MILWAUKEE -- After 17 seasons, 11 organizations and 37 teams across various professional levels of the sport, no, Erik Kratz says, he's never had a hit bigger than the one he had Friday. Heck, he's never had a bigger strikeout, a bigger flyout to right, a bigger throwing error. It's all magnified for Kratz, given the stage, the stakes, and the journey he took to get here.
"That's what this moment is," said Kratz. "That's the playoffs, and I love it."
:: NLDS schedule and results ::
To say Kratz waited for his moment would be an understatement. He would've been a story had he merely stepped on the field: By starting Game 2 of the National League Division Series behind the plate, the 38-year-old Kratz became the oldest position player to make his first postseason start since Lave Cross in 1905 with the Philadelphia A's. (Cross happens to have been born in Milwaukee, while Kratz was born just outside Philadelphia.) Then Kratz contributed, hitting a two-run, eighth-inning single to cap a 4-0 Milwaukee win over the Rockies that gave the Crew a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-five series.
A night after Christian Yelich dragged the Brewers to a Game 1 win, Kratz was part of Milwaukee's collective effort, as a cast of more unlikely supporting characters pieced together enough offense. The bottom of the Brewers' lineup combined for eight of Milwaukee's nine hits on the day and drove in all four runs. Those contributions were the difference on a day the Rockies' 5-8 hitters combined to go 3-for-16 with six strikeouts.
It also proved crucial given that Lorenzo Cain, Ryan Braun and Jesus Aguilar went 1-for-11 around Yelich, whom Rockies pitchers consistently pitched around, walking him twice.
"They're making an effort to be very, very cautious with Yelich. It's pretty clear. So guys behind him are going to have opportunities. And tonight, we got a couple things going," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "That's a really great thing, and I think that points to the depth of our team. Those guys set the tone, man. They did a nice job. That was pressure. For those guys, the bottom of the lineup putting pressure on the other team is going to spell good things for us."
Making just his third start in two weeks, Hernan Perez drove in the game's first run with his first of two doubles. Travis Shaw reached base thrice and stole a base. From the No. 5 spot, Mike Moustakas doubled, scored and singled home the Crew's second run. Kratz's two-run hit came three batters later, giving a four-run cushion for Jeremy Jeffress, who rebounded from his blown save in Game 1 to finish the final two innings of Game 2.
"We pick each other up and that's huge," said Kratz, "That's what we do in this lineup. Guys feed off each other, and you pass the baton to the next guy. … It doesn't matter if it's 5 through 8 or 1 through 4 or somebody that got an MVP award."
Kratz had never gotten into a postseason game before Friday, but he's seen first-hand what it takes for teams to be successful in October. He was with a team but inactive for two deep runs: the Phillies in 2011 (they lost in the NL Division Series to the Cardinals) and the Yankees in 2017 (lost Game 7 of the ALCS). He hadn't logged an inning until Friday. But given his timeshare with Manny Pina, Kratz figures to see more playing time should the Brewers advance.
It's a moment he's not taking lightly.
"I feel like it's an incredible opportunity to be here," Kratz said. "In today's game, I think the energy was better than any game I've ever played in."