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Wolf flies under the radar in lopsided victory

September 22, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — On any other night, Randy Wolf’s performance would have been the story of the game. But with the way the Brewers hitters were swinging the bats in a 13-1 victory over the Reds, a quality start and a 2-for-4 performance at the plate got lost in the shuffle.

Making Wolf’s outing even more impressive was the way he responded after his club put up eight runs in the second and five more in the next three innings. Often with such long innings offensively, a team’s pitcher tends to struggle going back out on the mound.

Wolf just got better as the game went along.

“There were some long breaks, but the main thing is, when it’s that kind of score, you’ve got to go out there and feel like it’s 0-0,” Wolf said. “If you go out there and you see it’s 8-1, 13-1 … all of a sudden it’s four runs, five runs and they’re creeping their way back.

“As a pitcher, you’ve got to keep your focus and pitch the right way. You really don’t want to totally change your aggressiveness or change your whole philosophy just because of the score.”

Not only did Wolf pitch well as his team sent 34 hitters to the plate in the second through fifth innings, he did so after fighting through a rough first inning.

Wolf opened the game giving up three singles and a walk in the top of the first. Fortunately, the veteran lefty managed to hold the National League Central-leading Reds to just one run in the inning.

“Wolfy, another good outing for him,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “He got help with some defense in the first inning, a tremendous play by [Ryan] Braun getting the ball off the wall to get their leadoff hitter.”

With a fortunate out on his side, Wolf got the next batter to hit a grounder back to the mound. But with just one out to go in the inning, he walked Jay Bruce and surrendered back-to-back singles before striking out Yonder Alonso to end the inning.

That strikeout was the first of four in a row for Wolf and the beginning of a stretch of 11 consecutive batters retired. Wolf did not allow another hit until a leadoff double in the sixth off the bat of Paul Janish, who replaced Orlando Cabrera at shortstop.

“I didn’t really have the command I wanted early on,” Wolf said. “Luckily, as the game went on, I felt better and better and felt more comfortable out there and I was able to mix my pitches and work my fastball in and out.”

Tossing six strong innings while allowing just one run on four hits with seven strikeouts against two walks, Wolf posted his fourth straight quality start in September. This month, Wolf is 3-1 with a 1.21 ERA, allowing just four runs on 18 hits in 29 2/3 innings pitched.

Since his infamous 12-run outing in Pittsburgh, Wolf has gone 6-2 with a 2.57 ERA in his last 11 starts, giving up 21 earned runs over 73 2/3 innings pitched. In his 31 other starts not including that July 21 loss, Wolf is 13-10 with a 3.81 ERA.

“Randy was great again,” shortstop Craig Counsell said. “He’s been on quite a roll, and he’s put together a good season — a really good season.”

Hoffman’s teammates take pride in 600

September 8, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Judging by their reaction after the final out in Tuesday night’s 4-2 victory over the Cardinals, you might think the Brewers had just won the World Series.

While that may not have been the case, what they experienced certainly ranks up there pretty close. As shortstop Craig Counsell fired to Prince Fielder at first, all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman recorded career save No. 600.

“To have that final out hit to Milwaukee’s own, sure-handed Craig Counsell, that was rather fitting,” said Hoffman.

As Fielder caught the feed from Counsell, the Brewers mobbed Hoffman on the mound.

“To be a part of it was great because of how much admiration we all have for Trevor,” Counsell said. “That’s what makes it special. Hopefully, that came out [in the celebration]. The way he does his job is the way we all try to do ours.”

For rookie John Axford, the moment presented a fitting role reversal.

When Axford entered with one out in the eighth, he appeared to be in line for the five-out save and his 21st of the season. Instead, the historic moment finally arrived for Hoffman.

“We all understood that this was a moment for him,” Axford said. “I was just hoping inside that he was going to go out there. I know he deserves it and I knew he could get it done.”

After the emotional on-field ceremony that ensued, Axford was reminded by teammate Zach Braddock of an interesting relationship between Hoffman’s save No. 600 and the first of the 2010 season for Axford.

