Crew fans turn home finale into celebration

Crew fans turn home finale into celebration

MILWAUKEE -- Their 2010 season was a dud, so Brewers fans instead made the team's home finale a celebration of individual milestones and sendoffs for players who are likely moving on. They turned a 7-1 win over the Marlins on Sunday into a series of standing ovations and almost made everyone forget that the Brewers still have a week to play.

Ryan Braun came from behind to win the Brewers' three-man race to 100 RBIs, Prince Fielder homered in what could be his final home game with the Brewers and Trevor Hoffman made one last entrance to AC/DC's "Hells Bells." All three players were showered with love from the 29,059 fans, who pushed the Brewers' season attendance over 2.75 million.

For a taste of the future, rookie Lorenzo Cain also went deep for his first career homer, a solo shot to deep left field that helped the Brewers score all seven of their runs by the end of the third inning.

"Our year as a whole has been disappointing, but to end the year [at home] on a positive note was special for all of us," Braun said. "The ovation the fans gave to me was special, the ovation they gave to Prince was special, because we all understand the ramifications [of his contract and] the possibilities there.

"It was nice to end the year on a really positive note like that. We appreciate the support of the fans, despite the year that we had."

Milwaukee starter Chris Capuano (3-3) limited the Marlins to one run on four hits in six innings and, at 72 pitches, seemed poised to work seven full frames for the second time this season. But he didn't get through his warmup pitches in the seventh before exiting with a member of the team's athletic trainer staff, his day cut short by a strained left groin.

That qualified as good news, since Capuano has undergone two Tommy John elbow surgeries. He has been receiving treatment for the groin issue for several weeks, and it has not hindered his performance -- including Sunday's outing he has posted four consecutive quality starts of at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs.

"As a team, we're disappointed we're not further along in a playoff run," Capuano said. "That's disappointing. But to have a game where you had some guys get some milestones, had Trevor Hoffman come in and even though it wasn't a save situation they played 'Hells Bells' ... it was great to finish at home with a win."

Capuano loaded the bases in the first on two singles and a walk, but escaped with allowing only one run. Braun gave him a lead to work with in the bottom of the inning when he belted a first-pitch slider from Marlins starter Adalberto Mendez (1-2) to the left-field seats for a 2-1 Brewers lead.

Cain took Mendez deep in the second and Braun and Fielder added back-to-back homers as part of a four-run Milwaukee third.

Braun started the final homestand behind both Casey McGehee and Corey Hart in RBIs, but has made a charge to become the third player in Brewers history to log 100 RBIs in three consecutive seasons. The others were both first basemen: Richie Sexson from 2001-03 and Fielder from '07-09.

"You live for a series of moments, especially in this game where you deal with a lot of failure, a lot of adversity," Braun said. "You try to enjoy the special moments when they come along. It was nice to get to that 100th RBI here at home and allow the fans to be a part of it."

Since the calendar turned to August, Braun is batting .381 (71-for-186) with nine home runs and 36 RBIs to raise his overall average from .276 to its current .307.

"Everybody is racing to get 100 RBIs and Braunny was way behind, but he stepped on the pedal," manager Ken Macha said. "He seems to do things in dramatic fashion."

So does Hoffman, who trotted in for the ninth inning in what was likely his last appearance at Miller Park with the stadium sound system blasting his signature song. His trying season did include the Brewers' best highlight, a Sept. 7 save against the Cardinals that gave Hoffman 600 saves for his career.

He worked a scoreless inning, and it was a lucrative one. With 35 games finished, Hoffman increased the price of the buyout of his 2011 club option from $500,000 to $750,000. But that certainly wasn't on his mind as he talked about Sunday's sendoff.

"I can't begin to say thanks enough," Hoffman said. "For a guy sitting on a six-ERA and part of a big problem, to get treated like I did by the fans here -- I appreciate their support."

The loud acknowledgment for Hoffman came after a similar standing ovation for Fielder, who will enter a contract year in 2011 and could be traded to bolster the Brewers' starting pitching. Fielder drew his second walk of the afternoon -- his National League-leading 106th -- and was removed for a pinch-runner amid another round of applause from the crowd. Casey McGehee lingered outside the batter's box while Fielder took a curtain call.

"It was cool. That meant a lot," Fielder said. "It's just nice to know they like the way I play."

Said Braun: "It's important to finish the year strong, to have some momentum going into next year and feel good about ourselves as a team. When you have that energy, that excitement coming from the fans, it's something that all of us feel and respond to."

When the fans next file into Miller Park, who's to say how many 2010 Brewers will have moved on?

"There's a will to win here, from the top down," Hoffman said. "There are going to be a lot better celebrations at the end of a season than this year."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.