If only for one night, almost everything that the Milwaukee Brewers and their long-suffering fans had been dreaming of had come together. For a couple of hours, the Baseball Gods -- who have been tormenting this franchise and city for years -- looked through the Miller Park roof and decided it was time to lay off, again ... if only for one night.
The 32,329 on hand Tuesday night were witnessed to the type of scene then-owner Bud Selig imagined when he watched the ballpark rise out of County Stadium's parking lot; record-setting performances by a star-in-the-making and clutch pitching during games played during the last week of the season that actually mattered.
It was games like the one Tuesday night that were the promise of Miller Park. And the players that made it special were all part of the deal.
First baseman Prince Fielder riled up an already excited crowd -- still reveling over Rickie Weeks' leadoff home run -- when he belted his 49th homer of the season in the first inning to stake the Brewers to a 3-0 lead. The two-run, 379-ft. shot to right field drew a curtain call from the fans.
At 8:30 -- right as Ryan Braun dug into the batter's box to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning -- the crowd got what they were looking for: Marlins 4, Cubs 2. Braun had a chance to -- pardon the pun -- blow the roof off the place when his fly ball to left was hauled in by Skip Schumaker. Bill Hall, who has struggled to find his power stroke all season, was called back out of the dugout after his two-out, three-run home run gave Milwaukee a 7-1 lead.
Then, of course, came the capper to the night; Fielder's second home run -- his 50th of the season -- to give the Brewers a seemingly insurmountable 9-1 lead in the seventh. Chants of M-V-P were drowned out by yet another thunderous ovation that brought Fielder out from the dugout a second time. The home run made Fielder the youngest player in baseball history to hit 50 in one season, breaking the previous mark set by Willie Mays in 1955.
"That's an awesome feat," said Fielder, who was pretty humble after the game. "Now my kids can know that one time their dad was pretty good."
Still, the offensive exploits of the Brewers' Most Valuable Player candidate were only part of the story on this night.
When Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin spent their Christmas trying to woo free-agent pitcher Jeff Suppan, they were envisioning the scenario that unfolded Tuesday night at Miller Park.
The Brewers, clinging desperately to diminishing post-season hopes, needed a strong performance from their $42 millon right-hander. Suppan, whose performance in last year's National League Championship Series earned him Most Valuable Player honors, was being counted on for his ability to produce in clutch situations.
The veteran didn't disappoint, allowing just one hit over eight strong innings of work as the Brewers rolled to a 7-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Plagued throughout the season by ineffectiveness, Suppan allowed nine hits with a three walks and four strikeouts in his fourth consecutive quality start and third victory in his last six starts.
We signed him to provide some leadership and consistency for our pitching staff, and he's done that all year long," Manager Ned Yost said. "Even when he was struggling, he was still real consistent in his work ethic and how he went about his business."
It was a real, live, pinch-yourselves-it's-actually-happening playoff atmosphere in Miller Park with four b-i-i-i-g home runs, three thunderous curtain calls, and the Brewers pulling within two games of the division lead with just five games to play.
Welcome to the Big Leagues, Milwaukee. This could be the start of much better days to come.