A 6-0 win over the Rockies in Game 3 of the NL Division Series on Sunday at Coors Field gave the Brewers back-to-back shutouts and finished the first postseason series sweep in franchise history. Up next: The Dodgers or Braves beginning with Game 1 on Friday at Miller Park.
"We're not going to the NLCS to lose," said Ryan Braun, the only remaining player from the last Brewers team to make it that far in 2011. "Nobody picked us to win the division. Nobody expected us to get to the NLCS. I'm sure when we get there, nobody will pick us to win.
"But we believe in each other, and we really are playing our best baseball when it matters most. We're excited about having home-field advantage because obviously it's a big deal."
Braun was right about the division, but he might be surprised when NLCS predictions start trickling in. Sweeping away the Rockies in three games means manager Craig Counsell will enter the next round with a well-rested pitching staff at the top of its game. Brewers pitchers held the Rockies scoreless in 27 of 28 innings in the NLDS, including 12 2/3 scoreless frames from their starters -- er, "initial out-getters" -- capped by lefty Wade Miley's 4 2/3 innings in Game 3.
Miley was followed by Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria, Corbin Burnes (two innings), Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader in a second straight shutout. This one was a four-hitter.
It marked the first time in Rockies history that they were shut out in consecutive games with at least one of those contests played at Coors Field. They were only shut out here twice in the regular season: April 8 against the Braves and May 9 against the Angels.
Added Lorenzo Cain: "They get better and better. When I signed to come here, that's what I wanted to do -- enjoy this feeling. We're not done yet."
Jesus Aguilar homered with the bases empty in the fourth inning for his first postseason hit after an 0-for-7 start, and Orlando Arcia and Keon Broxton added insurance with back-to-back home runs off Wade Davis leading off the ninth while officials readied the visitors' clubhouse for Milwaukee's third champagne celebration in 12 days.
The Brewers also got some help along the way, doubling their lead from 2-0 to 4-0 in the sixth on a run-scoring balk and a run-scoring wild pitch from Rockies reliever Scott Oberg.
Braun, Erik Kratz and Travis Shaw all logged multiple hits as the Brewers outhit the Rockies, 12-4, led by three more knocks for 38-year-old catcher Kratz. He was 5-for-8 in a pair of starts in his first career postseason series.
"You get all your celebrations in, because you never know if you're going to get another one," said Kratz, who found himself surrounded by teammates chanting M-V-P. "Just like you never know if you're going to get another day in this game. That's the best way to play. I've been very fortunate to be on this team where everybody plays that way."
The Brewers are in the LCS round for the third time in 50 seasons as a franchise. They beat the Angels in a best-of-five American League Championship Series in 1982, and fell to the Cardinals in six games in the 2011 NLCS.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED First strike: The Brewers entered the day 76-28 when they score first, including Games 1 and 2 at Miller Park, so it was big to put together a little small ball in the first inning for the game's first run. Christian Yelich, who had only two NLDS hits but posted a 1.196 OPS in the three games, started things by working an eight-pitch walk with one out against Rockies starter German Marquez. He moved to third when Braun punched a single through the right side of the infield and scored on Shaw's fielder's choice.
"It's huge," said Miley. "The pressure is on them to start the game, and when we took the 1-0 lead, it was [on them] even more. I was trying to get us back in the dugout as quick as possible and turn it over to the bullpen, and they did the rest."
"Not near as bad as I thought it would be," he said. "These past three weeks, we've played every game like it's Game 7 of the World Series. I guess it kind of prepared me for this day. It's something you dream about as a little kid, and I was able to go out there and live it."
Game-breakers: Davis is one of baseball's best closers, but the Brewers have given him all kinds of trouble in the past 13 months, beginning with homers for Arcia and Shaw in an extra-inning win over Davis when he was with the Cubs at Miller Park last September, and continuing Sunday when Arcia and Broxton hammered long home runs to break the game open in the ninth. The home run was Arcia's first since Aug. 8. Broxton's came in only his second at-bat of the series.
"I can't even describe it," Broxton said. "It's one of the greatest feelings I've ever felt. It's always what I dreamed of. I'm just glad I was put in a position to do it. It was a bomb. It was clutch to add on after Arcia did."
SOUND SMART Only once before in franchise history have the Brewers won 11 straight games in a season -- 1987, when Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and "Team Streak" set an AL record by beginning the season 13-0. The Pirates had an 11-game winning streak this season, but the only one longer in 2018 belonged to the Houston Astros, who won 12 straight games from June 6-18.
"It's nearly impossible," said Braun, "and each of those 11 wins, we approached as a must-win. It's incredibly difficult to do that day after day, night after night, on the road, at home, against great pitchers. It's been an incredibly difficult thing to do, but it's been fun, man. We're enjoying it."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS Oberg's run-scoring balk and run-scoring wild pitch came in quick succession as the sixth inning spun out of control for Colorado. Kratz's double gave the Brewers runners at second and third with one out, but Oberg struck out Arcia to give himself an escape route. With Curtis Granderson up to pinch-hit, Oberg dropped the baseball while on the rubber, resulting in a balk that brought Mike Moustakas home for a 3-0 Brewers lead. With the count at 0-2, Oberg threw a wild pitch, and though catcher Tony Wolters retrieved it quickly, Kratz slid home safely with Milwaukee's fourth run.
"I credit [third-base coach] Eddie [Sedar] for that," said Kratz. "He prepared me for that. With two strikes, they moved [third baseman Nolan] Arenado off the line, and that gave me more of a lead -- which I need. A few steps. Eddie said, 'Hey, he's off the line, if it goes outside the circle, you're in.' And [it was the] next pitch.
"It's like I've said before -- you prepare for the moment. Eddie prepared me for the moment."
That inning gave the Brewers a 4-0 lead. Does a victory feel close at that point?
"It does. There was a moment where I thought about that," said Kratz. "Then I had to realize we have to come back and [make] one pitch at a time. That's boring. I don't get to enjoy it. … On the bench, I'm sure they were enjoying it."
HE SAID IT "This club is very capable. Absolutely. I think that's the bottom line -- and to do it the way they've done it, and do it on enemy ground … you know this club is good and solid in what they're doing." -- Bob Uecker
"Two celebrations to go! We accomplished this by everybody playing to the best of their abilities. Everybody here is doing their job the best that they possibly can, and that's why we're winning baseball games. Nothing's going to change. The lights will get brighter. It's going to be more fun than we've had to this point. We're going to keep doing the same [stuff]." -- Braun, in his postgame speech to the team
UP NEXT The Brewers know they will host Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday at Miller Park, but they don't yet know the opponent. It will be either the Dodgers or the Braves, who won Sunday to stay alive in the other NLDS. The Dodgers lead that series, 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for Monday night. The Brewers were 3-4 against L.A. during the regular season and 4-3 against Atlanta.