MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers might have been the last team in the Major Leagues to play an extra-inning game this season, but they sure made it worth the wait.
You wouldn’t have guessed it was the National League’s bottom two pitching staffs squaring off Saturday in the longest game by innings in Miller Park’s 19 years of operation, a 4-3 Brewers win in 18 innings that finally ended when Ryan Braun capped a career night with one of the most memorable walk-off hits in franchise history.
The Brewers tallied 11 hits and Braun accounted for six of them, including a two-run single with one out in the bottom of the 18th that gave the 13-year veteran a new career high for hits in a game -- and gave Milwaukee the two runs it needed to overcome a Mets rally in the top half of the inning.
“That’s one of those ones you so badly want to win, because if you do win, it feels like you won two or three games. And if you lose, it feels like you lost 10,” said Braun.
Those among the crowd of 39,565 who stuck around were treated to what amounted to a doubleheader -- 18 full innings of baseball. By the 14th inning, both teams were left with empty benches after using their backup catchers. In the 15th, the Brewers burned their last available reliever; the Mets made it until the 17th. Despite logging 62 at-bats as a team, the only Brewer with multiple hits was Braun, who finished 6-for-8.
But for eight-plus innings after Alonso’s tying shot, no one could score. The Mets stranded the go-ahead runner at third base in the 13th inning and didn’t have another chance with a runner in scoring position until Jeff McNeil’s RBI single against Brewers reliever Taylor Williams in Williams’ fourth inning of work. The Brewers had the winning runner in scoring position in the ninth, 13th, 14th and 17th before finally cashing in.
Along the way, Miller Park’s racing sausages made a record three appearances, running in the middle of the sixth, 12th and 18th innings. Midway through the 14th, fans stood for a second round of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Roll Out the Barrel.”
“There's no way you can say you've seen [a game] like that,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. “We had 11 hits, and one guy had six of them, which should say everything about how crazy this game was.”
In the bottom of the 18th, the Mets’ last reliever, Chris Flexen, just up from the Minors, loaded the bases with walks to Eric Thames, Yasmani Grandal and Travis Shaw, who were a combined 0-for-19 in the game. That brought up the right hitter for the Brewers in Braun, who might have had a seventh hit if not for McNeil’s terrific diving catch on a ball in the left-center field gap in the 12th.
This time, Braun hit a ground ball 106.7 mph off the bat, according to Statcast, for his eighth career walk-off hit.
"We take the lead, we go out there with momentum, to have a loss like that is a big letdown on my part,” said Flexen. “I failed to do my job."
“Just a crazy game. A special one for me; a special one for us,” said Braun. “When you’re 0-for-7 in the 18th inning like Yasmani and Travis were, for both of them to draw walks in that situation and grind those at-bats is something that could be the difference in our season. This was one of those days where we could have thrown in the towel once we got behind, but guys grinded and got me an opportunity there.”
Braun has been making the most of opportunities on this homestand. Just days ago, he was slashing .194/.248/.378 and looked to be losing playing time to outfielder Ben Gamel.
But after going 11-for-16 in the last three games, including nine hits in the past two games, his slash line for the season is suddenly .263/.306/.491.
“He’s back to having a good year in two days,” said Shaw.
Way back when, Gio Gonzalez started for the Brewers and produced a stat line that might go overlooked in the box score -- 5 1/3 innings, three hits, one run, no walks, seven strikeouts -- but represented exactly the sort of steady hand that was needed for a team that entered Saturday with a National League-worst 5.38 ERA.
But Gonzalez had no desire to talk about his own performance. He and Braun both heaped praise on the relievers who combined to pitch 12 2/3 innings while allowing two runs on seven hits. Matt Albers, Corbin Burnes and Adrian Houser each covered more than an inning apiece without allowing a run. Williams held the Mets scoreless on one hit through his first three innings before a pair of two-out singles and a stolen base in the 18th produced a Mets run.
“Our guys were incredible,” Counsell said. “The effort Taylor Williams gave us tonight was heroic.”
It certainly was memorable.
“If you went home,” said Gonzalez, “you missed a helluva game.”