Wade Miley had it all planned out after the Brewers Game 6 victory over the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. Miley stood at his locker and told reporters how he envisioned Game 7 looking like.
“Chacin go six. Hader go three. We go to the World Series,” Miley said.
Unfortunately, Miley hit just one of those three in the plan. And for that reason, Milwaukee’s season is done. Chacin gave up a two run dinger and lasted only two innings, giving way to Hader, who was dominant over three innings 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 consecutive season.
The game turned in a period of 15 minutes. First, 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, who was brutal all postseason, deep for a three-run home run. Despite there being 12 outs for the Brewers to work with to tie or take the lead, that home run by Puig felt like a dagger to Milwaukee’s bid to end a World Series appearance drought.
It was a brutal end to a special season, one that saw the Brewers six back and chase down the Chicago Cubs in the final month to win the NL Central, sweep Colorado in the NLDS, and push the defending NL champions 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 clear how truly remarkable the run they went on was for the franchise, the fans, the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin.
“What I 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 it, 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 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 and Wisconsin Badgers. Sure, the Packers won the 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 two soul crushing losses for the basketball team in the 2014 Final Four and in the 2015 NCAA Title Game, while the football team came up 43 yards short in 2017 of winning the 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 2018 season. Sure, 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 are 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 the opportunity to go further.