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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Braun shines in postseason

PHOENIX — Ryan Braun was born to be a headliner, not a warm-up act.

With the Milwaukee Brewers in the national spotlight during major-league baseball’s postseason, folks around the country are witnessing what denizens of Brewer Nation have known for years: Braun is something special.

“I’ve seen these stretches from him where you couldn’t get any better,” said manager Ron Roenicke, whose club will take a 2-0 advantage in the National League Division Series against Arizona into Game 3 on Tuesday night at Chase Field.

“First month of the season, incredible. Hitting .380 and 10 homers. I don’t know how many RBI but stealing bases, making great plays on defense (actually, .367 with 10 HRs and 23 RBI). I’ve seen him like this, not just then but a couple of other times during the season.

“When he’s healthy, when he’s feeling strong, it’s pretty hard to stop him.”

The Diamondbacks certainly had no luck in that regard in the first two games of the NLDS. Braun went 6 for 8 (.750) with two doubles, a home run, three RBI, four runs scored and a 1.375 slugging percentage.

“Ryan has been our impact guy,” said rightfielder Corey Hart. “He has stepped up his game. But that’s helped us as a team. He’s a big reason we’re 2-0. You see he wants the big situation, we like to give it to him.”

It certainly is no surprise that Braun would rise to the occasion, given his tremendous performance during the regular season. The leftfielder batted .332 with 33 home runs, 111 RBI, 109 runs scored, 33 stolen bases, a .397 on-base percentage and .597 slugging percentage, tops in the NL.

Braun became only the second 30/30 player in Brewers history and is the favorite in the eyes of many to claim NL most valuable player honors, particularly after being named the league’s player of the month for September. The 27-year-old southern California native had several huge hits down the stretch, including a three-run homer against Florida the night the Brewers clinched their first NL Central crown.

But many players shine in the regular season, only to wilt once the postseason comes around. Then, there are players such as Braun, who relish and embrace the opportunity to perform with more on the line.

“I love it,” Braun said Tuesday before the Brewers took the field for a late-afternoon workout. “I’ve said it many times. This is what you live for; this is what you work for. You work to play meaningful games, down the stretch in September and into October.

“It’s not about playing meaningless games in spring training and the beginning of April. The reason you put your work in is to hope to get an opportunity to play meaningful games, to have an opportunity to do something that means a lot to your team, your organization, to the city you play in.”

Those who have played with Braun for years have come to expect him to shine in the clutch. He socked game-winning home runs down the stretch in 2008, including the decisive blow on the final day of the season when the Brewers beat the Cubs, 3-1, to claim the NL wild-card berth and end a 26-year playoff drought.

Those playing with Braun for the first time, such as pitcher Zack Greinke, barely raise an eyebrow when he does something big.

“This year, he’s been consistent the whole time,” Greinke said. “The whole season he has put up good at-bats. I don’t know if he’s even been in a slump; maybe a three-game slump or something.

“When he gets hot, it’s just a little hotter than he normally is. But that’s really good, because just when he’s normal is better than most people when they’re hot sometimes.”

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