On May 23 at Target Field, after Hoffman had surrendered the closer’s duties, he delivered a scoreless eighth for a hold with the Brewers leading, 4-2, over the Twins. Three months later, it was Axford who delivered the hold in front of Hoffman.

“I felt like I had a big stake in it, too,” Axford said. “It really is unbelievable. It’s probably the best hold I’ll ever have in my entire life right there.”

Not only was it likely the most memorable hold of Axford’s career, it was also the most exciting win to date for Brewers starter Chris Narveson.

“You can’t beat starting a game with Hoffy coming in and getting 600,” Narveson said. “That will be one of the best games I’ll ever be a part of.”

When Hoffman began to warm in the bullpen during the bottom of the eighth, fans and players alike began to take notice.

In the dugout, teammates were asking Axford if it would be him or Hoffman in the ninth. As the Miller Park speakers began to play “Hells Bells,” their questions were answered. With that, they became spectators along with everyone else in attendance.

“I had beyond goosebumps,” reliever Todd Coffey said. “I was completely removed from the bullpen and everything. I was 100 percent spectator at that point.”

For the players on the field, however, the moment was more nerve wracking than anything before Counsell and Fielder recorded the final out.

“The one thought that kept going through my mind was, ‘Don’t hit the ball to me,'” said third baseman Casey McGehee. “I think I probably was more nervous than he was.”

Once save No. 600 was in the books, celebration ensued. From all directions — the outfield, infield, dugout and bullpen — Brewers players and coaches sprinted to the mound.

First among them was rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who embraced Hoffman after playing an integral role in the historic moment.

“It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and cherish,” Lucroy said. “I got goosebumps standing on the mound waiting for him to get in there.

“I’ll never forget it the rest of my life.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Narveson’s sharpness cuts down Cardinals

September 8, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — When the night began, Tuesday’s game meant far more to the Cardinals than the Brewers. That all changed when Trevor Hoffman entered in the ninth.

With a two-run lead, the Brewers called Hoffman’s number, setting him up for career save No. 600. Hoffman delivered as he pitched a scoreless ninth in the Brewers’ 4-2 victory over the Cardinals at Miller Park.

Before Hoffman’s historic 600th save, the game was highlighted by a number of unusual happenings on the field.

Brewers manager Ken Macha was tossed by second-base umpire Tim Timmons, and Brewers center fielder Chris Dickerson, Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan and then a male fan sitting in the stands near home plate were all ejected by home-plate umpire Bob Davidson.

“It was an interesting evening,” Macha said. “One coach, one manager, one player and one fan. Everybody got thrown out.”

The flurry of ejections began in the bottom of the second inning, when Timmons called interference on Brewers runner Craig Counsell for leaving the baseline in an attempt to break up Chris Narveson’s double play. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who initially appeared to score on the play for a 3-0 Brewers lead, was ordered back to third base while Macha rushed out to argue.

That call was crucial until the fifth inning, when McGehee’s two-run single off St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse (2-7) snapped a tie and gave the Brewers a 4-2 lead. McGehee also hit an RBI double in Milwaukee’s two-run first inning, and he claimed the club lead with 90 RBIs.

“We scored all our runs with two outs,” Macha said. “That’s what the bugaboo’s been. The other team scoring two-out runs. Tonight, that was ours on all four runs.”

That cushion was enough for Narveson (11-7), who matched a season-high with nine strikeouts and limited St. Louis to two runs on four hits in seven sharp innings. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, when the Cardinals strung together four in a row, including RBI singles by Yadier Molina and Colby Rasmus.

Narveson watched a 1-0 lead slip away from the bullpen in the seventh inning of his previous start in Cincinnati, so this time he handled the inning himself. Narveson retired nine of the final 10 men he faced, and erased the exception — Matt Holliday, who walked leading off the sixth inning — on a strikeout-throwout double play.

He set down the final five Cardinals hitters he faced in order, including three strikeouts.

“I felt like I had all my pitches working and was able to execute when I needed to,” Narveson said. “I kept them off-balance. The knocks that they had, they did some good pieces of hitting. It’s going to happen at some point during the game.”

