Milwaukee Brewer Manager Ron Roenicke was adamant.
Starting Shaun Marcum was “the right move for this ball club,” he said.
He was wrong.
Whether he was just trying to instill confidence to an important cog in his rotation going forward or he just had a hunch…it was the biggest mistake in this, his first season at the helm of a big league team.
Marcum had struggled in two previous postseason outings, coughing up 12 runs in those starts.
Marcum seemingly could not get anyone out.
The tone was set.
The complexion was changed.
The oxygen had completely gone out of Miller Park, despite the fact that the roof and panels were closed.
Even though the Brewers were able to scratch and claw their way back to within a run at 5-4, the die had been cast.
The St. Louis Cardinals rode the big first inning and hung on for a 12-6 win to take the series, 4-2, Sunday night.
You don’t want to have to play catch-up against the St. Louis Cardinals, even at home.
Yet, catch-up is what they had been playing.
St. Louis scored in the first inning of all but one game in this series.
The Cards already had a formidable lineup with Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.
And they have found a superstar in David Freese during this NLCS.
When the Crew surrendered another four runs in the St. Louis third, the hitters began to press, trying for that elusive five-run homer.
Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder struggled this night just when they needed to reach for a little extra.
No one knows what might have been had Roenicke gone with Chris Narveson with the pivotal start.
As the innings melted away, the potential last at bat by Fielder in a Brewer uniform was looming.
The standing ovation of appreciation, led my owner Mark Attanasio, seemed anticlimactic at best.
This season of promise, which saw General Manager Doug Melvin go out and get the best starting pitching in team history, unraveled like the seams of a sandlot baseball.
Despite winning the Central Division, despite winning their first post-season series since 1982, it was over.
Since there have been comparisons to 1982 all season long, there is another one worth mentioning.
The Brewers went out and got hall-of-fame pitcher Don Sutton to take them to the next level.
He did get them to the World Series, but unfortunately it was against these same Cardinals, the only team Sutton historically had trouble beating.
History repeated itself.
This year it was Marcum, a pitcher with Cy Young cred but no post-season experience.
And at the end, it was a bearded Bruce Sutter to finish off the Crew in ’82 and a bearded Jason Motte dispatching Milwaukee in ’11.
Beast Mode quickly became an afterthought.
The Cardinals, an opponent that the Brewers could left in the dust with a little more success at home in September, stormed back to nip the Atlanta Braves for the Wild Card slot and then dispatched the best staff in baseball in the form of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Tony LaRussa, the long-time Cardinal skipper who is not shown a lot of love in these parts, made all the right moves on his way to the World Series.
Normally, there would be jubilation and deafening huzzahs at the Brewers’ success.
But, this was one big, fat and juicy chance to win the World Championship.
And everyone around here knows it.
The Green Bay Packers and the Wisconsin Badgers are undefeated.
The sting of this loss is going to linger.
The hope is that it is not going to be another three decades ‘til they get back.
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