video thumbnail

PIT@MIL: Greinke fans Cedeno for his 200th K of 2011

MILWAUKEE -- For the first time in 30 years, the Brewers will open the playoffs at home.

With a 7-3 victory over the Pirates in their final regular-season game Wednesday, the Brewers wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the National League and home-field advantage for their NL Division Series matchup with the D-backs, beginning Saturday on TBS.

Playing in front of 41,976 fans at Miller Park, the Brewers set the new franchise attendance record at 3,071,373, while also setting a new club mark with their 96th win of the season.

"It's special. We recognize that we're a really tough team to beat here," said left fielder Ryan Braun. "It's a huge advantage for us to know that we have home-field advantage, at least for the first round."

Needing a win to avoid opening the NLDS on the road, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke called upon Zack Greinke, who delivered a solid outing and remained unbeaten in 15 starts this season at Miller Park.

Greinke allowed two runs on five hits over six innings, with four strikeouts and one walk. Pitching on three days' rest, Greinke tossed 74 pitches before turning it over to the bullpen. He kept his home ERA at 3.13 for the season, well below his overall mark of 3.83.

"He was executing, he had life, he had velocity," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "I couldn't tell he was on short rest."

The Brewers went 15-0 with Greinke on the mound at home this season. But with his start Wednesday, the right-hander is now lined up for Game 3 in the NLDS, which will be on the road. Roenicke said Greinke was likely ruled out of Game 2, but pitching coach Rick Kranitz and Greinke left the possibility out there.

"Yeah, I should be," said Greinke when asked if he would be ready to go again on three days' rest. "I'm sure [Roenicke] will make the decision that he thinks is best for the team. We'll see what he decides."

Greinke went 11-0 at home this season, making him the 14th pitcher since 1900 to win at least 10 games at home in a season without a loss. He is the first since Cliff Lee went 10-0 at home for the Indians in 2008. Greinke posted a 5-6 mark with a 4.70 ERA on the road.

With four strikeouts on the night, Greinke finished with 201 on the year, his second-career 200-strikeout season. Greinke joins Yovani Gallardo as the first teammates in Brewers history to post 200 or more strikeouts in the same season.

"It's all worked out better than I imagined so far," Greinke said of his first season in Milwaukee. "It's been great. It's been a good year."

A pair of third-inning solo homers by Lucroy and Corey Hart put the Brewers in front, and a three-run blast by Carlos Gomez in the fourth gave Greinke some extra breathing room.

Lucroy's home run was his first since Sept. 4, in Houston. The Brewers also added an insurance run in each of the fifth and sixth innings to put the game out of reach.

Takashi Saito, Francisco Rodriguez and closer John Axford combined for the final three innings, allowing just one unearned run on one hit with three strikeouts. Axford pitched in a non-save situation, leaving him at 46 saves and tied with Braves closer Craig Kimbrel for the NL lead.

Braun went 0-for-4 on the night, finishing the season with a .332 batting average and second behind Mets shortstop Jose Reyes (.337) for the NL batting title. Braun entered the game needing a 3-for-4 night or better to clinch the first batting title in club history.

Milwaukee's other MVP candidate, first baseman Prince Fielder, was 1-for-3, leaving him a hit shy of his first career .300 season. Fielder finished with 38 home runs, second behind Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp (39) for the NL home run crown.

For both sluggers, the trip to the postseason more than made up for coming up short on their personal goals.

"It's extremely difficult, extremely challenging to get to the postseason. By far, that's been my top priority," Braun said. "It's made it really easy to not think about what's going on, not focus on some of my personal things that I had going on. I'm definitely excited about the postseason."

Said Fielder: "It's just the way it was supposed to be. It's bigger than me right now."

While they did not play a big role in the final regular-season game, Braun and Fielder are two of the biggest reasons that the Brewers finished with the second-best record in the NL this season.

They likely will be crucial to Milwaukee's postseason success as well.

"This is what it's all about," Roenicke said. "Once you get into October, it's really fun to see who's going to be that guy that steps up and likes that moment where it's on him."

MLB.com Comments