It's only July. So went the refrain sung in the Brewers and Cubs clubhouses at Miller Park leading up to Game 1 of the four-game NL. Central showdown between Milwaukee and Chicago. But on Monday night a roar rang out in the ballpark after
Here was a midsummer game (in Milwaukee!) dripping with the drama of September. Mets-Phillies, move over. As an electric night in Beer City showed us, Brewers-Cubs has officially arrived as the best rivalry in the National League.
"The players were into it," Cubs manager
Said Cubs reliever
All four games of the series had been sold out -- before tonight's game ticket scalpers were demanding a cool $1,000 for seats behind home plate, $100 for a spot in the outfield bleachers. The series was being hailed by longtime locals as the biggest since the Yankees came to town in September of '82. A preview of the four-game set was plastered all over the hometown paper's Monday edition. And Monday night's game shattered a record for number of fan posts at the popular blog, Bleed Cubbie Blue.
The nomadic Cubs fans that made the 90-mile sojourn up I-94 were already out in full force three hours before first the pitch. Fat guys in Fukudome jerseys chanted as each of their beloved Cubbies emerged from the dugout. ("Sori! Sori!" "Kerry! Kerry!" "Z! "Z!" "Louuuuuu!") The ballpark was abuzz and already just about packed by first pitch at 7:10 p.m., stuffed with grown men in Sabathia unis and screaming teenage girls in
For one more night, at least, Miller Park remained Wrigley North, where the Cubs are 32-26 since the ballpark's opening. Losers of seven of their last 11 entering the series, the Cubs rediscovered their mojo on Monday behind Soriano (he homered, doubled, and stole a base in his fifth game back from the DL), and
Even after a night like this, the Sabathia trade still stands, by far, as Milwaukee's biggest swap since
The Brewers fell to two games back in the Central -- though the margin is still closer than anyone would have imagined less than two months ago: On June 6 the Brewers were 8 ½ games behind the Cubs and as lifeless as a headstone. The schedule the rest of the way favors Milwaukee; the Brewers have just 19 games against teams with records over .500 left on their calendar. The two teams will meet again in Chicago in mid-September, then reconnect in Miller Park for the last series of the season. As good as Monday night's game was, Tuesday could be better:
"You look at their club, and it looks like we're going to have to play well to win the division," said Cubs starter
As big as a win in July can get.