Thursday’s game against the Cubs had a few awesome moments in a season that’s been relatively short on them. I’d like to start by drawing your attention to the events of the 8th inning. After the Cubs took the lead in the top of the inning on a gut punch two-run homer by Bryan LaHair off of K-Rod, the top of the Brewers’ order came up in the bottom of the 8th, and shortly tied it with an Aoki single, Gomez sacrifice, and Hart ground rule double. There is little predictive to this sequence of events in this situation; I do believe it was no more likely to happen here than in a blowout. But it feels reassuring to see the Brewers be kicked and handed a deficit, and automatically pop back up and respond. The season has conditioned me to expect the worst once the Cubs got that lead; it felt reminiscent of last year when the Crew automatically came back and tied it.
That may have felt like 2011, but the biggest story of Thursday’s game, of course, was a newcomer, Norichika Aoki. He hit two home runs, his first two over-the-fence home runs in the majors, including the walkoff winner. When he ran around the bases after his second homer, I feel like he exuded more sheer, unadulterated glee than I’ve ever seen from someone who hit a walkoff blast. And why not? He’s someone who has been playing baseball his whole life, spent years achieving the highest level of success he can in his own country, and is finally getting to play at the highest level and on the biggest stage in the world. To think about that and see his exuberance reminds me why I watch this game. The Brewers have scuffled this year, and the prospect of them winning a championship feels like a longer and longer shot (although Baseball Prospectus gives them a 31.9% chance of reaching the postseason right now). But there are things other than championships to look for. I’ll watch to see Ryan Braun respond to his critics by taking another run at another MVP award. I’ll hope to see Taylor Green and Michael Fiers build on some of the promise they’ve shown in the minor league system. And I’ll try to see more of Norichika Aoki’s excitement at finally getting to show his talents to the world.