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Sabathia leads Brewers to first playoff berth since 1982

Sep 28, 2008 - 10:48 PM athia leads Brewers to first playoff berth since 1982* ==========================================================

By JR Radcliffe PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- CC Sabathia may only spend one half-season in Milwaukee during the course of his career, but on Sunday, he ensured his place in the hearts of Brewers' fans forever.

Sabathia delivered a Herculean effort, and the Milwaukee Brewers snapped a 26-year playoff drought with a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.

Sabathia (11-2) spun his sixth complete game since joining the team in July, and Ryan Braun hit the biggest home run of his young career, a two-run shot in the eighth inning with two outs that broke a 1-1 tie. Braun took the first pitch he saw from Bob Howry (7-5) out to left field and sent the 45,299 fans at Miller Park into a frenzy.

Coupled with the New York Mets' 4-2 loss to the Florida Marlins on Sunday, the Brewers (90-72) clinched the National League wild card and returned to the postseason for the first time since 1982, when they represented the American League in the World Series.

Sabathia, pitching on three days' rest for the third straight start, emerged as the club's hero, as pointed out by the Miller Park soundsystem's playing of Foo Fighters song "My Hero" in the top of the ninth. He yielded an unearned run and four hits with seven strikeouts en route to his 10th complete game of the season.

"It was his game, it was his two months, it was his year," said Brewers interim manager Dale Sveum, who replaced deposed manager Ned Yost with 12 games remaining in the season. "It was his game and I was going to give him as much as he wanted. That's just a special human being."

Overall, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner ended up 17-10 between the Cleveland Indians and Brewers, but finished 11-2 with a 1.66 ERA in 17 starts with Milwaukee. He volunteered to take the ball multiple times during the stretch drive, when the Brewers won six of seven games to close the year.

"Whenever they need me to take the ball, I'll take it," Sabathia said. "The team has taken me in like I've been here all year. I don't know what else to say. I think we can do a lot (in the playoffs). We're a young team, we've got some superstars, and we could have a lot of fun."

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, the architect behind the trade that sent minor league prospect Matt LaPorta and others to Cleveland for Sabathia, painted his prized acquisition's willingness to work on short rest in historical terms.

"Him wanting to come over here to a new organization and doing what he did in his free agent year will probably go down in history as one of the most unselfish things an athlete has ever done, whether football, basketball or baseball," Melvin said. "The most unselfish thing a player has ever done in the history of sports, is what CC has done for us."

Sabathia will be a free agent in the offseason and probably earn a payday well beyond Milwaukee's means. But in a soggy champagne celebration that lingered nearly two hours after the final out on the field, nobody was complaining.

"It's like watching somebody on a video game," Braun said. "It's difficult to match the amount of success that he's had. It's unbelievable to be able to pitch on three days' rest like that, and he's done it."

Braun and Milwaukee got just enough offense to make Sabathia a winner. The Cubs - using an assortment of bullpen pitchers to navigate the contest - retired 18 batters in a row after Mike Cameron led off the first with a single. Chicago starter Angel Guzman fired two electric innings at the outset, striking out four, and Chad Gaudin, Neal Cotts and Kevin Hart contributed to the strong showing.

Ray Durham finally broke through with a double against Sean Marshall leading off the seventh before scampering to third on a groundout by Braun. Two walks later, the bases were loaded when Craig Counsell was able to work a crucial free pass from Michael Wuertz with two outs to force in a run, tying the score at 1-1.

That set the stage one inning later for Braun, who followed up on his game-winning grand slam from Thursday's victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"I just wanted to hit the ball hard," Braun said. "I felt good out there, I was seeing the ball well. I just wanted to see something over the middle and hit it. It's awesome, man. It's a great feeling for me, but this team has done so much to get to this point. I couldn't be happier and proud of everybody."

Milwaukee gifted a run for Chicago in the second inning, with an error by first baseman Prince Fielder aiding the cause. Fielder's miscue on a grounder by Micah Hoffpauir put runners at the corners with one out, and Ronny Cedeno legged out the relay throw on a potential double play ball to enable Aramis Ramirez to score.

Ramirez singled leading off the frame against Sabathia - the only hit the burly lefthander allowed through his first five innings. Sabathia also made a barehanded spear on Koyie Hill's grounder to conclude the eighth, and he led off the bottom half of the inning with a strikeout against Howry. Cameron singled one batter later and was on first when Braun launched his blast into the bleachers.

"I'm speechless," Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "This is the most fun I've ever had. This is the best game I've ever been a part of, the (best) team I've ever been a part of, so it's been a blast."

Fans watched the final outs of the Mets-Marlins game on the center field scoreboard, and Brewers players launched into the celebration from there.

"They had a great year, and they finished it off in an unbelievable fashion," Sveum said. "There's a lot of emotion right now."

The Brewers will open the National League Divisional Series in Philadelphia on Wednesday.








  • NL
    FINAL
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    CHICAGO CUBS 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 0
    MILWAUKEE 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 x 3 4 1 (FINAL)

    BATTERIES: CHN - ANGEL GUZMAN, CHAD GAUDIN (3RD), NEAL COTTS (4TH), KEVIN HART
    (5TH), SEAN MARSHALL (7TH), MICHAEL WUERTZ (7TH), BOBBY HOWRY
    (8TH) AND HENRY BLANCO, KOYIE HILL

    Sep 28 4:33 PM
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    Cubs 1, Brewers 3  Top 9, 0 OutsSep 28 4:28 PM
  • mark ...and the mets are done.

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    AT MILWAUKEE - SCORING UPDATE
    TWO-RUN HOME RUN BY RYAN BRAUN (37) TO LEFT WITH 2 OUT IN
    THE 8TH OFF BOBBY HOWRY SCORED MIKE CAMERON.
    CURRENT SCORE: CHICAGO CUBS 1, MILWAUKEE 3
    DUE UP FOR MILWAUKEE: P FIELDER (.276, 0-FOR-2, BB)

    Cubs 1, Brewers 3  Bot 8, 0 OutsSep 28 4:23 PM
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    Cubs 1, Brewers 0  Bot 7, 0 OutsSep 28 4:05 PM


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    AT MILWAUKEE - SCORING UPDATE
    BASES LOADED WALK TO CRAIG COUNSELL SCORED RAY DURHAM.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, C COUNSELL ON FIRST, J HARDY ON SECOND, P
    FIELDER ON THIRD, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: CHICAGO CUBS 1
    MILWAUKEE 1 BOTTOM, 7TH
    DUE UP FOR MILWAUKEE: J KENDALL (.247, 0-FOR-2)

    Cubs 1, Brewers 1  Bot 7, 0 OutsSep 28 4:05 PM
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  • NL
    AT MILWAUKEE - SCORING UPDATE
    FIELDER'S CHOICE BY RONNY CEDENO SCORED ARAMIS RAMIREZ.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, R CEDENO ON FIRST, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: CHICAGO CUBS 1
    MILWAUKEE 0 TOP, 2ND
    DUE UP FOR CHICAGO CUBS: H BLANCO (.297, 3 HR, 12 RBI)

    Cubs 1, Brewers 0  Top 2, 0 OutsSep 28 2:31 PM
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