Brew­ers give Ker­shaw a rude wel­come

Dodgers ace has an­other rough Oc­to­ber out­ing

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Sports -

For years af­ter he re­tired as a player, Bob Uecker felt com­pelled to apol­o­gize to leg­endary Los An­ge­les Dodgers pitcher Sandy Ko­ufax ev­ery time he saw him, be­cause of some­thing that hap­pened on July 24, 1965.

Then play­ing – ac­tu­ally, mostly not play­ing – for the St. Louis Car­di­nals, Uecker hit one of his 14 ca­reer home runs off the great Ko­ufax at Dodger Sta­dium. Need­less to say, folks were dumb­founded.

“For what­ever rea­son, I hit Sandy fairly well,” said Uecker, who posted a ca­reer .200 bat­ting av­er­age oth­er­wise as a backup catcher. “Ev­ery time I see him, I al­ways apol­o­gize be­cause I

thought it was go­ing to keep him out of the Hall of Fame.”

Of course, the Brew­ers’ ra­dio icon was jok­ing, flash­ing his trade­mark self­dep­re­cat­ing hu­mor dur­ing a me­dia ses­sion prior to Game 1 of the NLCS at Miller Park. One thing was cer­tain when the ac­tion be­gan Fri­day night: The Brew­ers had no in­ten­tion of apol­o­giz­ing for any home runs off Los An­ge­les ace Clay­ton Ker­shaw, who has been men­tored at times by Ko­ufax.

The Brew­ers treated Ker­shaw quite rudely in tak­ing a 6-5 de­ci­sion over the Dodgers for their 12th con­sec­u­tive vic­tory. And they weren't the least bit sorry for do­ing so.

Ev­ery time Ker­shaw takes the mound in the post­sea­son, he is re­minded of his sub­par record in Oc­to­ber: now 8-8, 4.26 earned run av­er­age in 26 games (21 starts) af­ter this one. Not ex­actly the kind of work you’d ex­pect from one of the best pitch­ers of this era.

De­spite that track record, the Brew­ers ex­pected to have their hands full with Ker­shaw and the en­tire Los An­ge­les start­ing ro­ta­tion. In an­a­lyz­ing the teams be­fore the se­ries, many pro­jected the se­ries to boil down to the Dodgers’ starters vs. Mil­wau­kee’s dom­i­nant bullpen.

But Ker­shaw came up small once again, with no help from the Bad News Bears de­fense play­ing be­hind him. Yas­mani Gran­dal, in par­tic­u­lar, might want to try out a new mitt af­ter com­pil­ing catcher's Yahtzee: two passed balls, catcher's in­ter­fer­ence and an er­ror.

Ker­shaw never recorded an out in the fourth in­ning, de­part­ing af­ter a two-run sin­gle by pinch-hit­ter Domingo San­tana put the Brew­ers on top, 4-1, in­creas­ing the deci­bel level in­side the domed ball­park to ear-shat­ter­ing vol­ume.

Both teams en­tered on late-sea­son surges but none of the Fi­nal Four was hot­ter than the Brew­ers. They have not lost since Pitts­burgh’s Trevor Wil­liams shut them out, 3-0, at PNC Park on Sept. 22, nearly three weeks ear­lier.

That win­ning streak placed a dif­fer­ent kind of “pres­sure” on the Brew­ers. Con­tin­u­ing a tra­di­tion that dated back decades, lo­cal restau­rant chain George Webb promised to give away ham­burg­ers to all cus­tomers if the win­ning streak stretched to 12 games.

“Who knew that we would make it this far and the big­gest piece of stress go­ing into this game would be George Webb’s ham­burg­ers?” man­ager Craig Coun­sell joked be­fore the game.

George Webb had to pay off on that prom­ise just once pre­vi­ously in the his­tory of the Brew­ers – in 1987, when the team bolted to a record 13-0 record to open the sea­son. Shortly af­ter­ward, the Brew­ers lost 12 games in a row but the restau­rant did not ask for the burg­ers back.

Coun­sell, whose fa­ther, John, worked in the Brew­ers’ front of­fice in the '80s, was in the stands at County Sta­dium on Easter Sun­day when the home team ral­lied from three runs down in the ninth against Texas and emerged with vic­tory No. 12.

“I re­mem­ber the con­cept of free ham­burg­ers go­ing back so long, it’s hard to be­lieve that it’s never hap­pened since then,” Coun­sell said. “It’s some­thing for ev­ery­body to talk about for sure. I mean, free ham­burg­ers is free ham­burg­ers. I know you all will be there.”

Now, af­ter lo­cal cit­i­zens un­fairly had to pay for burg­ers for 31 years, they will be free once again. Ladies and gen­tle­men, start your condi­ments. Some­where, Wimpy weeps.

It cer­tainly didn’t look promis­ing when Manny Machado, the player who got away from the Brew­ers at the trade dead­line, home­red in the sec­ond in­ning off Brew­ers ini­tial out-get­ter Gio Gon­za­lez. But many mag­i­cal things have hap­pened for the Brew­ers since St. Louis pinch-run­ner Ado­lis Gar­cia tripped and fell round­ing third base at Busch Sta­dium on Sept. 26, al­low­ing Mil­wau­kee to make off with a 2-1 vic­tory that clinched a post­sea­son berth.

The turn of for­tune came this time from Brew­ers rookie righty Bran­don Woodruff, who came on in relief of Gon­za­lez and im­me­di­ately made an im­pact – with his bat. Woodruff crushed a third-in­ning homer off Ker­shaw to tie the score, be­com­ing only the fourth pitcher ever to take the Dodgers ace deep.

How crazy was that de­vel­op­ment? Well, Woodruff be­came the first Brew­ers pitcher to hit a post­sea­son homer, and just the third relief pitcher ever to do so, join­ing the New York Gi­ant’s Rosy Ryan in the 1924 World Se­ries and the Cubs’ Travis Wood in the 2016 NLDS.

That’s the kind of stuff you can’t make up. The Brew­ers got the good vibes go­ing early by send­ing Uecker out to throw out the cer­e­mo­nial first pitch, with Coun­sell do­ing the catch­ing.

“I was go­ing to take a Per­co­cet and throw it in the up­per deck,” said Mr. Base­ball. “That would have been good. That would have been good for a laugh.”

But to­tally un­nec­es­sary. Thanks to their team’s play of late, Brew­ers fans are feel­ing no pain.

And they're about to eat a whole bunch of free ham­burg­ers.

Brew­ers Tom Hau­dri­court Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel USA TO­DAY NET­WORK – WIS.

MARK HOFF­MAN / MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

Dodgers start­ing pitcher Clay­ton Ker­shaw is pulled in the fourth in­ning. He gave up four runs on six hits.

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