Morgan lifts Brewers past D-backs in 10, into NLCS
Carlos Gomez raced around third, made a slightly awkward slide and swiped the plate with his hand. Then came the mayhem.
But even as a chaotic celebration erupted all around him after Nyjer Morgan's 10th-inning RBI single beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2 and put Milwaukee in the NLCS, Gomez was slightly surprised by one of the first faces to greet him: Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio.
''You have to be smart,'' Gomez said. ''You have to get to the boss first, and then your teammates. Mark, he's right there when I score, and the first guy I see is him. I give him a big hug and I say, 'Thank you.'''
It was somewhat out of character for the easygoing owner, a multimillionaire Los Angeles investment banker who came to the ballpark Friday wearing a sweatshirt, blue jeans and sneakers.
''I've never done that,'' Attanasio said of rushing the field. ''I've never run out. I was so excited. I could not contain myself.''
Now the Brewers will find out if they can contain NL Central nemesis St. Louis, after the Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 in Game 5 of their series Friday night.
That sets up a juicy matchup between the tradition-bound Cardinals and the upstart Brewers, a clubhouse filled with freewheeling personalities who occasionally have earned the ire of St. Louis manager Tony La Russa.
''Either way, we're going to have our hands full,'' Brewers slugger Ryan Braun said, before he knew the Brewers' next opponent. ''It would be great if we played St. Louis because we would have home-field advantage. ... Either way, it'll be challenging, but I'm excited we get a chance to compete.''
For Prince Fielder, postgame tears were a mix of champagne spray and emotion. Fielder will become a free agent and might not be back with the Brewers next year - but for now, his run with the team isn't ending.
''It's emotional, man,'' Fielder said. ''You play hard. When you have success like that and you're able to win given all the work you put in, you know, I love this game. You just feel the work and everything. Everything is paying off.''
But in a clubhouse filled with XL-sized personalities, none loom larger than the delightfully offbeat Morgan.
''It's a lot, man,'' said Morgan, who wore a helmet in his postgame news conference. ''Basically just everything that I've had to overcome, just the stuff that people go out there and perceive about me, everything. Just all my haters. I just wanted to show them that I can play this game, even though I have a fun, bubbly personality. I still come to win, and I'm a winner.''
The Brewers would expect nothing less from their rabble-rousing, run-producing force, who often refers to himself by the name of his self-created alter ego, ''Tony Plush.'' Morgan might have worn out his welcome with other teams, but he's winning over the Brewers and their fans.
''He's a joy to have, I'll tell you,'' Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. ''I don't care about all the little issues we have. This guy, I love him on this team. I like him as a really nice young man. He came through big, again, when we needed him.''
With the game tied at 2 in the 10th and Gomez on second base with one out, Morgan hit a grounder up the middle and Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz tried in vain to stop it with his leg. The ball went into center field and Gomez sailed across home plate as a wild throw home went awry.
Morgan was mobbed by the Brewers near the mound after the latest dramatic finish for baseball's best home team gave Milwaukee its first victory in a postseason series since it won the AL pennant in 1982.
''We've heard all about 1982, so it's nice to start our own legacy,'' Braun said.
Arizona did all it could to extend its surprising season. Center fielder Chris Young made a jaw-dropping catch in the sixth and the Diamondbacks had one last comeback left in the ninth.
''I'm not ready to go home yet,'' Young said. ''I'm not hanging my head because I think we could have done anything different. I'm hanging my head just because I want to keep playing.''
Willie Bloomquist drove in the tying run with a safety squeeze, but Arizona was unable to forge ahead against closer John Axford.
''This was a great baseball game today. I'm not happy to be on this end of it. Yet I'm proud of my team and they played true to the way they played all year,'' Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said.
''And the Brewers, they cashed in on their opportunities, what can we say? We had tons of opportunities.''
Morgan was a critical addition for the Brewers this year and had several clutch hits, winning fans along the way.
''Nyjer got the biggest hit of his life, one of the biggest hits in Brewers history,'' Braun said. ''We're all proud, man. It's pretty cool.''
But Morgan wasn't having a particularly productive series until his big moment in the deciding game - although he bristled at the suggestion that he was struggling.
''What struggles?'' Morgan said. ''It's baseball, man.''
Afterward, the Brewers spent more than an hour celebrating with thousands of Miller Park fans who stuck around.
Then, the principal owner who bought the team from the Selig family in September 2004, continued to party by high-fiving fans while standing on top of the first-base dugout.
The scene was similar to two weeks earlier when Milwaukee captured its first division title since winning the AL East in 1982.
That was also the last time Milwaukee won a round in the postseason, when it captured the American League pennant before losing in seven games to St. Louis in the World Series.
''Anytime you have a city that backs a team like they've backed us, it's huge to be able to win, and going to that next round,'' Roenicke said. ''We still have some work to do to get to that ultimate goal that we want. But this is great getting through this round and getting to the next one.''