Brewers encouraged with gritty late victory

MILWAUKEE — On the 43rd anniversary of the franchise being awarded to the city of Milwaukee, the Brewers did something they’ve never done before.

Playing just their second ever extra innings game on Opening Day, the Brewers got the franchise’s first walk-off extra innings win when Jonathan Lucroy’s 10th inning sacrifice fly plated Rickie Weeks for a 5-4 victory over Colorado.

While Monday’s victory in front of the fifth-largest crowd in Miller Park history was a first in many of ways, it also had stretches of deja vu all over again. The Brewers trailed for most of the game and their offense seemed non-existent until a three-run eighth inning gave them the lead.

John Axford proceeded to strike out the first two batters of the ninth inning before Dexter Fowler ambushed a first pitch fastball for a home run to tie the game at 4-4.

After the high of taking the lead on Aramis Ramirez’s two-out, two-run double in the eighth inning, Miller Park’s energy was sucked out as the fans watched Axford start what he had hoped to be a bounce back season with a blown save.

While the emotion temporarily left the 45,781 at Miller Park, the home dugout never wavered. When the top of the order got up again in the 10th inning, the Brewers loaded the bases and Lucroy came through.

“You can’t ever get down much because weird things happen,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “A lot of time luck is involved in it. Sometimes when you are playing hard and you stay after it, you do get some breaks. We did a great job in the eighth inning offensively, putting pressure on the other guys.”

There’s nothing glorious or sexy about a walk-off sacrifice fly, but the Brewers battling like they did Monday afternoon is encouraging.

Sure, it’s just the first game of 162, but confidence in baseball is a funny thing. Milwaukee lost so many games just like this one last season. Winning games through adversity matters. Monday the little things mattered. If Norichika Aoki doesn’t hustle down the line to beat out an inning ending double play in the eighth inning, Ramirez doesn’t even have a chance to give the Brewers the lead.

“We just continued to compete,” Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. “We just continued to stay optimistic and we know eventually we are going to find a way to score runs. We know we have a lot of depth in the lineup and as long as the pitchers keep us in the game we will find a way to score runs.

“We lost quite a few games like this last year so I think it’s a great sign that we were able to come back and win a game like this, this year. I think it’s encouraging for all of us as we move forward.”

There are going to be days where Milwaukee’s starting pitcher struggles or the offense is silent for most of the game or Axford blows a save. For all three to happen Monday and to still win on Opening Day for the first time for the first time in five years is an encouraging sign, no matter how many games are left to be played.

Winning games on days where things don’t click is a sign of a good team. If the Brewers continue to build the sample size of wins like Monday’s, they will be in a good position. But again, it’s only April 1.

“I think it’s great,” Lucroy said. “Obviously it’s a good start. We’d rather win in nine but it’s a good ending and it turned out pretty well. Hopefully we can take the bats into tomorrow and get the bats hot.”

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