ST. LOUIS — The Milwaukee Brewers’ rebuilding project, which for all intents and purposes ended last season, officially was laid to rest Wednesday night.
Holding on for a tense 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals that completed a three-game sweep at Busch Stadium, the hard-charging Brewers assured their first playoff berth since winning the NL Central title in 2011.
The nail-biter boosted the Brewers’ record to 16-7 in September and 22-9 in their last 31 games.
The Brewers celebrated with champagne in the clubhouse afterward but weren’t satisfied with merely clinching a spot in the NL wild-card game. The Brewers remain a half-game behind the first-place Cubs in the division after Chicago prevailed 7-6 in 10 innings Wednesday. While the Brewers will take Thursday off, the Cubs — who also clinched a playoff berth — finish a four-game series at home against Pittsburgh and ace Trevor Williams.
“We’re very fortunate tomorrow is an off day,” Ryan Braun said in the champagne and beer soaked visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium. “Logistically, it works out really well. Everyone can celebrate. We have another 48 hours before we have to play another baseball game.
As the only active player who was part of the Brewers’ last playoff team, Braun knew better than most how difficult it is to get to the postseason. Milwaukee’s task was made more difficult by stripping down the team in 2015 and beginning a large-scale rebuilding plan that figured to take several years to get back to this stage.
“It’s been incredible,” Braun said. “What we accomplished is not something you see with other organizations. We never really had a significant down period which most teams do when they go through a significant rebuild and retooling phase.