Sports

Morgan Magic in Milwaukee

View Comments
APTOPIX NLDS Diamondbacks Brewers Baseball

By CHRIS JENKINS
AP Sports Writer

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Nyjer Morgan denounced his “haters.” He
suggested he might celebrate by taking a nice, relaxing bath. Then
he erupted with a cackle.

All while wearing a helmet in his postgame news conference.

After delivering an RBI single in the 10th inning to beat the
Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2 Friday in Game 5 and send the Milwaukee
Brewers to the NL championship series, Morgan was taking it all in
and letting his oversized, oddball personality out.

“It’s a lot, man,” Morgan said. “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.”

Next, the Brewers face NL Central nemesis St. Louis after the
wild-card Cardinals beat Philadelphia 1-0 in Game 5 of their series
Friday night. Milwaukee will open at home against St. Louis on
Sunday.

With the game tied at 2 in the 10th and Carlos 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.

Gomez was surprised when one of the first people to greet him on
the field at raucous Miller Park was Brewers principal owner Mark
Attanasio.

“You have to be smart,” Gomez said. “You have to get to the
boss first, and then your teammates.”

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,” slugger Ryan 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 and I don’t
want the season to be over yet.”

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. Attanasio ran out
onto the field immediately after Morgan’s game-winning hit and
grabbed Gomez.

“I’ve never done that,” the owner said. “I was so excited. I
could not contain myself.”

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.

“It’s emotional, man,” Prince Fielder said. “You just feel
the work and everything. Everything is paying off.”

The party continued for even the youngest Brewers.

The sons of Fielder, Yovani Gallardo and Corey Hart all pumped
up the crowd, waving their arms for more noise before doing the
“Beast Mode” celebration that the Brewers have rallied around.

The scene was similar exactly 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.

With a 2-1 lead and their tough 1-2 bullpen combination of
Francisco Rodriguez and Axford lined up for the eighth and ninth
Friday, the Brewers appeared to have their ticket punched to the
NLCS.

But the Diamondbacks had the most comeback victories in the
majors this season (48) and weren’t about to go away easily.

They nearly got the best of Rodriguez in the eighth. He loaded
the bases with two outs for Ryan Roberts, one of two Diamondbacks
players to hit a grand slam in the series. But Rodriguez got
Roberts to ground into a forceout at second base, ending the
threat.

Axford pitched the ninth, allowing a leadoff double to Gerardo
Parra. The reliever nearly hit Sean Burroughs with a pitch, then
Burroughs blooped a single to put runners on first and third.

Bloomquist pushed a bunt to the right side and Fielder nearly
collided with Axford while fielding the ball. Fielder stumbled and
was unable to get off a throw to the plate as the tying run scored.

Justin Upton grounded into a forceout at second and Henry Blanco
hit a grounder to shortstop. Yuniesky Betancourt fielded the ball
and barely beat Upton to second base to end the inning _ although
Betancourt paid for it, getting spiked in the leg.

Axford ended the regular season with 43 straight saves, and
saved Game 1 of the series. He had not blown a save chance since
April 18 at Philadelphia.

Gallardo gave up one run in six innings. The right-hander threw
112 pitches, allowing six hits while walking two and striking out
five.

Axford got the win despite a rough outing. Putz took the loss.

“We’ve had great comebacks all year. Unfortunately tonight, we
weren’t able to finish it off,” Gibson said.

After finally edging Arizona, the Brewers sprayed bubbly in the
clubhouse and waited to find out who their next opponent would be.
The Cardinals’ win meant the first game of the NL championship
series will be Sunday at Miller Park.

“I think we’ve done all our celebrating,” Roenicke said. “I
know I have. So, yeah, I’ll sit back and watch what’s going on with
those games to see if we’re staying here or we’re going on the road
tomorrow.”

NOTES: Despite 78-degree temperatures and sunny conditions at
game time, the retractable roof to Miller Park was closed. Both
managers said before the game that they didn’t care whether the
roof was open or closed, although Roenicke said he didn’t mind
having similar conditions to the previous games in the series. …
Upton’s home run was his second in the series. … Attendance was
44,028, a sellout.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

View Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,050 other followers