Brewers avoid another long postseason wait

Doug Melvin’s bold offseason moves helped Milwaukee earn a

playoff berth for the second time in four years.

Now back in the postseason, the Brewers are hoping to stick

around for a while.

Melvin, who became Milwaukee’s general manager in 2002, acquired

2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum over

the span of two weeks in December by trading away the top talent in

Milwaukee’s farm system. The bolstered starting rotation played a

key role in the Brewers’ first division title since 1982.

Once Melvin got the OK from owner Mark Attanasio, he

pounced.

”When Greinke and Marcum became available, we said we had to go

for it. We had to put our thinking hats on, act quickly, be

prepared,” Melvin said. ”Mark gave us the ability to go out and

push our payroll to 90 million or whatever it is. Who cares.”

The Brewers also kept free-agent-to-be Prince Fielder instead of

dealing him, setting up a ”win now” scenario. And it paid

off.

Next up, the Brewers are hoping to secure home-field advantage

for the first round. They will be all set if they finish ahead of

Arizona in the standings.

”Home-field advantage would obviously be huge because of what

it’s like to play here,” Brewers right fielder Corey Hart said.

”Hopefully things go our way. We’re going to push and try to get

it done.”

If Milwaukee and Arizona are tied at the end of the season, the

Diamondbacks hold the tiebreaker because they won the season series

4-3. The loser almost certainly will be headed to Philadelphia.

Milwaukee’s terrific record in Miller Park has been a major

factor in its run. The Brewers entered Saturday’s game against

Florida with a major league-best 53-23 home record and will be the

only postseason team to have a losing record on the road.

That’s why the Brewers are focusing on the final days of the

regular season, ignoring the lingering smell of champagne and

carpet cleaner in the clubhouse Saturday, along with a stray pair

or two of goggles.

”Last time the Brewers got to the playoffs, I got to witness

it, but from the opposing clubhouse. I can remember being back in

the clubhouse when they clinched, having it sound like you were in

the middle of the infield it was so loud,” Brewers third baseman

Casey McGehee said. ”For three years I’ve been anxiously awaiting

a chance to hear that again. It was incredible to be in the middle

of it and just kind of taking it in. It was unbelievable.”

Milwaukee secured the NL Central title when Ryan Braun hit a

three-run homer in a 4-1 victory over the Marlins on Friday night,

and the Cubs beat the Cardinals 5-1 in St. Louis. The Brewers had

to wait more than 20 minutes for the end of the Cardinals’ game

before the party began.

But Melvin and Attanasio had a plan for this team from the

start.

”(They) did an unbelievable job of putting this team

together,” rookie manager Ron Roenicke said. ”I knew that core

group. I knew we had a good team, but I knew we had some holes. But

Doug addressed that.”

Melvin also added depth in the offseason, bringing in Nyjer

Morgan, Mark Kotsay and reliever Takashi Saito. His final big move

was trading for Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez at the All-Star

break.

”We knew we traded for good, quality pitchers,” Melvin said.

”Pitching is the name of the game. Then we got K-Rod at the

All-Star game and our next move was to just tell Doug Melvin to get

the hell out of the way and let them play.”

The moves have left a big impression on Melvin’s team.

”Doug has the ability and the freedom to go after what he

wants,” Brewers starter Randy Wolf said. ”In 2010, it wasn’t a

good year for us. In the offseason, to get a guy like Marcum, to

get a guy like Greinke by trade, not free agents. They weren’t in

the bidding war for Cliff Lee, but to get guys like those two

pitchers, it’s pretty remarkable.”

And they’re two reasons why Milwaukee believes this postseason

run will last longer than four games, like 2008 did. The Brewers

snapped a 26-year playoff drought that season, but needed a furious

rally in the final week and a Mets collapse to win the NL wild

card.

”In ’08, we were so excited just to get there,” Hart said. ”I

don’t think we really thought we’d go to the World Series, we were

just so excited to make the playoffs. This year, we have a team

that feels like it’s not just getting there, we feel like we can do

some good things when we get there.”