The Milwaukee Brewers continued their scorching September with their 19th win of the month Wednesday, clinching a postseason berth and eliminating both the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs in the process.
The Brewers' 9-2 victory at Cincinnati brought the team to 88-70, a far cry from Sept. 5, when Milwaukee was only three games over .500 -- with the same 71-68 record as the Mets and five games behind the Cubs for the National League's second wild-card spot.
But despite losing MVP candidate Christian Yelich to a fractured kneecap Sept. 10, the Brewers have won 17 of their past 19 games to secure a playoff spot in consecutive years for just the second time in franchise history.
"What we just accomplished is really against all odds," outfielder Ryan Braun said. "Incredibly difficult to do what we just did. I think we're 17-2 in our last 19 games. We've had so many guys contribute, so many special moments. We obviously enjoyed playing this month."
The most recent time the team went to consecutive postseasons was 1981-82, when the franchise was in the American League. The Brewers made their only World Series appearance in 1982, falling to the Cardinals in seven games.
The franchise has now made the postseason four times in the past 12 seasons after doing so just twice in its first 39 seasons of existence.
The move you've all been waiting for is back! #MKEHistory pic.twitter.com/k3iMpK0SBO— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) September 26, 2019
Yelich was on hand in the locker room to celebrate with his teammates.
"I'm sure a lot of people wrote us off and said we couldn't do it for numerous reasons," he said. "Like I said, we believed the talent in this room, the kind of guys that we have and just the culture we've built and continue to build here. Really proud of all these guys. They've done an incredible job especially on the run that we have in September."
On the flip side, the Cubs suffered their eighth straight defeat Wednesday, 4-2 at Pittsburgh, and will fail to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014, snapping the club's longest postseason streak at four years -- a run that included the 2016 World Series title.
"We're not used to this," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm not used to this, personally, to have meaningless games on our behalf. ... It's a really non-fun way to complete a season."
Maddon's future with the Cubs remains uncertain with his contract set to expire, but pitcher Jon Lester said the manager's critics should consider his full tenure with the ballclub.
"I can't say enough positives about what Joe has done, flat out for this organization," Lester said. "Up until this year we led MLB in wins. That's a testament to him. We broke a 108-year curse. No matter what happens, if he continues here, it's gravy. If he doesn't, he should be revered as a legend in this town for a long, long time."
The Mets could not keep up the pace that saw them win 15 of 16 games in July and August, and they will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season despite increasing their win total over the past two years, from 70 in 2017 to 77 in 2018 to 83 so far this year.
"It's tough, but I thought we played pretty good baseball down the stretch to stay in it," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "Obviously, Milwaukee was just off the charts and nobody was catching them."
Mets relievers' ERA of 5.01 is the sixth-worst in the majors this year, continuing a trend. Since making the World Series in 2015, the Mets have posted the fourth-worst relief ERA in MLB at 4.58, after compiling a 3.40 ERA in 2015.
"I guess now the fat lady's singing," said Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who hit his 51st home run Wednesday to pull within one of Aaron Judge's rookie record. "It's unfortunate, but we came back so awesome and the way we went about our business is spectacular. So it's bittersweet, if I had to put it shortly. When we finally put it together for a full 162, it's going to be scary."
The Brewers will join the Cardinals, Braves, Nationals and Dodgers in the National League field this year, but they still have a chance to win the division, at just 1½ games behind St. Louis with four games to play.