CINCINNATI(AP) – The carpeting in the Brewers’ clubhouse was still damp from all the bubbly and beer sprayed around the place only a dozen hours earlier. No matter. With a chance for an even bigger celebration ahead, Milwaukee locked in and kept on winning.
It’s going to be an interesting weekend in the NL Central.
Orlando Arcia doubled with the bases loaded, and the Brewers shook off the fizz from their playoffs-clinching celebration to close on the division lead Thursday, beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-3 for their seventh straight victory .
The Brewers earned at least a wild card with a 9-2 win on Wednesday night, dousing each other in the clubhouse afterward. Little more than 12 hours after the empty bottles and cans were cleared away, Milwaukee focused on an even bigger prize.
“We made it so it’s a big weekend in Denver,” manager Craig Counsell said.
Milwaukee moved within one game of the idle Cardinals for first place heading into the final weekend, the same status as a year ago when the Brewers also were a game out with three to play. They caught the Cubs and then beat them at Wrigley Field in a one-game tiebreaker for the division title.
Milwaukee concludes with three games at Coors Field against the team it swept in the playoffs last year before losing to the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series. The Cardinals host the Cubs.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” Counsell said “We need some help. It’s an uphill climb with three games to go, but we’ve given ourselves a chance. To get it to one game with three to play, you feel like you definitely put some heat on the Cardinals.”
Just like last year, the Brewers have used a sizzling September in their race toward the top. Despite losing 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich to a broken kneecap, the Brewers have won 18 of 20 and have the best September record in the majors at 20-4. Their seven-game winning streak matches their longest this season.
“Yeah, people don’t believe it, but here we are,” Arcia said through a translator .
Counsell’s Brewers swept the Reds for the second time this season, also taking a three-game series in April at Great American Ball Park.
“I’ve always respected him and the way his teams play,” Reds manager David Bell said. “They’re a lot like how he was as a player. Outside of us not being in it, I’m happy for them. As a fan, it’s fun to watch them.”
The Reds’ focus was on broadcaster Marty Brennaman’s final game after 46 seasons. The mayor declared Marty Brennaman Day during pregame festivities, and the 77-year-old broadcaster headed to the booth one last time before retirement.
Fans hoped to hear his “this one belongs to the Reds” call after a victory, but not even Cincinnati’s ace could make it happen. Luis Castillo (15-8) walked the bases loaded in the fourth and gave up Arcia’s bases-clearing double off the glove of left fielder Josh VanMeter. Ben Gamel followed with another double for a 4-1 lead.
Chase Anderson (8-4) allowed Aristides Aquino’s solo homer in five innings, then turned it over to a bullpen that’s the team’s strength. Josh Hader escaped a bases-loaded threat in the eighth and got the last four outs for his 37th save in 43 chances.
When Alex Blandino failed to check his swing with two strikes and two outs in the ninth, Brennaman said: “And he went around, that’s a strikeout, and that’s your ballgame.” A few minutes later, he got choked up several times and had to pause to collect himself during his final radio sign-off.
“I’m proud to say I’m a Cincinnatian,” Brennaman said. “And for those who are listening wherever they might be, just know how much you’re loved … (long pause) … and how much you’re appreciated. That’s all I got.”
Brennaman is one of eight major league broadcasters who covered one team for at least 46 seasons, joining the Dodgers’ Vin Scully (67), the Mets’ Ralph Kiner (52), the Royals’ Denny Matthews (51), the Brewers’ Bob Uecker (49), the Cardinals’ Jack Buck and Mike Shannon (48), and the Dodgers’ Jaime Jarrin (47).
Aquino’s homer was the Reds’ 223rd of the season, setting a club record. They hit 222 in 2005.
Brennaman’s final game drew 27,774 fans and boosted Cincinnati’s home attendance to 1,775,396, a slight increase over last season. The Reds drew 1,629,356 last year, their lowest since 1984.
Brewers: Eric Thames felt hamstring discomfort after running out a grounder in the second inning and left the game as a precaution.