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For Crew, Game 7 not an end but a beginning

October 21, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- From Orlando magic on Opening Day to "Let's cry" on the mound in Colorado to "We Believe In Jesús" and learning that teenage tweets last forever but folks can forgive. From Brent Suter off Corey Kluber to Brandon Woodruff off Clayton Kershaw. From "too many outfielders" and "too

MILWAUKEE -- From Orlando magic on Opening Day to "Let's cry" on the mound in Colorado to "We Believe In Jesús" and learning that teenage tweets last forever but folks can forgive. From Brent Suter off Corey Kluber to Brandon Woodruff off Clayton Kershaw. From "too many outfielders" and "too few starting pitchers" to Lorenzo Cain's leaping catches, Christian Yelich looking like an MVP Award winner and late-inning lights-out relief. Some surprise first-inning lights-out relief, too.
There were George Webb hamburgers washed down by a trio of champagne celebrations. Bob Uecker, 84 years young, danced in the middle of them all. He wished there had been two more.
:: NLCS schedule and results ::
One of the most memorable of the 50 seasons in franchise history ended short of the goal on Saturday with a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.
For the Dodgers, it's on to the World Series. For the Brewers, it's wait 'til next year.
They think they will be pretty good again next year.
"The feeling here was really different in 2011," said owner Mark Attanasio, referring to Milwaukee's last team to make it this far, "because we sort of knew it was the end of the road. Prince [Fielder] was going to be a free agent. [Zack] Greinke was going to be gone the next year, [Shaun] Marcum was gone. There was a lot of sadness, because that group of men was being disbanded. This group of guys, it's just the beginning. It's the early innings for this group.
"So it feels different. I can report that from an owner's standpoint, losing a Game 7 is harder emotionally than losing a Game 6, because you can actually see it and taste it. But there's a lot of reason to be hopeful about this group."
As Attanasio spoke, the room had begun to clear of cameras, and the ambient noise picked up. Twenty-two-year-old Freddy Peralta came by for a hug, then resurgent reliever Corey Knebel. Yelich's tears started to dry. There was laughter in the corner where Cain was holding court.
"You didn't hear any of this in '11," Attanasio said. "Guys are already starting to pick up their spirits a little bit. This group knows it will be together."

There will be exceptions, of course. There always are. Curtis Granderson, Giovany Gonzalez and Wade Miley are free agents, with Miley the most notable after he made 16 regular-season starts with a 2.57 ERA, then pitched four more times in the postseason, including a memorable one-batter decoy start in Game 5 of the NLCS. A new pitcher thanks to that cutter, he will try to cash in via free agency.
Mike Moustakas and Joakim Soria have mutual options, and Jeremy Jeffress and Jordan Lyles have club options that need addressing. Only Jeffress is sure to be back.
And the Brewers have a slew of arbitration-eligible players, including some intriguing cases coming off seasons complicated by injuries or performance, including pitchers Zach Davies, Knebel and Jimmy Nelson; catcher Stephen Vogt; infielder Jonathan Schoop; and outfielder Domingo Santana. Infielder Travis Shaw is eligible for the first time and due a huge raise, but he's not going anywhere.

Also not going anywhere: Cain and Yelich, who came to Milwaukee last Jan. 26, Cain via free agency and Yelich via trade, with five years of control apiece. Fellow All-Star Jesus Aguilar has another minimum-salary season ahead before he qualifies for arbitration. And the trio at back end of the bullpen -- Knebel, Jeffress and Josh Hader -- should all be back.

What could make next season different in Attanasio's mind is the starting pitching. In addition to steady starter Jhoulys Chacin, the Brewers will choose from a field that includes Chase Anderson and Davies, Nelson coming off shoulder surgery and young arms Peralta, Corbin Burnes and Woodruff, each of whom took huge strides while coming out of the bullpen in October.

Woodruff logged a 2.19 ERA in 12 1/3 postseason innings and homered off Kershaw in Game 1 of the NLCS. Burnes pitched nine innings over six postseason games, with a 2.00 ERA. Peralta dealt three scoreless innings in relief of an injured Gonzalez in Game 4.
"You guys saw glimpses of what this team has to offer in the future with the young studs they have coming up," said Moustakas. "This team is going to be in a good spot next year and the next couple of years."
"A lot of special things happened this season. A lot of guys showed up," Cain said. "Woodruff is one guy who stood out to me this postseason. He went up and down during the regular season, and he stepped up big-time in the postseason. I expect him to be on the roster and ready to go next year, for sure. There's a lot of guys I expect big things from."
The Brewers have less than four months to ponder it. Milwaukee will report to renovated Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix during the second week of February.
"Before the future was just that [day's] game," said Jeffress. "Now we can look to the future and we're excited about it. We have a new complex in Arizona that we're excited for, and we're going to go there and re-evaluate some things and come back with the same type of guys that you saw this season. There's going to be a lot of fighting for jobs next year, and that's what we want."
Said Yelich: "The great thing about this sport is there's always hope. You always get ready for the next season. Use what we did this year and build on it in Spring Training. Use this feeling we're all feeling right now as fuel and motivation to get back and take that next step."
Will the Brewers be back? There are no guarantees, as Ryan Braun, the lone holdover from the 2011 NLCS entry, knows. Despite Fielder's pending departure, that club expressed optimism in a quiet clubhouse, too.

"You never know how things will play out with the team or what key free agents will be back," said Braun. "But so much of our success came from young guys who we control for a number of years moving forward. There's a lot of reasons for hope and optimism.
"At the same time, we were one win away from the World Series. We had an opportunity to play that game at home. We all know, no matter how good you are, those opportunities don't come around every year. It's disappointing today."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.