DENVER – Total domination.
How else to describe the Milwaukee Brewers’ postseason run, which is now guaranteed to continue after what transpired on Sunday afternoon at Coors Field?
The Brewers jumped out to a first-inning lead, slowly built on it and got more terrific pitching from start to finish in totally over-matching and finally sweeping away the Colorado Rockies, 6-0, in Game 3 of the NL Division Series.
Jesús Aguilar, Orlando Arcia and Keon Broxton all homered to power a 12-hit attack, and Wade Miley set the tone with 4 2/3 strong innings out of the gate as he and five relievers combined to shut out a potent Rockies lineup for the second consecutive game.
Milwaukee, which recorded its first-ever sweep of a postseason series by dispatching Colorado, advances to the NLCS for the first time since 2011. The series opens Friday at Miller Park at a time to be determined.
The Brewers will face the winner of the Los Angeles Dodgers-Atlanta Braves series. The Dodgers lead that best-of-five NLDS series, 2-1, after the Braves won Sunday night. Game 4 is Monday in Atlanta.
“I mean, it’s a great feeling,” said manager Craig Counsell, whose team won its 11th straight game while setting a new NLDS record by limiting the Rockies to just two runs. “I told the guys, ‘We’ve earned the right to play to go to a World Series.’ And that’s a really, really special feeling.
“You know, from the time that (general manager) David Stearns came aboard in 2015 and where we were at and what our mode of operation was from that point to this point right now, it feels like it happened pretty fast to be truthful. There are a lot of people that deserve a lot of credit for that, and I’m really happy for those people.
“And then look, I’m a Milwaukee kid, and so to take part in that as a Milwaukee kid and have some responsibility of what’s going on here, it’s really meaningful to say that you’re part of a team that’s going to the NLCS.”
Milwaukee had carved out a slim 2-0 lead on a Travis Shaw fielder’s choice in the first inning and Aguilar’s homer in the fourth. It began pulling away after receiving two huge breaks in the sixth.
With one out and hard-throwing Scott Oberg on in place of starter German Márquez, Mike Moustakas singled and Erik Kratz followed with his third hit in as many at-bats – a double off the wall in right that brought Arcia to the plate.
He struck out, and Counsell called for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson to hit in Corey Knebel’s spot.
During the at-bat, Oberg accidentally dropped the ball while on the rubber for a balk and Moustakas trotted home with a gift run.
Then, in an 0-2 count, Oberg threw a slider that went through the legs of catcher Tony Wolters. He scrambled to collect the wild pitch and threw home to a covering Oberg, but not before Kratz had slapped the plate on a head-first slide that upped the Brewers’ lead to 4-0.
Kratz sprinted back to the dugout, screaming all the way, while the crowd sat in mostly stunned silence.
The veteran Milwaukee Brewers outfielder made it clear: The goal is a World Series triumph.
Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Joakim Soria pitched a scoreless sixth, and rookie Corbin Burnes (1-0) tossed a perfect seventh and eighth as the Brewers inched closer to popping champagne bottles for the third time in a very short window.
Milwaukee eliminated any doubt as the temperatures continued to drop and rain began falling when Arcia greeted Rockies closer Wade Davis in the ninth with a homer to left.
Keon Broxton followed suit with a long shot out to right-center, and a good deal of the sellout crowd of 49,658 trickled out of the ballpark in the aftermath.
Jeremy Jeffress allowed a pair of baserunners in the ninth to add a bit of drama, but Josh Hader came on to record the final two outs without incident and spark the celebration.
“Pretty good,” Hader said after a lengthy pause when asked how he’d describe the Brewers’ pitching staff. “All these guys attack the zone and try to get outs, and that’s the biggest thing about pitching – not trying to overdo anything and keeping it simple.”
How dominant was Milwaukee’s pitching in the series? Colorado both of its runs in the ninth inning of Game 1. That’s 27 scoreless innings in a 28-inning series overall and 19 consecutive to close it out.
“We pitched at a really high level this series,” said Counsell. “To give up two runs in three games and to finish it with a shutout here in the most difficult place to pitch in baseball…those guys on the staff deserve a ton of credit.
“We’ve been pitching at a really high level for a good bit here. If you take it back to the Chicago game that’s three runs in four games, and that’s something pretty special in some big games.”
With the temperature at first pitch a chilly 46 degrees, Milwaukee wasted no time getting on the board.
Christian Yelich drew a one-out walk from Márquez – his fifth free pass of the postseason already – went to third on a single to right by Ryan Braun and scored on Shaw’s grounder.
