game in 26 years, and I still can't believe they made it. I'm still grinning ear to ear. It was gut-check time for the Crew in the final week, and they delivered with wins in 6 of their last 7 games to outlast the Mets, who collapsed down the stretch for the 2nd straight year at the hands of the Marlins, for the NL Wildcard spot. I had tickets for Friday's and Saturday's games and it was the most exciting weekend of baseball I've ever experienced in my life. This enjoyment was only increased by the fact that my brother and I were chose as the Midwest Airlines Seat Upgrade fans of the game (see photos). We got to hang out by the Brewers dugout in left center and had an amazing view of the action. I also attended the postseason rally held at the Summerfest grounds before the Brewers got on the plane to Philly, and among 14,000+ screaming fans, perhaps closer Salomon Torres said it best: "You've waited 26 years, and you can wait no more!" These boys played hard all year, and despite no critics giving them a chance, and a 10-16 September, they deserve to be in the playoffs. I can't wait to go and support my team (and buy even more crap in the team store) at Saturday's NLDS Game #3.
Late game heroics by Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and CC Sabathia carried the team into the playoffs, and they'll need that momentum to get past arguably the hottest team entering the playoffs, the Philadelphia Phillies. Here's a look at how I think the four LDS series will shake out:
Phillies v. Brewers (WC) - Philadelphia in 4
Now I'm a diehard Brewers fan, and I hope they can run off 11 wins and be World Series Champions, but speaking objectively, I don't see us taking care of business against their hot lineup. Unless CC can go Sunday on 2 days' rest, his Game 2 start will sadly be the Brewers' only victory. Gallardo will only be able to go about 80-90 pitches before tiring, and a clear-cut favorite still has not emerged for Game #3 - Suppan and Bush would get hammered by all Philly's lefties, and Parra has been awful since mid-August. The Brewers have dominated left-handed pitching all season, and if they can get to one of Philly's lefties early, both of whom are not pitching against CC, they might have a chance. Philadelphia is my favorite to win the NL pennant due to a powerful lineup and in my opinion the best bullpen of the 8 playoff teams.
Cubs v. Dodgers - Chicago in 4
The key to the Dodgers since the emergence of Manny Ramirez has been protecting him in the lineup. Lou Pinella is too smart to go after Manny that often, and LA hitters like Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Jeff Kent will really have to step up around him. Rafael Furcal is back now, and that combined with Zambrano's poor starts the last few weeks, should provide enough of a spark to keep this team from getting swept. The Cubs are just too dominant, too motivated, and have too good of a 8-9 inning combo to lose this series. However, there is always the 100-year goat...I'd like to be proven wrong on this series more than any.
Angels v. Red Sox (WC) - Los Angeles in 5
This series will go the full 5 simply because Boston is so dominant at home. The Red Sox have an 18-game winner going in Game #3 too, which is not a bad thing to have. Questions concerning Mike Lowell's health and David Ortiz's lack of power this season are enough for me to pick the Angels to win that 5th game. The Angels have had the most consistent 1-5 rotation in the majors, and have been my pick to win the World Series since Spring Training because of that. Somehow with the Angels' scrappy lineup and a subpar year from Guerrero, this team won 100 games, probably due to the stabilizing presence of manager Mike Scoscia, the 2nd best manager in the majors in my mind behind Ron Gardenhire.
Rays v. White Sox - Tampa Bay in 3
Chicago is severely overmatched in this series, and although this is probably true of most playoff teams, Tampa Bay dominates at home. Their starting pitching is shaky, and their offense relies on the home run to win - a deadly combo, especially against a "team of destiny" like the Rays. New name, new manager, new attitude - the Rays delivered against all odds this year to win the AL East and have been proving me wrong against tough teams all season. Every time I thought they would crack they didn't, and if Joe Maddon doesn't win manager of the year, then somebody got paid off. A rested rotation and a healthy Troy Percival, Carl Crawford, and Evan Longoria will help this team easily handle the White Sox.
World Series - Angels defeat Phillies
FINAL STANDINGS AND UPCOMING SERIES AS OF 10.01:
Brewers 90-72, -7.5 (Game 1 Wed, Game 2 Thu - PHI; Game 3 Sat Game 4 Sun - MIL)
Reds 74-88, -23.5
Twins 88-75, -1.0
RACE FOR 2008 "MOST GAMES ATTENDED" TITLE:
Erik - 25
Peter - 52