MILWAUKEE (AP) — When the Milwaukee Brewers were 12 games under .500 on Aug. 19, very few fans expected the team would rebound, let alone have a winning season and be in contention for the NL playoffs down to the last few days.
But with the Brewers’ 5-3 win Monday over the San Diego Padres, the Brewers clinched a winning season for the second straight year. The Brewers won 28 of the last 40 to turn the season around and make a run at an NL wild card before being officially eliminated after a loss Sunday.
“I don’t think anyone thought we would have a winning season, considering where we were in August,” said catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who hit a home run Monday. “We wanted to be in the playoffs, but we never gave up this year. I think we really showed the character of the team.”
Brewers closer John Axford struck out the side in the ninth inning Monday to get his 34 save in 43 chances. It was a nice bounce back for Axford, who struggled this season blowing nine saves, including one Thursday in Cincinnati when the team was still battling for the wild card.
“This shows that perserverance pays off,” he said. “We never gave up despite our record in August. I think we have a very good team and am confident we can rebound next season.”
Shaun Marcum (7-4) gave up two runs and six hits in six innings. Marcum was likely making his last start for the Brewers as the team is not expected to re-sign the veteran pitcher. It was his second straight victory after not winning a game since June 8 as he spent two months on the disabled list with right elbow tightness before being activated Aug. 25.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Marcum was good enough to get the win.
“He mixed speeds well and really battled,” Roenicke said. “We always knew Shaun knew how to pitch. It is just a question of keeping him healthy.”
Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez added home runs for the Brewers, who pounded out 10 hits.
Clayton Richard (14-14) gave up five runs and 10 hits in seven innings for his second straight loss after winning five straight decisions.
Richard said he was not executing his pitches.
“They jumped on everything I didn’t execute,” he said.
The Brewers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first. With two outs, Ryan Braun lined a double down the right-field line and scored on Aramis Ramirez’s RBI single.
Richard’s first career home run with one out in the third inning tied the score at 1-1 for the Padres. Marcum then walked three of the next four batters, but got Yonder Alonso to fly out to end the inning.
“I’ll take a win over a homer every time,” Richard said. “But it’s definitely neat to be able to do that (hit a home run). It was just more luck than anything.”
Gomez’s career-high 19th home run of the season gave the Brewers a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning. Gomez’s previous high eight in 2011.
Weeks’ two-run home run in the fifth inning boosted Milwaukee’s lead to 4-1. It was the Brewers’ 200th home run of the season, the second straight season the team has hit that mark and only the fifth time in team history.
Jesse Guzman’s RBI single in the sixth inning scored Will Venable for the Padres to cut the lead to 4-2. Venable had doubled down the right field line and then stole third base.
Lucroy’s 12th home run of the season in the sixth inning increased the Brewers’ lead to 5-2.
San Diego pulled to 5-3 in the seventh inning on Yasman Grandal’s RBI single.
NOTES: Padres manager Bud Black said RHP Casey Kelley will not make his scheduled start Tuesday due to general arm and elbow soreness. RHP Anthony Bass (2-7) will start in his place. … Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had a team meeting before the game to tell his team he was pleased with the way they had played in the last month to get back into the NL wild-card race. … Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers visited Braun in the clubhouse before the game. The two are close friends and are involved in the ownership of a Milwaukee-area restaurant together.