Brewers’ Playoff Push Comes To A Painful End Despite Walk-Off Win

Not since the the iconic opening credits of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” aired for the last time has the thrill of victory been so closely followed by the agony of defeat.

There’s simply no better way to describe the formal end to the Milwaukee Brewers’ pursuit of a franchise-record fifth consecutive postseason appearance.

Within moments of capping off perhaps their most unlikely victory of the season, the Brewers were officially eliminated from playoff contention when the Philadelphia Phillies closed out a 3-0 victory over the Astros in Houston.

“We did our part and battled to the end here and found a way to win a game but obviously, it’s bittersweet when it ends up not meaning much,” said Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich.

“But we put ourselves in this position.”

That very well be the most astute analysis of the Milwaukee Brewers offered this season.

Still bitter from the stunning knockout blow delivered by the Atlanta Braves in the NL Division Series last fall, the Brewers reported to camp — albeit behind schedule thanks to the 99-day lockout — with legitimate World Series aspirations thanks to a dominant starting rotation that included the reigning NL Cy Young winner and a lockdown bullpen, anchored by two-time All-Star closer Josh Hader.

For awhile, it looked like the playoffs were inevitable. The Brewers had the best record in franchise history through their first 50 games and despite slumping into the All-Star break, still led the Central by three games as July came to a close.

Critics will point to a disastrous sequence of events ahead of the Aug. 2 trade deadline for the Brewers’ downfall. President of Baseball Operations David Stearns stunned fans, pundits and even players in his own clubhouse by dealing Hader for a pair of prospects and two big-league relievers — one of whom would never throw a pitch for Milwaukee — and adding two other relief arms without bringing in any offensive help.

Stearns made it clear that efforts to acquire a bat were made but ultimately failed. Only he and his staff will ever know how close such a deal may have been but the optics were not positive.

Nonetheless, the team still had more than enough talent to not just make the postseason but also a deep run, a fact Yelich reiterated during a solemn and candid postgame interview.

“I think it’s an easy way out,” Yelich said. “You can kind of point your finger and say if we didn’t do that, we would be in the playoffs but I really don’t think that’s true. I think the guys remaining in this room, myself included, didn’t do a good enough job. We had opportunity after opportunity and we just couldn’t capitalize.”

The Brewers final homestand illustrated that point perfectly.

They were 1 1/2 games back of Philadelphia when they took the field against St. Louis on Sept. 27. While the Phillies got swept by the Cubs, the Brewers split a pair with the Cardinals and took the opener of a four-game set with Miami to get within a half-game of a playoff spot.

But they blew a 2-0 lead late in the second game and managed just a single run in the third before falling again in the finale despite another late rally.

In all, Milwaukee managed just nine runs during its four games against the Marlins and only one through the first eight innings Monday against the Diamondbacks.

It felt like for a large part of the season, it was just one step forward and one step back.,” manager Craig Counsell said. “It felt like that this weekend. We just seemed so close to taking that next step forward. Like this weekend showed, we just couldn’t do it.”

For a brief moment Monday night, there was hope but as has so often been the case this season, the moment was short-lived. While the Brewers celebrated a hard-fought victory, the Phillies closed out their victory and just like that, it was over.

“It hurts,” Counsell said. “It stinks. It’s no fun not making the playoffs when you have expectations of making the playoffs, you have a team to make the playoffs and the people to get you deep in the playoffs.

“It’s disappointing, it hurts and it’s frustrating.”