Today marks nine years to the day that the Brewers won their first playoff series since 1982. Let’s look back on that historic day in franchise history.
Maybe you were at the game. Maybe you were watching it at a local tavern, a restaurant, or at home with friends. Or maybe you were like me and listening to it on the radio at work. But most Brewers fans remember where they were for game five of the 2011 NLDS.
The Brewers won a winner-take-all game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in walkoff fashion that night, pulling out a 3-2 win in the bottom of the tenth inning. It was the first time the franchise had won a playoff series win since Harvey’s Wallbangers nearly brought home a World Series title in 1982.
Brewer fans have gotten to experience more playoff moments since then, having reached the postseason in each of the last three seasons including a Wild Card appearance this year, but none of them quite live up to that night. Let’s look back on one of the most unforgettable days in Milwaukee Brewer fandom.
The lead up to game 5
The series began with an ace performance by Yovani Gallardo (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 9 K) in a 4-1 game one victory followed by an easy 9-4 win in game two that saw six different Brewers drive in runs. On the verge of a sweep, it felt like Milwaukee was heading to Arizona to go waltz their way into the NLCS.
Home cooking would end up being just what the Diamondbacks needed though. The Brewers would give up a whopping 18 runs behind a pair of poor starts by Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf, dropping both games to even the series at two games apiece and setting up for the crucial game five back in Milwaukee.
Brewers take lead after Diamondbacks strike first
Milwaukee game one starter, Gallardo, picked up where he left off, giving up just one earned run again, though this time going just six innings. That one earned run, however, came in the form of a solo home run by Justin Upton in the top of the third, giving Arizona the early 1-0 lead.
The Crew would strike back the next inning after the inimitable Nyjer Morgan led the bottom of the fourth off with a double. Later, with the bases loaded and one out, midseason pickup Jerry Hairston Jr. would knock Morgan in with a sacrifice fly to right, tying the game at one.
Two innings later, the Brewers would put themselves in front. With two on after a Ryan Braun leadoff double and a Prince Fielder walk but with two outs, Yuniesky Betancourt would hit a single to score Braun, giving Milwaukee a 2-1 lead that they would turn over to their bullpen.
Diamondbacks tie it up in the ninth
Arizona nearly tied the game in the eighth in a shaky inning by Francisco Rodriguez when they put a runner on third with one out and later had the bases loaded with two outs. K-Rod would get out of it though, handing the lead to closer John Axford, which was about as sure a thing as you could get in 2011.
Axford was stellar that year for the Brewers, compiling a 1.95 ERA and leading the league with 46 saves, also a new franchise record. He hadn’t blown a save since mid April, so it only made sense that he gave up a double, a single, and a game-tying safety squeeze single to Willie Bloomquist to blow the save and let Arizona tie the game at two.
The Ax Man was still in hot water with runners on first and second and no outs. But he settled down and returned to form, getting the next three batters out and coming back out to pitch a scoreless tenth after the Brewers failed win it in the bottom of the ninth. That led to one of the most dramatic moments in team history.
Morgan walks it off for the Brewers
After former utility man and current Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell led off the bottom of the tenth with an out, human spark plug Carlos Gomez followed with a single to left. Not long after, he stole second to put himself in scoring position.
Morgan, despite a .304 average during the regular season and with a double earlier in the game, entered the at bat just 2 for 15 with seven strikeouts in the series. So it must have been that much sweeter to him, and Brewer fans, when with a 2-2 count, he did this:
Years of frustrations since that near World Series in 1982 exploded out of Brewers fans in the form of pure jubilation. After season after season of losing records and a quick playoff exit in 2008, Milwaukee had finally won a playoff series.
The NLCS would be as far as the Brewers would get that season. Though they would even the series at two, their opponent, the eventual world champion St. Louis Cardinals, would finish Milwaukee off, ending their dream season.
But regardless of how the season ended, the Brewers gave fans the memory of a lifetime during game five of the NLDS. Outside of a World Series win, it’s a moment that will be hard to ever top.