MILWAUKEE -- Bring on the Braves. Or the Phillies. Or the D-backs. The Brewers don't yet know their first-round playoff opponent, but they do know this: For the first time in Ryan Braun's and Prince Fielder's lifetimes, Milwaukee has a division champion. Both Braun and Fielder helped seal that distinction with home runs in Friday's 4-1 win over the Marlins. Along with a Cardinals loss in St. Louis, the Brewers sealed the National League Central title.
"I honestly believe we'll have the opportunity to celebrate a couple more times," Braun said amid the clubhouse chaos, pausing to wipe champagne from his face. "Hopefully I'm right." "Hopefully, we're going to go all the way," Fielder said. "Right now, I'm just going to enjoy this." The win boosted the Brewers' record to 92-65, second-best in the NL to the Phillies and one game better than the D-backs, who clinched the NL West on Friday night. The Braves also won Friday to increase their lead in the NL Wild Card race to three games over the Cardinals with five days remaining in the regular season. So, the Brewers faced three scenarios as of late Friday night: Scenario 1: Brewers finish ahead of the D-backs and the Braves win the Wild Card. The Brewers would host the Braves to begin an NL Division Series. The Braves won five of eight matchups between the teams during the regular season, but those games offer little insight, because they were all played before May 5, back when the Brewers were still nursing Zack Greinke back to health and the bullpen featured Kameron Loe as its setup man. The Brewers took three of four games in the season-opening series at Miller Park, rebounding from a home-opening loss to win the next three games by one, one and two runs. Yovani Gallardo pitched the Brewers' only complete-game shutout against the Braves on April 5, in the fifth game of the regular season. The teams met again a month later in Atlanta, a four-game Braves sweep that included Greinke's Milwaukee debut and came amid a seven-game Milwaukee losing streak and a prolonged offensive funk. Scenario 2: D-backs finish ahead of the Brewers and Braves win the Wild Card. In this scenario, the Brewers would have to travel to Philadelphia to start the NLDS, just like they did in 2008. Philadelphia took that series, 3-1, and wound up winning the World Series. The Brewers were 3-4 against the Phillies this season, taking two of three at Citizens Bank Park in April before Philadelphia won three of four at Miller Park earlier this month. Scenarios 3a and 3b: Cardinals come back to win the Wild Card. The Brewers would play the D-backs in the NLDS, with the team owning the better record serving as host for Games 1 and 2. The Brewers are 3-4 against the D-backs this season. Asked who might start an NLDS Game 1, manager Ron Roenicke laughed. "I'm just happy we won this one," he said Friday. "I'll start thinking about that later." Roenicke said he would try to rest some of his regulars over the regular season's final five games, but that will be difficult considering the importance of finishing ahead of Arizona. "We're still playing for something, so we need to play some good ball to try to win as many games as we can to make sure we have that home-field advantage, and also to carry this on into the playoffs," Roenicke said.