The 33,149 fans in the stands — or at least the 33,148 who avoided Davidson’s ire — might remember the flurry of ejections as much as McGehee’s clutch hit or Narveson’s mound gem.

One inning after Macha was tossed by Timmons after the call at second base, Cardinals pitching coach Duncan was ejected in the bottom of the third inning for arguing balls and strikes for Lohse, who was charged with four runs on seven hits in five innings.

Dickerson was ejected after striking out for the third time to end the fifth inning. Dickerson, who was upset in the first inning after his apparent ball four turned into a check-swing strike, took issue with Davidson’s called strike 3 to end the fifth and slammed his helmet.

Two innings later, Davidson turned his attention to a male fan sitting in one of the front rows behind home plate. Davidson alerted security officials to the man, who was removed.

“It was kind of a crazy game,” said left fielder Ryan Braun. “A lot of action and a lot of action early. I don’t really know what was going on, but I’m happy we won and I’m thrilled for Trevor.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kid gloves come off, and Escobar, Cain excel

August 19, 2010 Comments off

ST. LOUIS — With right-hander Adam Wainwright on the mound Wednesday for the Cardinals, center fielder Lorenzo Cain didn’t expect to see his name in the Brewers’ lineup.

When the rookie saw his name in the lineup, his excitement for the series finale increased significantly.

“I saw I was in the lineup, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m facing Wainwright,'” Cain said after Milwaukee’s 3-2 win. “I got excited for that and just tried to go up there and get the job done.

“My first ace, and I was able to put together a few good at-bats and get some hits.”

Entering the game, right-handed hitters had been hitting .202 off Wainwright, compared to a .214 mark for lefties. Cain went 2-for-3 on the day, with a leadoff double in the fifth and an RBI triple in the seventh inning.

Cain followed his double with a steal of third base, which proved crucial when he scored on a soft grounder back to the pitcher by George Kottaras. After the triple, Cain scored the eventual game-winning run on an Alcides Escobar sacrifice fly.

Even Cain’s second-inning out was hit hard, as Wainwright snagged a liner back to the mound before doubling off Prince Fielder at first to end the inning.

“He has got some talent. No doubt,” Wainwright said of Cain. “I thought I made a good pitch, and he drove it to the right-center gap. Put a good swing on it.

Along with Cain, fellow rookie Escobar was in the lineup for the Brewers on Wednesday, despite having struggled against Wainwright. Making the move more surprising was the success veteran infielder Craig Counsell had against Wainwright in his career.

Counsell entered Wednesday’s series finale at Busch Stadium with a .304 (7-for-23) batting average against the Cardinals right-hander. Escobar, on the other hand, was hitting just .167 (2-for-12) against Wainwright.

Escobar’s day didn’t go quite as well as it did for Cain, but was still successful, as the rookie shortstop finished 0-for-1 with a strikeout and the game-winning sacrifice fly. More significantly, though, Escobar left the game in the ninth with cramps in his hamstring.

After hustling to catch a throw from Corey Hart in right field, Escobar’s day was done.

“I walked to the mound, and I said, ‘Hey, [John] Axford, give me a minute, I can’t move my leg,'” Escobar said. “I’ll be OK. With the day off tomorrow, I’ll be OK on Friday.”

“I was just glad that [Escobar’s injury] wasn’t too bad,” Axford said. “When he came up to the mound then, I wasn’t too sure what was going on. I asked him if he was OK, and he said, ‘No,’ so I didn’t really know what was going on.”

According to manager Ken Macha, the idea of putting Cain and Escobar in the lineup had more to do with the future of the club and the development of the two rookies than trying to win the two-game series from the Cardinals.

Considering the two accounted for all three runs on the day against Wainwright, the initial results were promising for the Brewers.

“Sooner or later, if they’re going to be your everyday guys, they’re going to have to get in there,” Macha said. “You can’t protect them the whole time.”

