Unable to add any victories against one of the five losingest teams in MLB, the Brewers will just have to live vicariously in the moment through their crosstown neighbors, the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.
The Kansas City Royals, despite being far under .500 and well out of contention for anything but a well-placed draft pick next season, completed a four-game season sweep of the NL Central leaders Wednesday afternoon with a 6-3 victory at American Family Field.
The Brewers’ setbacks came less than a day after watching series MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks finish off the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee. Several Brewers players watched the series finale from a Forum suite bought for the night by club owner Mark Attanasio. Manager Craig Counsell joked during pregame that none of his players had arrived at the ballpark yet and the game against the Royals was “in question” after a large portion of the roster celebrated the Bucks winning in person.
“They all had the time of their lives,” Counsell said. “I’m glad they all got to go. It’s great to be in that environment. It’s great for them to see that. It’s what we’re trying to do.”
Is it possible to have a figurative hangover from somebody else’s championship night? None of the games the Brewers lost to the Royals in the series or overall were by more than three runs. Still, it probably was tough to digest for a team that’s 15 games over .500 overall but 17-17 against teams with losing records. Milwaukee was coming off a three-game sweep of their closest pursuers, the Reds, which boosted their lead in the NL Central to seven games before the Royals came to town.
Left-hander Eric Lauer, who pitched well against Kansas City, said no opponents should be taken for granted, and that neither watching the NBA playoffs or playing against a team with a losing record were factors working against the Brewers mentally.
“This is our job,” Lauer said after allowing two unearned runs and three hits to go with six strikeouts over five innings. “It’s a good lineup; they're not just over there rolling over for you.
“The best thing to do is learn from it and move forward.”
It makes sense for the Brewers to learn a little bit from the very recent past, even if it’s in another sport. Attanasio’s suite idea was not only to entertain his employees, create additional camaraderie among them and be civic-minded in an intersport way, but it also intended to inspire and encourage his ballplayers to make a run at a championship trophy.
Call it a most expensive suggestion.
Not that the Brewers haven’t been thinking about it already, but Counsell said he saw value in the players experiencing, first-hand, the Bucks winning their first championship in 50 years. The Brewers have never won a World Series, only getting close in 1982. They’re not that far away right now.
“What it does is, it brings it a little closer to you,” Counsel said. “It is so hard to do (win a championship) that it feels daunting. But when you can go be a part of it, it brings it closer. That’s why I was so happy that Mark got a suite and so many guys got to go.
“It makes it feel a little bit more within your reach, even though you know it's incredibly difficult to do.”
Lauer said he was there.
“I wasn’t going to miss that opportunity, to see history go down,” Lauer said.
Lauer also said it occurred to him at the moment, watching the Bucks win it all, what it would be like for the Brewers.
“It made you want it that much more, just to see it so close, and to see another team in the city make that happen,” Lauer said. “It makes you want to be that guy, that person on the court or the field. I feel like that’s something we could definitely do this year.”
Jorge Soler hit a home run, Hunter Dozier and Nicky Lopez each drove in a pair of runs, and Andrew Benintendi got the Royals moving early with a key RBI double. Right-hander Brad Keller allowed three runs and struck out six over 6 ⅔ innings to pick up the victory in his third straight strong start this month. It was Kansas City’s first series win since taking two of three against the Twins from July 2-4. It’s a good moment for them.
Then again, they haven’t had an NBA team in Kansas City since the Kings left in 1985. So how much fun could the Royals have had?