The skies were gray. Rain was on the way. An eerie silence had fallen upon the grounds. This was the kind of foreboding you get in a bad novel.
But the performance of the home team had been so futile that a fan felt compelled to heckle his Colorado Rockies, with a voice that rang out loud and clear: “You’re playing the Brewers, for Christ’s sake!”
That was mere minutes after Jesus had hit a home run for the Milwaukee Brewers.
And, although they may not be the most glamorous team in the National League, the Brewers did win the most games of any team in the league: 99 and counting, including their last 11. Four more, and the Brewers are in their first World Series since 1982.
On Sunday, the Brewers completed a Division Series sweep of the Rockies with a 6-0 victory that included home runs by Jesus Aguilar, Orlando Arcia and Keon Broxton, and a four-hit hitter by Wade Miley and five relievers.
The Rockies scored two runs in the series, a record low for a division series. The Championship Series opens Friday at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
The Brewers colonized the visiting clubhouse for the celebration, marking their territory by putting up three enormous team flags in the room.
Ryan Braun, the team elder, gathered the team and hollered: “We’ve got two more celebrations to go!” Then the team chanted “M-V-P” in honor of Christian Yelich, in his first year with Milwaukee after starting his career with five losing seasons in Miami.
Yelich had longed to participate in one of these celebrations. It was better than he had imagined.
“It’s everything, and more,” he said. “You see it growing up. You see it when you don’t make the postseason. It just makes you appreciate it. You realize it doesn’t happen every single year. They’re a hell of a lot of fun, and hopefully we’ve got a few more.”
The Brewers threw shutouts in the final two games of the series. In all, the Rockies failed to score in 27 of the 28 innings. The Rockies also played the series without using their best starting pitcher, Kyle Freeland, who could have started Sunday on regular rest.
Certainly, the Brewers cannot win another eight consecutive games. Or can they? They have not lost in the last 15 days.
“We truly believe that we’ll find a way to win every day,” Braun said. “Somehow, some way, we’ve done that for the last two weeks.”
The frustration of the Rockies and their fans boiled over in the sixth inning, when the Rockies were not at bat.
The Brewers turned a 2-0 lead into a 4-0 lead when reliever Scott Oberg contributed a run-scoring balk — he dropped the ball while on the rubber — and a run-scoring wild pitch. After Oberg secured the third out of the inning, he was booed off the field.
Trevor Story was booed after he struck out in the bottom of the inning. Closer Wade Davis was booed off the mound after making his lone appearance of the series, in which he faced four batters, gave up two home runs and did not record an out.
The Rockies batted .146 for the series, with no home runs. Their top four hitters were shut down: Story was two for 12 in the series, Charlie Blackmon one for 12, Nolan Arenado two for 11 and DJ LeMahieu two for nine.
Miley, taking the mound in short sleeves on a 46-degree afternoon, held the Rockies scoreless the first two times through the order.
When he was about to face Blackmon for the third time, with the Colorado All-Star representing the tying run, the Brewers promptly yanked the soft-tossing Miley, the better to chill Blackmon.
In the third inning, Blackmon had lined out, on a 72-mph curve from Miley. In the fifth, one out from becoming eligible for the victory, Miley was replaced by Corey Knebel, who struck out Blackmon on three pitches, all of them 96-mph fastballs.
For all the excellence of the Brewers’ bullpen, the three pitchers who started for Milwaukee set up the team to deploy its power relievers to perfection. The three “initial out-getters,” as the Brewers like to call them, combined to pitch 122/3 innings in the series without giving up a run.
Under any other circumstances, the Brewers’ much-maligned starters would be considered the unsung heroes of the series.
Under this extraordinary circumstance, Erik Kratz was the unsung hero.
Kratz is a backup catcher. He is 38. He did not make his major league debut until he was 30, and the Brewers are his seventh major league team. He joked the other day that he considered a home run in the minor league playoffs as a career highlight.
There was one player on either team Sunday with three hits. Kratz was the one, in only his second postseason game.
The Brewers’ stars might be Braun and Yelich. However, when the game ended, the Brewers battery was Kratz, a 29th-round draft pick, and Josh Hader, 24, the sensational fireballer who gained national attention for a series of racist and homophobic tweets he posted as a teenager.
The two jumped into each other’s arms. When he was Hader’s age, Kratz was playing one of six consecutive seasons that included time at double A.
“I really feel like I’ve played my last game for the last 12 years,” Kratz said. “The game doesn’t owe me anything. It doesn’t owe Josh Hader anything, and he may be the best left-handed pitcher coming out of the bullpen in the game right now.
“When you understand that, you appreciate these times more than anything else.”
On Friday, Kratz became the oldest player to make his postseason debut since Lave Cross of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1905.
“We played together in rookie ball,” Kratz said, jokingly.