Diamondbacks beat 8/10

August 12, 2010 Comments off

D-backs’ Young first to join 20/20 club

MILWAUKEE — With his third-inning home run on Monday, Chris Young did more than just tie the game at two runs apiece. The D-backs center fielder became the first player in the Majors this season with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

Young, who ranks fifth in the National League with 22 stolen bases, reached the 20-homer, 20-stolen base mark for the second time in his career and the first time since his 2007 rookie season.

“It’s nice,” Young said of the feat. “You’d like to be winning more games so you get away from focusing on the personal things, but it’s nice. I’m having a better season, it’s a big turn around from last year for me.”

Including Tuesday’s game in Milwaukee, the D-backs have 49 games remaining as Young chases his first career 30-homer, 30-stolen base season.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson sees it as a possibility for Young, but is more concerned with Young having improved dramatically at the plate, especially as his current .268 batting average is 26 points higher than his career average.

“His approach at the plate’s really good,” Gibson said. “He’s really beginning to understand how to get to certain pitches that they used to get him out on.

“Stolen base-wise, he’s getting really advanced. He’s got several techniques that he uses. I don’t know if he’ll get to 30-30, but I wouldn’t put it out of reach for him sometime in his career.”

After an impressive rookie season that saw Young belt 32 home runs and steal 27 bases, his production declined in each of the past two seasons. Young had 22 home runs with 85 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 2008 before dropping to 15 homers and 11 steals last season with just a .212 batting average.

Young’s 20th homer came a year removed from his demotion to the Minors last season, where he played from August 10-28 before returning to the big league club. Before he was sent down, Young hit just seven home runs with 28 RBIs and a sub-Mendoza line .194 average.

Over the final month of the season, Young’s production picked up, as he tallied eight home runs with 14 RBIs and a .263 batting average.

“It was a reality check,” Young said. “It was a sign that, ‘Hey, you need to turn things around if you expect to play at this level.’ I took it as a challenge. Nobody’s given anything in this game, and you have to earn everything, especially at this level.”

Drew records 250th RBI in 600th game

MILWAUKEE — When he stepped in against Trevor Hoffman in the 10th inning on Monday, shortstop Stephen Drew had already reached one career milestone on the day. With his two-run single, he added another.

Drew, playing in his fourth full season with the D-backs, collected his 250th and 251st career RBIs. It also happened to be Drew’s 600th career game.

Joining Luis Gonzalez, Steve Finley, Chad Tracy and Jay Bell in an exclusive club, Drew became just the fifth player in Arizona history to play in 600 games and collect 250 RBIs as a D-back.

“Is that good or not?” Drew asked before learning how many players in franchise history had done so. “To reach that milestone, it’s pretty neat to hear that I was only the fifth one to ever do it.

“I don’t really set any goals or look at goals until the end of the season. It’s one of those things that is neat in its own self, but I just try to go out every day and help the team win, some way, some how.”

With 250 RBIs, Drew is just the eighth player in franchise history to reach that mark, joining current teammates Mark Reynolds and Chris Young. Drew is only the seventh player in franchise history to play in 600 games and the only current player to have done so.

He was not the only one at Miller Park this week who had reached that feat, however, as former D-backs shortstop and current Brewers infielder Craig Counsell played 664 games with Arizona.

Despite being just 27 years old, the 600-game mark makes Drew one of the more veteran guys in the D-backs’ clubhouse.

“When I first got called up, it was a bunch of veteran guys. We were still in purple then,” Drew said. “We had guys like Counsell and the reason I got called up was he had a broken rib. Gonzo was there still, [Brandon Webb] was still there. To play so many games here it’s nice, especially to stay in one spot, it’s huge.

“We had some good years when I first got called up. The year right after, we made the playoffs and that was neat in itself.”

Gibson: D-backs being thrown at is ‘baseball’

MILWAUKEE — As a 90-mph fastball from Chris Narveson sailed behind the back of Rusty Ryal in the fourth inning Monday night, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson wasn’t surprised, nor was he too upset.

With his starter having hit three Brewers hitters, it was just part of the game.

