Veterans Make Key Contributions

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder clubbed three of the franchise's biggest homers during the final week, but the less-heralded contributions of several veterans proved just as important.

Milwaukee will witness meaningful baseball in October for the first time since 1982, and young sluggers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder provided the power with three of the biggest and most dramatic home runs in franchise history during the final six-game home stand, including the former's shot heard 'round Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon against the Cubs.

While those former top draft selections deserve all of the accolades, smaller and often less noticeable contributions from several veterans helped the Brewers become the National League wild-card representative as the team finished 5-1 during that playoff-deciding span.

Center fielder Mike Cameron, who continued to struggle with strikeouts after interim manager Dale Sveum placed him into the lead-off spot in the batting order. However, he led the offense Sunday with two hits and started the deciding eighth inning with a one-out single, scoring on Braun's two-out blast--and 37th of the season--to left off Bobby Howry to give Milwaukee the victory.

Ray Durham, hampered by sore hamstrings, ripped an opposite-field double to right-center to start the seventh and advanced to third on Braun's grounder. After walks to Fielder and J.J. Hardy, Durham scored on Craig Counsell's walk to tie the game at 1-all. And then Durham started the game-ending double play in the ninth that clinched at least one more game for the Brewers before they watched the Mets get eliminated.

Third baseman Counsell, a two-time World Series champion, got the crucial RBI with his uncanny eye at the plate, walking on four straight pitches after taking a strike on the first offering he saw.

All catcher Jason Kendall did was play his 149th contest behind the plate, a career-high, and helped Cy Young candidate CC Sabathia record another nine-inning gem.

While Sunday's thriller will perhaps stick in people's minds forever, these guys turned in several other vital situations during an unbelievable week at Miller Park.

Cameron had a hit and run, contributing a single and coming around on Rickie Weeks' biggest homer of his career in the seventh inning of Friday night's series-opening victory over Chicago that put Milwaukee ahead of the Mets by a game.

Durham also had two hits and a run, doubling and scoring the go-ahead run in the sixth of that opener, while Kendall doubled in Corey Hart with the tally that tied the contest in the second.

Don't forget the finale against Pittsburgh on Thursday, the one that Braun won with his walk-off grand slam. Weeks started the 10th with a single and Kendall sacrificed him to second. Durham was intentionally walked and one out later, Counsell coaxed another free pass as a pinch hitter to load the bases and set the stage.

And you can go back to the opener against the Pirates, the one that Fielder won with his two-run walk-off smash in the ninth. Cameron had delivered a two-run double to briefly put the Brewers ahead in the seventh and Kendall knocked in the tying run in the eighth.

So, even though this quartet struggled as much as the other young stars during the team's September swoon that pushed the Brewers to the brink of elimination, they made big--and small--plays in countless key situations during the final week that helped them end a 26-year postseason drought.


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