You spend an entire offseason building a team, and in the end, it's Yuniesky Betancourt and Carlos Gomez who send that team to the National League Championship Series. Of course. Oh, and Nyjer Morgan had a hand in it too, though he'd be too bashful to admit it. The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 5 of the NLDS, winning 3-2 in extra innings to advance to the NLCS.
The Brewers and Diamondbacks were separated this season by two wins. Two measly wins. Of all the playoff series, this one might have been the most evenly matched. Heck, when it got to Game 4, each team found a way to start a soft-tossing lefty with a 3.69 ERA. The Brewers had Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to go along with home-field advantage, but the Diamondbacks had Justin Upton, the mysterious Paul Goldschmidt, and a balanced lineup.
And when it got to Game 5, both teams could put a front-line pitcher on the mound. The Brewers had Yovani Gallardo going, and the Diamondbacks had Ian Kennedy. Both of them had the same strategy when it came to their fastballs -- pound, pound, pound, pound the outside corner. Sometimes they'd get the calls, and sometimes they wouldn't. But it was fascinating to watch two pitchers stretching the outside corner for the first two-thirds of the game.
The pitchers weren't perfect, though. Both teams had their chances early and late, but the Diamondbacks were the only ones to figure out how to hit the other teams' bullpen.
The Diamondbacks got on the board first. With two outs in the third, Gallardo started Upton off with two fastballs on the fringe of the strike zone. He got both calls. When he threw a slider right through the strike zone, though, he didn't get the call:
The fifth pitch was called a ball. The sixth was drilled over the right-field fence for a solo homer to put Arizona up 1-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Brewers loaded the bases with one out, and Jerry Hairston, Jr. popped up to the second baseman, Aaron Hill, who was running away from the infield into foul territory. Nyjer Morgan sped home from third to tie the game, but that was the only run that Milwaukee would get out of the rally.
A similar bittersweet rally came in the sixth inning. Braun doubled to lead off and Fielder walked, bringing up Rickie Weeks, who popped up a bunt for the first out. Jerry Hairston came close to clearing the bases with an extra-base hit, but Chris Young made one of the better catches of the season:
At the time, that saved at least two runs. The Brewers would take the lead on a two-out hit from Yuniesky Betancourt, stealthy clutch-monger that he is, so it turned out to save only one run. Still, it was a magnificent play, and it held Milwaukee to a 2-1 lead.
That's how it would stay through the eighth, though not without drama. Francisco Rodriguez came in and had the entire state of Wisconsin clutching their chest and telling Elizabeth that they were coming, as he is wont to do. Rodriguez gave up two walks and a single, but he gave them up in just the right order, and he got Ryan Roberts to ground out to end the inning.
In the ninth, John Axford gave up a double to Gerardo Parra on his first pitch of the inning. Sean Burroughs followed with a fister off his thumbs into shallow left, moving Parra to third. Willie Bloomquist continued his Raines of terror as the lead-off hitter, pushing a perfect safety squeeze up the first-base line that the Brewers couldn't handle, and the Diamondbacks were suddenly tied 2-2. Axford hadn't blown a save since April; he settled down, getting out of the first-and-second, no-out jam in the ninth, and shutting down the Diamondbacks in the 10th.
In the bottom of the 10th, Carlos Gomez singled off J.J. Putz with one out, and he stole second with Nyjer Morgan in a 1-1 count. With Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder lurking, Putz couldn't get too cute with Morgan, and the center fielder hit a hard grounder just past Putz's attempt at a kick-save, scoring Gomez well ahead of Chris Young's throw.