Miller Park was sold out Monday afternoon, but not because Brewers fans are excited about their team having the second-best record in the National League. Nor is it because Milwaukeeans were excited about their rivals to the south coming to town. Well, maybe that last bit is somewhat true, as long as said Wisconsinites were Cubs fans.
Anthony Rizzo damn near took a curtain call after hitting a go-ahead two-run homer in the 8th inning against Josh Hader, and not just because he was stoked to be the first left-handed hitter to ever homer against the southpaw reliever. No, it was clear from the crowd’s reaction that most of the folks in attendance were quite pleased with the outcome of the play. Even the celebration of the Brewers’ subsequent walk-off win paled in comparison to the euphoria that followed Big Tony’s big shot.
Asked about the burgeoning rivalry between his new team and the one he faced Monday afternoon, Hamels lazed the target and called in a napalm airstrike. Then he sat back and fanned the flames just as he had fanned five opponents earlier in the day.
“I know the rivalries I’ve had in the past, you can definitely feel it,” Hamels told the assembled postgame media. “When you have majority Cubs fans in the stands, I don’t know if that’s a rivalry yet. I’ve been in rivalries. They’re not gonna like me for the comment, but you can look at the ticket sales.”
The Crew didn’t get the loudest cheer, but they certainly had the last laugh in this particular game. You do have to wonder, though, how their players feel about playing in a road environment at home. As someone who’s been re-energized by a playoff race and having fervent fan support again, Hamels knows a little something about external motivation.
“[The Brewers] have great players and I know those guys wanna win,” Hamels said. “But in this game of baseball, you want to be able to see the fans in the stands. And obviously that’s where you feel it the most. So to be able to have the Cubs fans travel in the masses that they do, it’s great to see.
“I was able to see that in Philly when we would come down and play in Washington. The Phillies fans would come down in droves. And it would be predominantly Phillies fans in Washington’s stadium. That’s just kinda the nature of where it is. That’s probably not gonna sit too well with [Brewers fans], but I think they probably observed it just as well as I did.”
Oh, I think it’s perfectly fair to say Brewers fans don’t sit too well when the Cubs come to town, even when the team implements measures to prevent visitors from taking over the ballpark. Not that such obstacles really matter to the Cubs or their fans. After all, they’ve long been afforded honorary local residency given the space they occupy in the Brewers’ collective consciousness.
Bob Uecker’s Beermakeers could take a step toward evicting their squatting tenants with a few more wins, particularly in October should these two teams meet again. Or they could keep on giving their fans reasons not to show up even for big games that could well determine the course of the season. As for the Cubs, they might want to consider providing equally strong reasons to keep more navy blue out of the ballpark.
A good place to start might be not pissing away games in which they get an excellent pitching performance and lead late on the strength of an improbable homer.