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Brewers tip cap to division-rival Cardinals

Brewers tip cap to division-rival Cardinals

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Brewers tip cap to division-rival Cardinals
MILWAUKEE -- There were no excuses to be made in the home clubhouse Sunday night at Miller Park. Simply put, the Cardinals were the better team, and the Brewers knew it.

After a 12-6 loss to St. Louis in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, the Brewers' postseason run is over. This 2011 club will still go down as perhaps the second-best team in franchise history, but it fell short of its goal.

A lot of that had to do with Milwaukee's opponent in the series.

"You get in these series and you've got to earn it," veteran infielder Craig Counsell said. "I don't know if it's a missed opportunity. I think we got outplayed this series. It's always a missed opportunity, but I don't think we have anything to hang our heads about. They beat us."

Acquired from the Nationals in late July, Jerry Hairston Jr. was a bright spot for much of the series, performing beyond expectations -- both offensively and defensively -- in becoming Milwaukee's everyday third baseman.

But as the Crew struggled through the final two games of the postseason, so, too, did Hairston. In Game 5, he committed a pivotal error, as a bad hop led to a ball getting under his glove, resulting in the Cardinals scoring a pair of runs on the play to go up 3-0 early.

Hairston was not at his best defensively again Sunday, committing two errors on one fifth-inning play that helped the Redbirds put the game out of reach with their 11th and 12th runs of the night.

Even so, Hairston was not about to discount what the Cardinals had done in winning the NLCS and advancing to face the Rangers in the World Series.

"Let's keep it real now. They beat us. Flat out," Hairston said. "I'm not going to take anything away from them. They beat us. Period."

After waiting until the final day of the regular season to clinch a trip to the playoffs, the Cardinals have been riding momentum through October, beating the Phillies in five games and now the Brewers in six.

For two teams that were so evenly matched throughout the year -- they split 18 games -- the Cardinals made it clear that, at least for this series, they were the better team.

St. Louis did not just win four out of six games and advance. The Cards dominated the Brewers in three of their four wins, two of which came at Miller Park against the best home team in baseball this season. St. Louis scored first in every contest, put runs up in the first inning four times, and outscored the Brewers, 43-26.

"They played great, obviously, from Aug. 25 on," said Brewers starter Shaun Marcum, who was hit hard in a pair of NLCS losses. "They were probably the hottest team in baseball, and they came in and played a great series."

Said right fielder Corey Hart: "They were going to be a hard team to beat with as well as they were playing. They were a better team than us this year."

As Marcum pointed out, the Cardinals' run began over the final week of August, as they won six of seven from Aug. 25-Sept. 1. The last three came in Milwaukee, where they handed the Brewers their first home sweep of the season.

Had the Crew won even one or two of those games, it could have changed everything. Instead, the Cards went 23-9 to close out the season, including 15 wins in a 20-game stretch.

St. Louis has added seven postseason wins in that stretch, as well, giving it a 30-13 record over a nearly two-month stretch.

The Brewers, on the other hand, finished the season going 15-12 over the final month of the season, beginning with the sweep by the Cardinals. Including the postseason, Milwaukee was only 20-18 over the last seven weeks.

As the playoffs tend to go, and as was the case in the NL Division Series, the hottest team in the playoffs -- the Cardinals -- was the team that won.

"St. Louis is hot. Did they do anything wrong during the series?" Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "That's incredible to go through a series and have everything you do go right.

"That's what you have to have happen in playoffs. You have to have breaks that you create because you're playing good, which they did. But they outplayed us. They're a good team, and they outplayed us."

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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