MILWAUKEE — Wade Miley had it all planned out. Following the Milwaukee’s Game 6 win over Los Angeles in their National League Championship Series, the Brewers’ pitcher stood at his locker in the home clubhouse and told reporters what he envisioned Game 7 looking like.
“(Jhoulys) Chacin go six. (Josh) Hader go three. We go to the World Series,” Miley said.
The lefty hit just one out of three in that plan. And for that reason, Milwaukee’s season is done. Chacin gave up a pair of runs and lasted just two innings, giving way to Hader, who was dominant over three innings of work to keep the game close. But those that came after him, combined with a lackluster offense, spelled doom for the Brewers in a 5-1 loss that sent the Dodgers to the World Series for a second straight year.
The game turned in a period of 15 minutes. First, Los Angeles’ outfielder Chris Taylor robbed Christian Yelich of a game-tying hit in the bottom of the fifth. Then, in the top of the sixth, Yasiel Puig took Jeremy Jeffress deep for a three-run homer. Despite there still being 12 outs to work with, the hit felt like a dagger to Milwaukee’s playoff run.
It was a brutal end to a special season, one that saw the Brewers chase down the Chicago Cubs in the final month to win the NL Central, sweep Colorado in the NLDS and push the defending NL champs to a seventh game. No one wants to talk about moral victories — and this certainly wasn’t one — but once everyone gets further away from the anger and disappointment of what took place Saturday night at Miller Park it’ll be more than clear how remarkable the run they went on was for the franchise, the fans, the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin.
“What I just told them is that they took us on an amazing journey,” manager Craig Counsell said. “They really did. They took us on an incredible journey that we should all be grateful for being able to see, because it was a magical run, especially in the month of September and into October.”
The Brewers set a franchise record for most wins in a season with 102 and did it just three years after losing 94 games. The rebuild under General Manager David Stearns went faster than anyone thought it could and it left the club with a very good foundation for the future.
“It’s something to be proud of. We accomplished a lot, especially down the stretch,” Yelich said. “Once all this settles down you can really assess what we accomplished as a team. We can be proud of that and take it into the offseason and use it as motivation for next year.”
Coming up short, though, is not a feeling that’s going to go away anytime soon. Certainly not for sports fans in the state. Heartbreak has become a common occurrence for those that support the Green Bay Packers or Wisconsin Badgers. Sure, the former won a Super Bowl in 2010, but that was preceded and since followed by some of the most gut-wrenching playoff losses any franchise could experience, including blowing a seemingly insurmountable lead to Seattle in the 2014 NFC Championship Game. Fans of the Badgers had to witness a soul crushing loss for the basketball team in the NCAA title game in 2015, while the football team came up 43 yards short in 2017 of winning a Big Ten title and playing in the College Football Playoff.
But all of those instances only hurt as much as they do because of the success the teams have had. When you get invested in something, be it sports or other aspects of life, and it doesn’t go your way, it can sometimes feel like someone ripped your heart out, stabbed it a million times and then put it back with no care or worry. And while that scarring will always be there, opportunities to add layers over it with division titles, playoff wins and world championships keep fans coming back for more.
So, in the Brewers’ case, Saturday didn’t mark the end of anything but the season. Yeah, Milwaukee won’t play in the World Series for a 35th straight year, but the product they put on the field is just getting started. With a number of key minor leaguers playing at a high level, position players like Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw, Ryan Braun and Orlando Arcia due to return, and a pitching staff with several talented young arms, including Hader, Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and a potentially healthy Jimmy Nelson, the Brewers will have a chance to push to get back to the same place, but with an opportunity to go further.