The Milwaukee Brewers went wild at the trading block adding veteran pieces to fit together so they could win now. Christian Yelich became an MVP. Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas brought a winning pedigree. Gio Gonzalez, who started Game 1 of the National League Division Series against Los Angeles, came in for the last month and helped the Crew make the postseason.
Milwaukee capped a marvelous September by winning the final seven regular season games. Then they beat Chicago at Wrigley for the NL Central crown. Then they swept Colorado. And they showed no signs of slowing down Friday night, besting Clayton Kershaw with an unconventional and nail-biting 6-5 victory. Twelve in a row when it matters most.
It will be known as the Brandon Woodruff Game. The 25-year-old reliever emerged as the unlikely hero, throwing two scoreless innings of relief and blasting a tape-measure homer for the first run of the game. Babe Ruth stuff. The biggest, most dominant kid in Little League stuff. Folk hero stuff from the recent pages of Madison Bumgarner.
Woodruff had 27 career appearances before the postseason began. He had 18 career plate appearances. All he’s done under the bright lights is throw five perfect innings with seven strikeouts and smack a historic homer. No left-handed hitting pitcher had ever homered off a lefty in the postseason.
Baseball is nothing if not unpredictable. Especially with Craig Counsell in the Brewers dugout playing mad scientist. Starters are now initial out-getters. Relievers are next out-getters. There are countless permutations available to get 27 outs and Milwaukee seems hellbent on exploring them all.
The newfangled strategy looks brilliant when it works. And it keeps working. Counsell’s players keep making him look good. No one more than Woodruff, who exceeded all expectations by taking over the game.
Milwaukee may not be the best team in baseball. They are, however, unquestionably the hottest. When a reliever starts mashing dingers, even a skeptic wonders if there’s some destiny at work.
There’s something special in the air in Wisconsin — and not just flying baseballs off unlikely bats.