10/08/11 12:24 AM ET
Home field plays 'huge part' in Crew's success
Manager, players appreciate fans' vocal support of club
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
That the party was taking place in Milwaukee seemed fitting.
Throughout this magical season for the Brewers, the team's home stadium has played an integral role in their run to the playoffs. Milwaukee's 3-2, 10-inning victory over the D-backs in Game 5 of the National League Division Series once again displayed the power of playing in front of the local audience.
"We recognize the importance of getting home-field advantage," Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. "I think it was huge for us to have an opportunity to play this game here in Milwaukee in front of our fans, in this atmosphere, in this environment.
"I think that's a huge part of why we were able to win."
Now, the Brewers will have home-field advantage again for the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals, who won the NL Wild Card and beat the Phillies in the first round. The best-of-seven Championship Series -- a rematch of the 1982 World Series -- begins at 3 p.m. CT on Sunday.
Arizona and Milwaukee only won inside their home ballparks during this first-round pairing. The Brewers took the first two games at Miller Park before the D-backs evened things up with a pair of wins at Chase Field in Phoenix. A sold-out crowd awaited the teams when they took the field for the decisive contest.
The Brewers' win sealed their first series victory in a playoff setting since taking down the California Angels in the American League Championship Series in 1982. Having a chance to end that postseason drought in front of the Milwaukee faithful was an opportunity that the Brewers cherished.
After all, the environment at home was a large part of Milwaukee's success this year.
"You look at the city, you look at how they've been behind us," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Even coming in on the bus, we got in pretty early [Thursday] morning, and coming in and seeing the high-rises with 'Go Brewers' on it, or initials there. The way they come out and support these guys. The chatter that I hear all through the city. It's huge.
"Any time you have a city that backs a team like they've backed us, it's huge to be able to win, and going to that next round. We still have some work to do to get to that ultimate goal that we want, but this is great."
Starter Yovani Gallardo and Braun played the role of hometown heroes for this NLDS.
Gallardo defeated the D-backs with a brilliant performance in Game 1 and he grinded through a 112-pitch, six-inning showing in Friday's game. Along the way, the right-hander went 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his two outings. Over his last 10 home starts, Gallardo has gone 6-1 with a 1.87 ERA, striking out 83 over 77 innings.
In the three home wins over Arizona, all Braun did was hit .727 (8-for-11) with a home run, five RBIs and five runs scored. On Friday, the left fielder went 2-for-3, including a sixth-inning double against Arizona righty Ian Kennedy. Braun later scored in the sixth to push the Brewers to a 2-1 lead that held until the ninth.
"It was important," Milwaukee third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. said of having home-field advantage in the first round. "Obviously, each home team won its games. I knew when we went up 2-0 that it wasn't over. We know that the Diamondbacks are very, very good at home. They're a resilient bunch. They're a great team. We knew we had to fight."
The D-backs fought back again on Friday, striking for a run against Brewers closer John Axford in the ninth to force extra innings. Playing at Miller Park afforded the Brewers the last at-bat, though, and the ballclub took advantage.
In the home half of the 10th, Nyjer Morgan drove a pitch from closer J.J. Putz into center field, delivering the game-winning single. Carlos Gomez scored from second base to set off the on-field party.
Playing at home paid off once again.
"It's a blue-collar town," Morgan said. "We're blue-collar kids getting after it. Getting it done."
The win improved the Brewers' record to 60-24 at home this season. Milwaukee's 57-24 record at Miller Park during the regular season represented the best mark since the 2009 Yankees finished with the same ledger. The Brewers' 57 wins at home were the most by an NL team since the Giants won 57 in San Francisco in '03.
It took more than three months for the Brewers to finally drop two straight at home this season. When Milwaukee did so in its 42nd home game, it marked the longest such streak to begin a season since the '96 Yankees. The Brewers also enjoyed three home winning streaks of at least seven games this season.
Clearly, the home crowd is key for the Brewers.
And, to think, it took until the last day of the season to secure home-field advantage.
"It was big," Gallardo said of being able to play in Milwaukee. "Those last five games of the season, that's what we played for. That's what we played for, for something like this. So if it came down to five games, we would have that advantage to come back here at home."
Playing inside Miller Park worked wonders once again.
"We all felt confident coming into it," Roenicke said.