“He tried to hit Ryal before that, and then they threw a changeup and [Brewers manager Ken] Macha was over there going, ‘Come on!'” Gibson said. “I understand, I had no problem with any of it. We hit three of their guys — not on purpose — they tried to hit Rusty.

“That’s baseball. We should’ve just walked down to the base. I had no problem with any of that.”

While he’s fine with the idea of settling such matters that way, Gibson went on to say he would never instruct one of his pitchers to intentionally hit an opposing batter.

Still, he wouldn’t oppose such actions from his pitching staff.

“I told Joe Saunders not to hit him,” Gibson said, referring to the D-backs’ game on August 3, when Mark Reynolds was hit in the head by a Nationals pitcher. “But somewhere along the line, if somebody would’ve responded to that throughout that series, to me, that’s one of the things that helps connect you.

“Reynolds would’ve known what happened. Those are just little subtle things that happen within a game.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers beat 7/27

July 28, 2010 Comments off

Hart likely to remain with Brewers

MILWAUKEE — Right fielder Corey Hart said all along that he wanted to remain with the Brewers. This isn’t exactly the scenario he had in mind.

Hart missed his fourth consecutive start on Tuesday with a sore right thumb and said he’s hoping to return to Milwaukee’s lineup on Friday in Houston.

“I felt better throwing today than I did yesterday,” Hart said. “I took some dry swings today because it was feeling better. I’m not quite ready, but it’s a lot of progress from the past couple days.

“I probably still won’t play tomorrow, but I might be able to hit tomorrow. … Then I’m sure I’ll do stuff on the off-day in Houston, and then I’d imagine I can do everything on Friday. I think I’ll be ready on Friday.”

The ill-timed injury has likely cost the Brewers any chance to shop their All-Star right fielder in trade talks ahead of Saturday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Before he was hurt in a collision with the outfield wall last weekend against the Nationals, Hart was reportedly drawing some interest from a number of teams, including the Giants, Padres, Braves and Rays, all of whom possess the kind of young pitching that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin would seek in return for one of his established hitters.

But as the Brewers continue to win, carrying a five-game winning streak into Tuesday night’s contest, manager Ken Macha and the club would like to get Hart back on the field as soon as they can, provided he remains in a Brewers uniform.

“I spoke with him today. He still has some discomfort, but he says it’s getting better every day,” Macha said. “I asked him about the Houston series and he’s feeling good about that.

“He’s still a ways off. I asked him about Houston, he said he hopes so.”

Hawkins eyeing weekend return

MILWAUKEE — After more than 2 1/2 months on the disabled list, veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins finally has a set date for his expected return to the Brewers.

“He’ll probably be activated during the Houston series,” manager Ken Macha said.

Hawkins, who went on the DL with right shoulder weakness on May 9, pitched two scoreless innings on Monday night for the Nashville Sounds, allowing just two hits, while tossing 21 strikes in 28 pitches.

Most important for Hawkins, a 37-year-old right-hander, he has not had any setbacks since beginning his rehab assignment, and he felt as good on Monday night as he has since going on the DL.

“When you’re injured, you always have to think about, ‘Am I ever going to feel like I felt before I got injured?'” Hawkins said.

Since starting his rehab assignment on July 15, Hawkins has pitched for the Brewers’ Rookie League team in Arizona, as well as the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Nashville.

Hawkins, who is in his 16th season in the Major Leagues, learned a lot during his time away from the field.

“You kind of find yourself when you’re on the DL. You’ve got a lot of time to think and reflect and do a lot of other things that make you not take this game for granted,” Hawkins said. “Going back to the Minor Leagues is definitely a humbling experience, seeing those guys and how hard they work.

“It makes you appreciate where you are and what you have.”

With his return expected this weekend in Houston, Hawkins will be joining the club on the road trip, something that hasn’t happened in quite a while.

How does Hawkins feel to be getting back on the road with the club?

“Good,” Hawkins said, “especially going on the road in the big leagues.”

