CINCINNATI (AP) — A sizzlin' September topped off by a frothy celebration. Nobody does it better down the stretch than these Milwaukee Brewers, who lost MVP Christian Yelich and beat long odds to get back in the postseason for a second straight season.
And nobody can count them out, not even with Yelich reduced to watching through champagne-clouded eyes.
Yelich stood in the middle of the clubhouse and got drenched with bubbly and beer Wednesday night after a 9-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds clinched at least a wild card berth and left the NL Central title tantalizingly close.
"Obviously I can't contribute on the field, but it's been really cool to watch," said Yelich, who's recovering from a broken kneecap and rejoined the team for the clincher. "We're more than a one-man team. We've got a lot of players who have done a lot of great things in the big leagues."
Especially in September.
The Brewers have won six in a row and 17 of 19 despite losing Yelich. The division-leading Cardinals fell again on Wednesday, slicing their lead over the Brewers to 1½ games. Milwaukee trails Washington by one game for the wild card lead.
"It was really against all odds, what we just accomplished," said Ryan Braun, who got the clincher started with a grand slam in the first inning. "It's incredibly difficult. It's hard to articulate how unlikely what we just did was but again, there's still challenges that lie ahead."
Last season, they raced from a five-game deficit to the division title by going 19-6 after Sept. 1. They caught the Cubs and won a tiebreaker at Wrigley Field, then swept the Rockies and reached the NL Championship Series before losing in seven games to the Dodgers.
They've pulled off another improbable run with manager Craig Counsell's outside-the-box resourcefulness, the bullpen's imperviousness and the offense's ability to find a new star each game with everything on the line.
"I think they enjoy the challenges, and that's what it was," Counsell said. "We got presented a challenge, and it didn't look great. It wasn't impossible."
Braun — the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year and 2011 NL Most Valuable Player — has found his touch during this current winning streak and helped Milwaukee have another frothy moment.
Braun had a solo shot in a 4-2 win in the series opener, and got the celebration started early Wednesday with his eighth career grand slam . Teammates were on their feet, leaning against the dugout railing in anticipation of a big night, when he connected off Tyler Mahle (2-12).
When Eric Thames followed with another homer, Brewers players jubilantly smacked the green padding atop the dugout railing — the party was getting warmed up. Keston Hiura also connected off Mahle, whose last win was May 31.
Starter Jordan Lyles (12-8) contributed an infield single and scored a run during the Brewers' surge to an 8-1 lead after three innings.
UP TO SIX
It's the sixth overall playoff spot for the Brewers, who started out as the Seattle Pilots in 1969 and moved to Milwaukee the next year. The only other back-to-back playoff appearances came for the Brewers in 1981-82 with Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. The franchise has never won the World Series.
LOVES THE PLACE
Braun's 28 homers at Great American are his most in any road ballpark, and his 45 career against Cincinnati are his highest total against any team. He has three grand slams at Great American.
Lyles went 7-1 in 11 starts for the Brewers with a 2.45 ERA. They got him from the Pirates on July 29.
Lyles gave up Eugenio Suárez's 49th homer, which moved him ahead of Mike Schmidt and Adrián Beltré for the modern NL record by a third baseman. George Foster holds the club record of 52 homers in 1977.
"All of my records are special," Suárez said. "I never imagined I'd be doing what I'm doing right now. I just have to enjoy it."
Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman called his second-to-last game along with son Thom. Brennaman is retiring after his 46th season, with Thursday's game his last. Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker dropped by during the broadcast. Brennaman hasn't been able to use his signature "this one belongs to the Reds" call during the series.
Reds: Sonny Gray had arthroscopic surgery to remove fragments from his pitching elbow, a day after his final start. Gray has pitched with the condition all season and is expected to be ready for spring training.
Brewers: Chase Anderson (7-4) is 5-3 in 14 career starts against the Reds, including 0-1 with a 5.51 ERA in three starts this season. Milwaukee finishes out the regular season with a three-game series at Colorado, while St. Louis hosts the Cubs over the weekend.
Reds: Luis Castillo (15-7) completes his breakthrough season, including career highs in starts, wins, innings and strikeouts. He's 3-3 career against Milwaukee.