By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Oct 17, 2011 at 2:07 AM

The Miller Park magic finally wore off Sunday night.

The Brewers had won a franchise record 57 games at Miller Park in 2011, but finished the season dropping two consecutive games on their home field for only the fourth time this season.

And so one of the most successful seasons in franchise history, and certainly of the last 29 years, ended with a 12-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

"We didn't reach the ultimate goal, which is to get to the World Series," Roenicke said. "We fell two games shy of that. I'm happy with our season. I'm happy with a bunch of guys. I was certainly blessed to be able to manage not just a great team but a great bunch of young men."

So much had gone right for Milwaukee in 2011, beginning with the hiring of Ron Roenicke nearly a year ago. Add that to the decision to hold onto Prince Fielder for one more season; the off-season acquisitions of Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke; grabbing Nyjer Morgan from the Nationals at the end of Spring Training; trade deadline pickups of Francisco Rodriguez and Jerry Hairston, Jr. ... everything seemed to go right for the Brewers this season.

That all changed in the NLCS.

Suddenly, the Brewers were failed by all aspects of their game; starting pitching, offense and especially he defense, which had been bad most of the year but was downright awful during the final two games of the postseason.

All in all, it made for a bitter pill to swallow, though one that might become a little easier to handle as winter turns to spring again.

"St. Louis is hot," Roenicke said. "Did they do anything wrong during the series? That's incredible to go through a series and have everything you do go right. That's what you have to happen in the playoffs; you have to have the breaks that you create because you're playing good, which they did."

The Cardinals proved that getting hot at the right time is all that matters in postseason play. And make no mistake, there is no hotter team in baseball than St. Louis, which came from 10.5 games out of first place (9.5 games out in the wild card race) to clinch a playoff spot on the final game of the season.

Tony La Russa's team took the vaunted Philadelphia Phillies to five games before pulling the upset and setting the stage for an NL Central showdown with the Brewers in the NLCS.

They almost made it look easy, too.

After blowing a 5-1 lead Game 1, which the Brewers won, 9-6, St. Louis steamrolled the Brewers the rest of the way. They became the first team in baseball history to score first in all six games of a postseason series and in the final five games, outscored Milwaukee, 37-17.

The Brewers' offense was largely silent during the series and finished with a .254 batting average, nine home runs and 26 RBI. The middle of Milwaukee's lineup, consisting of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks, hit .254 (17-for-67) with five home runs, 12 RBI and 15 strikeouts.

In the final two losses, the trio went a combined 2-for-24 and stranded 11 Milwaukee base runners.

"It really didn't matter, to be honest with you," said Hairston, who was one of the better offensive performers in Milwaukee's lineup and finished with a .391 average in the series. "It just seemed like we were always behind. Credit to their hitting."

The Cardinals became the first team to score first in the first six games of a postseason series and outscored Milwaukee, 11-2, in the first inning.

"It's hard to get behind in the first inning like we did," said Hairston.

The blame for that falls squarely on the shoulders of Brewers starters, who finished the NLCS with a 7.22 ERA.

Milwaukee's starting rotation, the strongest component of a team that won a franchise-record 96 games in 2011, simply couldn't contain the Cardinals' lineup, especially third baseman David Freese, named the series' Most Valuable Player.

He hit .545 (12-for-22) in the NLCS, finishing with three home runs and three doubles for 24 totals bases and a 1.091 slugging percentage to go along with nine RBI and seven runs scored.

Freese recorded four multi-hit games and reached safely in all six contests, becoming the first Cardinals player since Jeff Suppan in 2005 – and the fifth in franchise history – to be named MVP of the NLCS.

He carries a 10-game hitting streak into the World Series and his 14 RBI during the Cardinals' playoff run ties him with Albert Pujols for the most in franchise history in a single postseason.

As a team, the Cardinals hit .310 (.67-for-216) and scored 43 runs to Milwaukee's 26.

"You can't get away with mistakes to them," Roenicke said. "And we made too many mistakes."

Perhaps even more notable than the Brewers' pitching problems and Freese's offense was the performance by the St. Louis bullpen.

No Cardinals starter pitched more than five innings in the series, leaving the relievers to cover 28.2 innings. During that stretch, they held the Brewers to just six runs on 15 hits and finished the series with an ERA of 1.88.

"We couldn't touch their bullpen," Roenicke said. "Their bullpen came in and we didn't do too much against them."

The loss hurts now, but as fall turns to winter and the start of Spring Training looms around the corner, the Brewers will be optimistic that they can get back to this point. With almost the entire team back in 2012, you have to like their chances.

"We gave it all we've got. And that's all you can do," Fielder said. "After that, like I say, as long as I play as hard as I can, I'm able to sleep at night. That's it. Time to go play with the kids."

Fielder, however, will likely not be back. A free agent this offseason, he's expected to break the bank and suit up next season in a new city; in a new uniform. After Game 6, though, he had no interest in thinking about that possibility.

"I'm just trying to say goodbye to my teammates," Fielder said. "It's the offseason, you're not going to see them at 3 o'clock every day,.

"I'm not mad at all about this year because it is what it is. I think we played hard. Like I said, we had a great year as a team. Unfortunately we didn't get to where we wanted to go but we still some great moments and great memories in there.

"This year has been awesome."