Brewers soak it up
MILWAUKEE - Nyjer Morgan denounced his “haters.’’ He suggested he might celebrate by taking a nice, relaxing bath. Then he erupted with a cackle.
All while wearing a helmet in his postgame news conference.
After delivering an RBI single in the 10th inning to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-2, yesterday in Game 5 and send the Milwaukee Brewers to the National League Championship Series, Morgan was taking it all in and letting his oversized, oddball personality out.
“It’s a lot, man,’’ Morgan said. “Basically just everything that I’ve had to overcome, just the stuff that people go out there and perceive about me, everything. Just all my haters. I just wanted to show them that I can play this game, even though I have a fun, bubbly personality. I still come to win, and I’m a winner.’’
The Brewers would expect nothing less from their rabble-rousing, run-producing force who often refers to himself by the name of his self-created alter ego, “Tony Plush.’’ Morgan might have worn out his welcome with other teams, but he’s winning over the Brewers and their fans.
“He’s a joy to have, I’ll tell you,’’ Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “I don’t care about all the little issues we have. This guy, I love him on this team. I like him as a really nice young man. He came through big, again, when we needed him.’’
With the game tied at 2 in the 10th and Carlos Gomez on second base with one out, Morgan hit a grounder up the middle and Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz tried in vain to stop it with his leg. It went into the outfield, and Gomez sailed across home plate as a wild throw home went awry.
Morgan was mobbed by teammates near the mound after the latest dramatic finish for baseball’s best home team at raucous Miller Park gave Milwaukee its first victory in a postseason series since it won the AL pennant in 1982.
“We’ve heard all about 1982, so it’s nice to start our own legacy,’’ slugger Ryan Braun said.
The NLCS begins tomorrow, with the Brewers hosting the Cardinals. St. Louis posted a 1-0 win at Philadelphia in Game 5 last night.
Arizona did all it could to extend its surprising season. Center fielder Chris Young made a jaw-dropping catch in the sixth to save two runs and the Diamondbacks had one last comeback left in the ninth.
Willie Bloomquist drove in the tying run with a safety squeeze, but Arizona was unable to forge ahead against closer John Axford.
“This was a great baseball game today. I’m not happy to be on this end of it. Yet I’m proud of my team and they played true to the way they played all year,’’ Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said.
“And the Brewers, they cashed in on their opportunities, what can we say? We had tons of opportunities.’’
Morgan was a critical addition for the Brewers this year and had several clutch hits, winning fans along the way. But he wasn’t having a particularly productive series until his big moment in the deciding game.
“He’s been getting big hits all year,’’ Braun said. “He enjoys the moment.’’
With a 2-1 lead and their tough 1-2 bullpen combination of Francisco Rodriguez and Axford lined up for the eighth and ninth, the Brewers appeared to have their ticket punched to the NLCS.
But the Diamondbacks had the most comeback victories in the majors this season (48) and weren’t about to go away easily.
They nearly got the best of Rodriguez in the eighth. He loaded the bases with two outs for Ryan Roberts, one of two Diamondbacks players to hit a grand slam in the series. But Rodriguez got Roberts to ground into a force out at second base.
Axford pitched the ninth, allowing a leadoff double to Gerardo Parra. The reliever nearly hit pinch hitter Sean Burroughs with a pitch, then Burroughs blooped a single to put runners on first and third.
Bloomquist pushed a bunt to the right side and first baseman Prince Fielder nearly collided with Axford while fielding the ball. Fielder stumbled and was unable to get off a throw to the plate as the tying run scored.
Justin Upton grounded into a force out at second and pinch hitter Henry Blanco hit a grounder to shortstop. Yuniesky Betancourt fielded the ball and barely beat Upton to second base to end the inning - although Betancourt paid for it, getting spiked in the left leg.
Axford had not blown a save chance since April 18 at Philadelphia.