Making his first-ever postseason appearance, Miley needed only eight pitches to dispatch the Rockies in the bottom of the first. Then he worked around a Trevor Story single and Carlos González single in the second to carry Milwaukee’s lead to the third.
After D.J. LeMahieu’s two-out double amounted to nothing for Colorado in the bottom of the third, Aguilar broke out of his 0-for-7 postseason skid by belting a Márquez curveball 418 feet out to left with one out in the fourth.
A day earlier, Counsell had predicted Aguilar would hit a homer at some point in the playoffs. Little did he know it would come so quickly.
Miley retired the Rockies in order in the bottom half, then he recorded the first two outs in the fifth on a strikeout and a fielder’s choice before making way for Knebel – an interesting choice by Counsell with the left-handed-hitting Charlie Blackmon due up.
Knebel wasted no time retiring Blackmon, though, striking him out on just three pitches.
Miley allowed three hits and a walk with two strikeouts over 64 pitches, a terrific performance considering how well the Rockies typically hit left-handed pitchers and how well they hit at home.
“We got a great start from Wade Miley,” said Counsell. “He did a beautiful job keeping them off-balance. I thought his curveball was really effective today. He got through their lineup two times very effectively.
“The middle of the their lineup I thought was going to be really challenging for Wade today, but he did a really nice job against Story and LeMahieu and (Nolan) Arenado and (Matt) Holliday.
“That was the key for me.”
So many heroes, so many memorable moments and another postseason series coming up – what does it mean to Counsell?
“It’s going to take different twists and turns to get there, but the fact is we’re playing to go to the World Series, and that’s a special thing,” Counsell said.
“We’ve extended October baseball in Wisconsin.”
Brewers coach Craig Counsell talks about the next series
Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
CROSS HIM OFF: Lafayette Napoleon Cross – or Lave, as he went by – was born in Milwaukee on May 12, 1866. His name began to crop up on Friday when Kratz became the second-oldest position player to make a start in his postseason debut at 38 years and 112 days, with Cross the only player older to claim that distinction. He was 39 years 150 days old when he started at third base for the Philadelphia A’s in Game 1 of the 1905 World Series.
“We played together in rookie ball,” Kratz said to laughs earlier Sunday when asked about his connection to Cross. “I think it’s cool. I was in a big-league game, in a playoff game, so that’s cool. It’s not something that I have any control over. It’s something that is part of history, so maybe in 113 years, some dude is going to be like, Erik Kratz – is it Kratz? What is that? Any time you’re part of baseball history on the positive side, it’s really cool.”
SUPPORTING CAST ON HAND: At the end of the season, the Brewers had 36 active players, thanks to expanded September rosters. Teams are allowed only 25 players in the postseason, however, leaving some extra players with no game roles. Assistant GM Matt Arnold said teams are allowed to designate up to eight players who can be in uniform on the bench during games, so you may see some who cannot play.
“We picked eight guys,” Arnold said. “Potentially, you can do different guys in the next round. We have a handful of guys who are traveling but they can’t be in the dugout. They have to be in the stands.”
WAIT, WHAT?: Shaw collected a base hit in an unusual way in the fifth. With Braun at first base and two outs, Shaw pulled a ground ball to the right side that Braun was unable to avoid. The ball hit Braun in the foot, leaving him out on runner’s interference, Shaw with a single and first baseman Ian Desmond with the putout.
HOT STREAK: Moustakas entered Sunday sporting an eight-game postseason hitting streak that dated to Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays, then extended it to nine with a sixth-inning single. He hit .343 with four multi-hit games over that span, and also had driven in at least one run in nine of his previous 12 postseason games.
THIS AND THAT: The Brewers’ sweep was the 47th ever in the Division series. … The Brewers now have three postseason shutouts all-time. … The Brewers’ three homers Sunday are tied for most in a postseason game in franchise history. It’s been done three times now, and prior to Sunday not since Oct. 16, 2011 against St. Louis in the NLCS. … Arcia and Broxton’s back-to-back homers are the first ever in Milwaukee postseason history.
FRIDAY: Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves vs. Brewers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park. Time/TV to be determined.
The best-of-seven NLCS starts Friday in Milwaukee vs. the winner of the Dodgers-Braves series. Times are TBD. Games will be televised on either Fox or FS1.
Game 1: Friday, Oct 12 at Milwaukee
Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 13 at Milwaukee
Game 3: Monday, Oct. 15 at Los Angeles/Atlanta
Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 16 at Los Angeles/Atlanta
Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 17 at Los Angeles/Atlanta
Game 6: Friday, Oct. 19 at Milwaukee
Game 7: Saturday, Oct. 20 at Milwaukee
Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.