Brewers take part in community work

MILWAUKEE — The Brewers Community Foundation gave itself a well-deserved pat on the back Tuesday and announced it had raised $1.5 million so far in 2010 for nonprofit groups in Wisconsin.

Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Craig Counsell and Doug Davis attended a press conference at Rainbow Park in West Allis, Wis., to highlight the contributions of 15 Brewers players to various community causes. Those players then took part in mini-clinics with kids at Harvey Kuenn Field, which received assistance from the Brewers’ charitable arm last summer after sustaining flood damage.

Other Brewers were active in the community on Tuesday, too. John Axford, Zach Braddock, Chris Capuano, Kameron Loe and Dave Riske joined a group of former big leaguers that included Jim Gantner and Larry Hisle for a clinic hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Association Players’ Trust. More than 250 local Little Leaguers and members of the Boys and Girls Club took part.

A few hours later, Capuano, Counsell, Weeks, Corey Hart and Trevor Hoffman hosted the Players Association’s “Buses for Baseball” event. The players welcomed 50 students from Our Next Generation, an organization that provides academic support and other services to urban children.

Worth noting

Brewers prospects will be part of the Surprise Rafters in this year’s Arizona Fall League, and Double-A Huntsville manager Mike Guerrero will serve as the team’s skipper. The league announced its club and staff assignments on Tuesday, and the Brewers were paired with the Tigers, Royals, Cardinals and Rangers at Surprise Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Royals and Rangers. Rosters are typically finalized in late August and play begins this year on Oct. 12.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

The ’80s were a banner decade for Crew

June 25, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — If you were at County Stadium on that late October day in 1982, you might never guess the celebration was for the World Series runners-up.

When Robin Yount circled the warning track at County Stadium on a Harley Davison motorcycle, the crowd of more than 20,000 fans was thrilled for the return of their beloved Milwaukee Brewers.

To this day, the Brewers’ 1982 team is adored by fans for giving Milwaukee its first World Series since the Milwaukee Braves won back-to-back National League pennants in 1957-58.

After finishing the previous decade with what remains the club’s best record to date in 1979, the Brewers enjoyed their greatest success of any decade in the 1980s, finishing .500 or better five times while reaching the playoffs twice and making the franchise’s only World Series appearance in ’82.

This weekend, as a part of the 40th anniversary of the move from Seattle, the Brewers are celebrating and reflecting on the club’s second decade in Milwaukee. On Friday, the team will wear reproductions of its 1978-89 uniforms, highlighted by pinstripes with “BREWERS” block letters on the front and the ball and glove logo on the cap. The Mariners will wear light blue road uniforms worn from 1981-84.

On Sunday, all fans in attendance will get a bobblehead doll commemorating Cecil Cooper’s base hit to drive home the winning runs in Game 5 of the 1982 American League Championship Series.

Harvey’s Wallbangers
While nearly everyone’s first thought of great Brewers teams goes immediately to the 1982 squad, the 1981 team was impressive in its own right.

With a 62-47 record, the Brewers finished with the best overall mark in the AL East and earned a playoff berth for their second-half record due to the split schedule that season caused by the players’ strike from June 12 to Aug. 10.

But while the Brewers lost the division series to the Yankees, three games to two, the 1981 season is remembered fondly by the players involved.

“That was probably our best team, we just jumped out in front and never looked back,” said Rollie Fingers, who won the AL MVP and Cy Young Awards in 1981. “It was a shame we had the strike in the middle of it, but it may have helped me.

“I remember I only gave up one earned run in Milwaukee that year. It was on a triple to Freddie Patek, I remember. It was one of those years where nothing went wrong.”

Following the club’s first-ever playoff appearance in 1981, expectations were high for the Brewers in 1982. Through the season’s first two months, however, things did not go as planned.

After the Brewers struggled to a 23-24 record on June 1, manager Buck Rodgers was fired in favor of Harvey Kuenn. With that, Harvey’s Wallbangers were born.

“When I think about the 1982 season, that’s the first thing that comes to mind: Harvey’s Wallbangers,” said Robin Yount, who won the first of his two AL MVP awards in 1982. “We worked hard, but we had a lot of fun that season, too. We wanted to win it for Harvey, and we did it his way.”

