|If you think there was hugging on the field you should|
have seen the aisles at Miller Park, where jubilant fans
were grabbing the nearest body they could find after a
ninth-inning rally produced an 8-7 Brewers victory.
This is summer, and summer means baseball, and baseball provides those rare moments when you don't believe you could feel more excited or eurphoric about any other event on this great earth.
Brewers win! Brewers win!
After the dreaded Reds scored three runs in the top of the seventh last night, taking a 7-5 lead, we admit it was difficult to summon the energy for the "Beer Barrel Polka," the appropriate encore for "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch at Miller Park.
Then it seemed like the bottom half of the seventh ... took ... forever. Didn't we eventually strand runners at first and third without scoring? After watching a weary beer vender who was barking "Last call!" make his umpteenth trek up and down the steps of Section 126 Jess turned to me and remarked: "That guy thought his job was done a long time ago."
We don't remember much about the scoreless eighth, or even details of the top half of the ninth where Marco Estrada somehow kept the dangerous Reds' offense (Joey Votto is the scariest weapon in baseball) off the scoreboard. But the bottom of the ninth will live forever.
Reserve catcher George Kottaras led off with an ominous walk against former Brewers closer Francisco Cordero. Next All-Star Rickie Weeks, who had an inside-the-park homer in the third that made the Reds outfielders look like Larry, Moe and Curly, flew out. Damn, one away. Up came sparkplug outfielder Nyjer Morgan (alter ego: Tony Plush), who followed with a wild triple into the right field corner, scoring Kottaras and pulling the boys within one. (At this point the game's fan giveaway, a Ryan Braun Rally Towel, offically became a high-use collectors item.)
Corey Hart then followed with a chopper to the shortstop that woulda, coulda, shoulda tied the game but the Reds catcher took the throw at the plate and Morgan, a 185-pound model freight train choo-chooing down the line, couldn't dislodge the ball from the mitt. Two out.
Cordero then pitched carefully to Prince Fielder, who drew a walk, moving Hart to second. When light-hitting and slow-moving third baseman Casey McGehee, a late-inning substitution, somehow beat out an infield chopper, the bases were jammed, no place to put 'em. Up stepped reserve outfielder Mark Kotsay, who has been playing in left for the injured Braun. Kotsay had already played hero-goat on this night, with a home run and a botched play in left that aided the Reds' rally in the seventh.
Here rookie manager Ron Roenicke made his best move of the night, and maybe the season. He inserted the Carlos Gomez as a pinch-runner for Prince. Now, with the fleet Go-Go on second, a well-placed single could win it. Still, there were two outs. I don't remember exactly when we started screaming, but I can say with assurance that we never stopped until 25 minutes later when our bus shuttle -- 20 drunk and delirious fans in a 10-seat van -- triumphantly returned to Rounding Third Tavern. Come to think of it, we were just starting.
Rounding Third -- how appropriate, since that is how we remember Gomez, just a blur as he wheeled past third base coach Ed Sedar in full view from our seats. Kotsay had worked Cordero to a nail-biting 2-2 count before launching a 95 mph fastball into right. Hart was home in an instant, followed closely by Coco, who made a beautiful head-first slide to beat the throw at the plate and score the game-winner.
Pandemonium, the word, somehow doesn't seem dramatic enough, even in this morning afterglow. But it's all we have. We're out of words, out of voices, out of this world.