MILWAUKEE — Down two games to one, the Brewers needed a win to stay alive in the American League Championship Series. Thanks to an explosive offense and some solid pitching from starter Moose Haas, the Brewers beat the Angels 9-5 today and will live to see another day.
The story in this one centered on the unexpected wildness of Angels starter Tommy John. John had walked only 39 batters in 221 2/3 innings between the Yankees and Angels this season (a 1.6 per nine innings average), including only two wild pitches in seven starts with the Angels. John walked five in only 3 1/3 disastrous innings on today, throwing more wild pitches (three) than he had previously in an Angels uniform.
“When Benji came in today,” said manager Harvey Kuenn, “he said his ribs were very sore. When he tells me that, I know he’s hurting.” So Kuenn inserted Brouhard, who hadn’t played since September 11.
Well, the move paid off. Brouhard would connect on three hits, driving in three and tying an ALCS record with four runs scored.
With one down and two on in a scoreless game in the second, Brouhard laced a single to center that drove in two. He also scored on the play, thanks to two Angels errors that aided his gallop around the bases. The Brewers led 3-0, but Brouhard’s biggest contribution would come later on.
The Brewers had what appeared to be an insurmountable 7-1 lead heading into the eighth inning, but the Angels finally solved Moose Haas, who had cruised to that point. A Don Baylor grand slam made it a two-run game, and the raucous Milwaukee crowd was silenced.
But with Marshall Edwards on second in the bottom of the eighth, Brouhard calmed the nerves of local fans by delivering a two-run homer to give the Brewers a comfortable four-run lead.
Was Brouhard nervous? “Before the game, we had a flip game in the clubhouse, using a plastic ball. I got in that and just tried to relax.”
Brouhard’s home run gave the Brewers the cushion they needed. Jim Slaton continued the Brewers’ uncharacteristic relief success by not allowing a baserunner in 1 2/3 innings pitched. The bullpen, which struggled through much of the second half this season, has now allowed only one earned run on three hits through eight innings in the ALCS.
Brewers fans had plenty to be happy about in this game. Moose Haas outpitched Tommy John, and looked like a staff ace until his eighth inning collapse. The Brewers’ offense finally put up three runs or more twice in one game, and the bullpen remains rock solid.
What is there to be concerned about if you’re a Brewers fan? Well, Cecil Cooper and Gorman Thomas continued to struggle in the postseason, both going hitless in this game. Cooper is hitting .125 in the ALCS and Thomas .083. Both are critical to this team’s success, and their lack of offense has a lot to do with the Brewers’ recent inability to score runs.
But here we are, facing a Game 5 at home on Sunday. The winner goes to the World Series. The Brewers have Pete Vuckovich on the mound against the Angels’ Bruce Kison. Kison held the Brewers to two runs in Game 2, and Vuke hasn’t been at his best since an inspirational 11-inning win against the Red Sox on September 20.
It’s the most important baseball game in Milwaukee since Game 7 of the 1958 World Series between the Milwaukee Braves and New York Yankees. Will the Crew come through?