MILWAUKEE -- One day after setting a new club record with their 55th home win of the season, the Brewers announced Monday they had set a new single-season franchise attendance record.
With the Brewers having sold 3,068,781 tickets as of 10 a.m. CT on Monday, they surpassed the club's previous record of 3,068,458 set in 2008.
"I've always loved the fans here," said Brewers closer John Axford. "Even when things weren't going well the last couple years, the fans were still here, still going crazy. They love their baseball, they love their Brewers here."
After a 9-8 loss to the Pirates in the opener of their final regular-season series that drew 41,222 fans, the Brewers have played 79 home games to date with an average of 37,817 and a total attendance of 2,987,533.
That mark ranks the Brewers seventh in Major League Baseball and fourth in the National League in average attendance, despite playing in the league's smallest media market.
"As our Brewers players continue a record-setting season on the field, our fans have given us the advantage in the stands to help secure our first ever National League Central Division championship," said Brewers chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger. "We thank the fans for their incredible support throughout the season and look forward to creating many special memories in October."
Both Axford and third baseman Casey McGehee saw the fan support and their dominance at Miller Park as going hand in hand. As the fans show up in large numbers, the team performs better, and as the team has sustained success this season, the attendance has continued to climb.
Their home success also is the biggest driving factor for the Brewers over the final three games as they look to remain ahead of the D-backs for the No. 2 seed in the National League.
Over the weekend, the Brewers drew three straight sellout crowds, including 44,584 for Friday night's game as they clinched the National League Central with a 4-1 victory over the Marlins and a 5-1 Cardinals loss to the Cubs. Many of those fans stuck around long afterward as well to share in the club's division championship celebration.
The average crowd for the weekend was 44,150. This month, the Brewers had sold out seven of nine games entering Monday. They also had 35 sellouts on the season with three home games left to play.
"It says a lot about the organization in general and a lot about the support of the fan base as well for sure," McGehee said. "You couldn't ask for a better place to play. It's a packed house every night."
Braun in dead heat for batting title after 'day off'
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has been saying all along that winning a championship takes priority over winning the National League batting title, and his decision to take a break on Monday was indication his words were genuine.
Manager Ron Roenicke told Braun he wanted the player to sit out one of the Brewers' three games against the Pirates, and Braun chose Monday. That meant he did not face Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton, against whom Braun was 6-for-11 lifetime with a home run and three walks.
"That tells me he is focused on winning this thing and being ready for the playoffs, and whatever happens with the batting title, it happens," Roenicke said. "I told him I wanted him to have a day somewhere, and this is what he -- what we -- came up with."
But the fact that he was out of the lineup did not keep Braun from playing 3 1/2 innings Monday night. With two on and the Brewers down by a pair in the sixth, Braun delivered a pinch-hit RBI double. He also was hit by a pitch in the eighth. The Brewers went on to fall, 9-8.
"My off-day turned into two hours of playing baseball," Braun said. "But it was well worth it despite a disappointing finish."
Braun is expected to play full games Tuesday and Wednesday before the two days off prior to Saturday's Game 1 of the NL Division Series. Braun told Roenicke he preferred that to playing Monday, taking a day off, and then having just one game before the two days off heading into the playoffs.
With his double, Braun increased his batting average to .334, but lost the lead for the NL batting title. Mets shortstop Jose Reyes went 3-for-4, putting him at .334 as well. But Reyes' mark of 177-for-530 puts him .00003 ahead of Braun, who is 186-for-557 on the season.
So, is Braun paying attention to what Reyes is doing?
"Yeah man, come on," Braun said. "I never denied I was looking at it.
"Yeah, yeah, I saw what happened. I just know he ended up at .334, I'm at .334. So just like everything else, it seems like it comes down to the last day. That's how it should be, it makes it fun."
Since the Brewers clinched the NL Central on Friday, Roenicke has given all of his regulars but first baseman Prince Fielder a day off. Fielder prefers to play every day, and Roenicke said Monday he expected Fielder to start all 162 games. Fielder would become the first Brewers player ever to appear in 162 games twice in his career.
Bumped from finale, Gallardo likely for Game 1
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers decided to push Yovani Gallardo from his scheduled start in Wednesday's regular-season finale, raising the possibility that he will be the team's pitcher three days later for Game 1 of the National League Division Series.The Brewers have already clinched the NL Central, but Gallardo was originally slated for Wednesday because the team is trying to clinch home-field advantage in the NLDS. Milwaukee entered Monday with only a one-game lead over NL West champion Arizona. So, manager Ron Roenicke and pitching coach Rick Kranitz have walked a difficult tightrope. Do they continue running out their best players in order to secure the home-field edge? Or do they try to rest regulars and line up the pitching for the postseason? The pitching plan for Wednesday seemed to indicate Roenicke and Kranitz were leaning toward the latter. "Right now, I don't think 'Yo' is going to pitch that game," Roenicke said. "But we're still talking about it, still looking at it." If Gallardo takes Game 1, then he would be available again to pitch in Game 5. Gallardo has allowed only four earned runs in his last three starts, with 36 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings. The decision to hold Gallardo in reserve does not mean home-field advantage is not a Brewers priority. Sunday's win was their 55th this season at Miller Park, a franchise record for wins at home. The Brewers will finish the year with the best home record in Major League Baseball. "I still feel good with us on the road, especially with what we've done lately," Roenicke said. "But [home field] is important in the playoffs." The Brewers will name a starter for Wednesday's regular-season finale on either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Zack Greinke could pitch an inning or two as a tune-up for the postseason, Roenicke said, and late-inning relievers LaTroy Hawkins, Takashi Saito, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford could also see action, especially if they are not needed Monday or Tuesday.
Jerry Hairston earned a second consecutive start at third base Monday after going 2-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI on Sunday. If Hairston stays hot, he could wind up taking over the position in the postseason from slumping Casey McGehee, who has been the Brewers' regular third baseman for the past three seasons.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.