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Brewers clinch Central after Cubs drop ball, game

Brewers clinch Central after Cubs drop ball, game
  • PublishedSeptember 27, 2023

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MILWAUKEE — The Brewers clinched the NL Central title for the third time in six seasons Tuesday night despite a 4-1 loss to the last-place St. Louis Cardinals and with the help of a come-from-behind win by the Atlanta Braves.

Milwaukee clinched its second division crown in three seasons when the Chicago Cubs dropped a 7-6 decision to the Braves.

The Milwaukee crowd roared as the ninth inning of the Cubs-Braves game was shown on the videoboard.

“You could just sense something was going on in the stands a little bit,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. “Then I turned behind me and looked down the tunnel and some of the clubhouse guys were scurrying around way too fast for us losing 4-1. So I knew something was going on then.”

The division title did not come without drama as the Braves had to overcome a six-run deficit to beat the wild-card-contending Cubs and eliminate them from the NL Central race.

The winning run came in the bottom of the eighth inning after a fielding error by Seiya Suzuki. After Braves catcher Sean Murphy hit a fly ball to right field, Suzuki called off center fielder Cody Bellinger but lost the ball in the lights and dropped it.

“I was seeing it pretty well until the very last second,” Suzuki said after the game. “I honestly thought it went into my glove. So it was just that split second where I blurred my vision.”

Drew Smyly (11-10) aided the comeback by throwing two wild pitches in the eighth, letting Matt Olson advance to third and setting the stage for pinch runner Forrest Wall to steal second. Both runners easily scored on Suzuki’s error.

The Braves were down 6-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, but a home run by Kevin Pillar, an RBI single by Olson and an RBI double by Marcell Ozuna cut the lead in half. Ronald Acuna Jr. then hit his 41st homer, a two-run shot, in the seventh to put the Braves in position to win.

The Brewers, meanwhile, had clinched no worse than a wild-card berth on Friday, with a 16-1 win over the Marlins in Miami. But they missed chances to clinch the division title by losing to Miami on Saturday and Sunday, scoring a total of five runs in those two games.

“You dream of this, but you know how hard it is to get here,” principal owner Mark Attanasio said after clinching Tuesday. “Last year, we felt we were going to be in the same position and we were reminded of how hard it is to clinch. Everybody in that clubhouse built off that.

“You never know how you’re going to get there. This was great to celebrate with all our fans.”

Milwaukee rookie Sal Frelick added: “It’s so fun and something you want to do,” as teammates poured beer down the back of his new Central Division champions shirt. “It’s something I’ve never experienced. It’s so fun, something I want to do for a long time.”

The Associated Press and ESPN’s Jesse Rogers contributed to this story.

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