With the renaming of Miller Park officially happening at year’s end, here at Reviewing the Brew, we’re going to remember the top Brewers moments in Miller Park’s history.
Starting on January 1st, the Brewers home stadium will no longer be called Miller Park, but instead will be called American Family Field. Despite fan uproar about the change, it’s going to happen. The stadium has been named Miller Park for 20 years and has brought some incredible memories to Brewers fans.
We are going to be remembering some of the most important moments that came from this stadium and tell the stories of these days. Today, it’s Mike Moustakas‘s game one walkoff against the Colorado Rockies in the 2018 NLDS.
Moose’s Game 1 NLDS Walkoff vs. the Rockies (October 4th, 2018)
Let’s set the stage for this one a little bit. In 2008, the Milwaukee Brewers ended a 26-year playoff drought on the backs of CC Sabathia and Ryan Braun. In 2011, they made it two playoff appearances in four seasons.
It wouldn’t be until 2018, however, that the Brewers would make their way back to the postseason. And what a team it was that got them there.
There were offseason acquisitions Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, who went on to win the NL MVP that year. There was the three-headed bullpen monster of Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, and Corey Knebel. Oh, and like any recent Brewer playoff run, there was trusty old Ryan Braun.
That team went on to tie a club record with 96 wins that year. But it took them one extra game to do it as Milwaukee knocked off the rival Cubs on the road in game 163, earning the Brewers the NL Central title and a NLDS matchup with the Rockies, who knocked Chicago out in the Wild Card round.
The scene was as electric as a Brewers fan could imagine for game one. Fans felt like they had a special team that season and for their first playoff home game in seven years, they wanted everyone to know it.
Just as the home fans had hoped, the Brewers struck first. In the bottom of the third, after Cain drew a one-out walk, Yelich crushed the very first pitch of his at bat to left-center field and Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon watched it go as Milwaukee jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
That was nearly all the offense the Brewers would need for the day. Brandon Woodruff, who got the start after impressing out of the bullpen as a September call up, had thrown a scoreless, hitless three innings right before that, walking one and striking out three.
Then it was Corbin Burnes‘ turn. The impressive rookie, who had a 2.61 ERA during the regular season and was emerging as yet another weapon out of the Milwaukee bullpen, threw two scoreless innings of his own, striking out another three Rockies.
Then the game was handed to the team’s fearsome trio. First it was Knebel, who gave up just a walk over 1 2/3 innings. Then Hader, who struck out three of the four batters he faced. All in all, Colorado had mustered just a hit and two walks with ten strikeouts through eight innings.
To their credit, the Rockies’ pitching had settled down after Yelich’s home run, keeping Milwaukee off the scoreboard the next five innings. Thus, the score remained 2-0 going into the top of the ninth with the ball handed over to the team’s closer, Jeremy Jeffress.
There was no reason for the fans to have any fear. Jeffress had taken over the closer’s role after Knebel struggled mid-season. He hadn’t given up a run in over a month and finished the season with a 1.29 ERA. So naturally, everything nearly fell apart.
First, it was single by former Brewer Gerardo Parra. Then another one by Matt Holliday. Then a third by Blackmon, scoring Parra. The snowball continued when DJ LeMahieu reached after Orlando Arcia booted a routine grounder and one batter later, a sac fly Nolan Arenado tied it.
Lead gone. Crowd deflated.
Wisconsin fans had seen this before. They’d experienced plenty of playoff heartbreak. “Here we go again,” was ringing through many fans’ heads.
Except this wasn’t one of those same old teams. Jeffress settled down, got the next batter to ground to Travis Shaw at first, catching Blackmon in a rundown between third and home for the second out, and struck out Trevor Story for the third out, mercifully allowing the game to continue.
The Brewers went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, sending the game to extras. The Rockies did the same in the top of the tenth. That set the stage for Milwaukee’s theatrics in the bottom of the tenth.
Yelich began the frame with a walk. After a strikeout by Braun, Shaw was intentionally walked to avoid the lefty-righty matchup. Pinch hitter Curtis Granderson nearly ended the inning with a grounder to short, but was able to reach on the fielder’s choice without a throw. That left it up to Moustakas, who drove the crowd into a frenzy with one swing of the bat on an 0-2 count.
And Hernan Perez was dead-set on celebrating with a Gatorade shower.
This game wasn’t just your standard playoff walkoff win (as if there could be such a thing). It let Brewers fans think that maybe, just maybe, this team wouldn’t be the one whose season ended in heartbreak. Because this team was special. And this team was going to go all the way.
Unfortunately, that wouldn’t end up being the case. Though the Brewers would go on to sweep the Rockies and push the Los Angeles Dodgers to the brink in the NLDS, their 2018 season would end just one game short of the second World Series in team history. But for a night, it felt like the title was Milwaukee’s to lose.
Stay tuned to Reviewing the Brew as we share more of our favorite memories of the 20 years of Miller Park.