Braun's HR, Cards' loss gives Brewers division title

Ryan Braun stood at home plate for a brief moment, raised his bat high in the air and celebrated a mammoth hit that helped the Brewers clinch their first division title in 29 years.

Braun's titanic three-run homer off the scoreboard in center field broke a tie in the eighth inning and sent Milwaukee to a 4-1 win over the Florida Marlins.

The victory, combined with St. Louis' 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs, secured the Brewers the NL Central title. The Brewers hadn't been division champions since capturing the AL East in 1982, on the way to a World Series appearance.

"This means a lot," Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder said. "We have a great team, a little way to go. I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this."

With two outs in the ninth inning, fans went ballistic at Miller Park when the scoreboard flashed that the Cubs took a 4-1 lead over the Cardinals in the eighth inning on the strength of Alfonso Soriano's three-run blast.

Moments later, John Axford added to Milwaukee's magical season by fanning Bryan Petersen to notch his 44th save, tying a franchise record held by Francisco Cordero (2007).

"We're not done yet," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We still have some work to do."

It was a case of deja vu for Braun, whose two-run homer in the eighth inning on the final day of the 2008 campaign lifted Milwaukee to its first playoff berth since the aforementioned World Series loss to St. Louis. They moved to the National League in 1998.

"This is eerily similar to 2008, the fact that it was 1-1 in the eighth when I came to bat," Braun said.

Although the Cardinals still have a glimmer of hope for the wild card spot, the Brewers are the ones headed to the postseason for just the fourth time in franchise history.

Francisco Rodriguez (6-2) fanned both Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison to escape a jam with men on first and second in the eighth inning.

Corey Hart doubled to left field off Clay Hensley (6-7) with one out in the Brewers' eighth. Nyjer Morgan then drew a walk and Braun smacked his 32nd homer of the year on a 3-1 pitch.

Fielder got the Brewers on the scoreboard with a homer to right-center field off Chris Volstad leading off the second.

Florida's run came in the fourth when Petersen singled in Gaby Sanchez.

Braun also made a huge defensive play the following inning, possibly saving a run. Emilio Bonifacio singled with one out and Omar Infante hit a ball to the gap in left-center. Braun made a spectacular diving catch and threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play.

Volstad lasted seven innings.

"Volstad pitched a heck of a game," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "Too bad he couldn't get a win. We had our chances, but couldn't get the big hit. That's been the story of our year."

Game Notes

Milwaukee starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo had 11 strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings, becoming the first Brewer to have at least 10 Ks in three straight contests...The Brewers swept a four-game series in Florida from June 3-6.