The Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals both did it their way in capturing the pennants that propelled them into this year's World Series.
The Brewers, for whom dramatic comeback bids must be second nature at this point, had to make a truly historic one in becoming the first team ever to overcome an 0-2 deficit in a league championship series. Meanwhile the Cardinals, relying on the speed, defense, and pitching that had brought them this far, made it look easy by sweeping their playoff series in three straight games.
Milwaukee actually found itself in the pressure cooker in the last week of the regular season when four straight losses melted an apparently insurmountable four-game lead into nothing on the last day at Baltimore. But Robin Yount led an attack that awakened just in time, recently acquired Don Sutton stopped the Orioles, and the Brewers won 10-2 to capture the American League East title.
The first two playoff games in California were all Angels, however, as Tommy John and Bruce Kison stopped the Milwaukee hitters en route to a pair of solid victories. Observers remembered that a year ago, when the Brewers also fell behind 2-0 in the divisional playoff against the New York Yankees, they won the next two games and almost pulled it out, but few gave them much chance of going that performance one better this time.
They did it, though, starting with another courageous mound effort out of Sutton to win Game 3, and getting a big hitting performance by little-used reserve Mark Brouhard to pace a series-tying 9-5 triumph in Game 4. Characteristically, they fell behind again in the decisive fifth game, trailing 3-1 at one stage. But a combination of tight pitching by Pete Vuckovich, Bob McClure, and Peter Ladd, a home run by Ben Oglivie, and finally a clutch bases-loaded seventh inning single by Cecil Cooper produced a 4-3 victory and the team's first pennant.
The Cardinals battled Philadelphia in a close race most of the season for the National League East title, but pulled away in the final stages, thanks primarily to some outstanding pitching throughout the month of September.
This continued in the playoffs, too, with 15-game winners Joaquin Andujar and Bob Forsch, rookie John Stuper, and relief ace Bruce Sutter combining to limit the normally hard-hitting Atlanta Braves to just 15 hits and five runs in the three games.
With that sort of mound work, the Cardinals hardly needed very many runs, but they got more than enough via a balanced all-around attack led by catcher Darrell Porter and outfielder Willie McGee and featuring key hits at the right moments by numerous other members of the cast.
Porter, who was 5-for-11 and also did a fine job behind the plate, was named MVP of the N. L. playoffs, while in the A. L. series California's Fred Lynn, who had a record-tying 11 hits and batted .611, became the first player on a losing team ever so honored.