Over the last four months of the season, the Brewers went 72-43 to finish first in the AL East, one game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles. After losing in the division series the year before, the Brewers returned to the playoffs for the second time in franchise history.

As they squared off with the California Angels in the AL Championship Series, the Brewers immediately dropped the first two games of the series in Anaheim. But as the series returned to Milwaukee, the Brewers swept all three games at County Stadium, including a thrilling 4-3 victory to clinch the AL pennant.

Milwaukee loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh, which led to the most famous single of Cooper’s career, a two-run hit that put the Brewers on top and won the series.

After winning the ALCS, the Brewers were set to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the “Suds Series,” the first World Series in club history. Though they fell short in Game 7, the 1982 season remains fresh in the memories of players and fans alike.

“My career might be over, and the games are in the past, but the memories, those last forever,” second baseman Jim Gantner said. “That group of guys we had those years, it was unique. No matter how many teams you look at, I don’t think you could find another with so many characters like we had. It was incredible.”

“Pitching was the difference”
But the Brewers would not make it back to the playoffs in the 1980s.

Despite having much the same ballclub as the previous two seasons, the Brewers dropped from first in the AL East in 1981-82 to fifth in ’83, seventh in ’84 and sixth in ’85 and ’86.

In looking back, Yount sees a distinct difference between the successful clubs of the 1981-82 seasons and those that never made it back to the playoffs in the years following that success.

“Pitching was the difference,” Yount said. “I think that’s true of any great team. Look at any team that wins a championship, they’ve probably got great pitching.”

When asked if it was disappointing not to make it back to the playoffs in his career, Yount did not hold back his feelings on the matter.

“Of course it was disappointing,” Yount said. “That’s an understatement.”

Though they still would not reach the playoffs over the decade’s final three seasons, the 1987 team would provide plenty of memories.

And all within the first two weeks.

Streaking
To open what turned out to be a wild and wacky season, the Brewers tied a Major League record, winning its first 13 games of the year. One month later, the club lost 12 in a row.

But the 13-game stretch to open the season is among many Brewers fans’ favorite memories. Along the way, two highlights stand out.

First, in the team’s ninth game of the season, lefty Juan Nieves tossed the first no-hitter in franchise history, blanking the Orioles on April 15, 1987, at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.

Nieves became the first Puerto Rican-born pitcher to toss a no-hitter, but he couldn’t do it without a little help from Yount, who made a tremendous no-hitter-saving catch in center field for the 27th and final out.

“There’s no way I wasn’t going to catch that ball,” Yount said. “When I saw it, I just took off running. There’s no time to think in that kind of situation. So I just reacted and luckily I got there and was able to be part of the Brewers’ only no-hitter.”

Three days later, the current Brewers hitting coach delivered the most famous home run in Brewers history, on Easter Sunday no less.

With the winning streak on the line, the Brewers headed to the ninth down, 4-1. At that point, the might have Brewers thought it was over, as did their fans. With that in mind, the crowd of 29,357 gave a standing ovation in appreciation for the 11-game win streak.

But it was far from over.

With two on and one out, slugger Rob Deer crushed a 1-0 curveball out to left, tying the game at 4-4. Rookie B.J. Surhoff followed Deer with a strikeout, but after a walk was drawn by Gantner, the switch-hitting Dale Sveum had a chance to make it 12 in a row.

He did just that.

With a full count, Sveum got a cut fastball, waist-high over the middle of the plate. Sveum jumped on it and blasted a two-run walk-off homer, sending County Stadium into a frenzy, as the Brewers had won their 12th straight to start the season.

“It was one of those games where nobody really wanted to leave,” said Brewers infielder Craig Counsell, a Wisconsin native who stood in the stands that day as a 16-year-old. “If you were there, you’d remember it.”

Later that season, Paul Molitor drew national attention when he hit in a team record 39 straight games. It remains the seventh-longest hitting streak in big league history, and fifth-longest since 1900.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.