Erik Kratz homers in his first at-bat of an Aug. 31 game against the Washington Nationals. Kratz has played a major role helping the Milwaukee Brewers advance to the National League Championship Series. (Photo by Andrew Strack)

Kratz, Brewers head to National League Championship Series

Only after thanks and a blessing to umpire Ted Barrett could Milwaukee Brewers catcher Erik Kratz let himself celebrate Sunday night’s Game 3 6-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies that advanced the team to the National League Championship Series. [See MLB’s Tweet with video here.]

Kratz, a 2002 Eastern Mennonite University graduate, was behind the dish for Game 2 and 3, contributing a key 2-run single in Friday’s 4-0 victory  and going 3-for-4 with a double in Sunday night’s shutout. He also scored one of those runs on a wild pitch.

“You get all your celebrations in, because you never know if you’re going to get another one,” said Kratz, as reported in MLB coverage. “Just like you never know if you’re going to get another day in this game. That’s the best way to play. I’ve been very fortunate to be on this team where everybody plays that way.”

Kratz was mic’d up for Sunday’s game, which means he can be heard making fun of his own lack of speed, urging on his teammates, and celebrating one of the two back-to-back homeruns that all but sealed the win in the ninth inning.

He played a key role, as he was signed to do, in managing a lights-out pitching staff for the series: building on their heavy use and success in the regular season, the bullpen had a series combined ERA of 1.17.

“To give up two runs in three games and to finish it with a shutout here in the most difficult place to pitch in baseball…those guys on the staff deserve a ton of credit,” said manager Craig Counsell. “We’ve been pitching at a really high level for a good bit here.”

Hear Game 3 starter Wade Miley talk about throwing to Kratz in this MLB footage from a post-game press conference.

Media has made much of Kratz’s “rookie” postseason debut, after 17 years playing professional baseball and nine in the majors with seven different teams. He’s riding a career-best season this year (career-high hits at 48, career-high plate appearances at 219, and nearly eclipsing games played and starts in a season).

“A true baseball lifer is getting his shot on the big stage, and hasn’t disappointed,” wrote SB Nation’s Eric Stephens.

Kratz’s Game 2 start was quickly contextualized in arcania: He is the oldest player (since 1905’s 39-year-old A’s thirdbaseman Lave Cross) to make a postseason debut. Once Game 3 concluded, he became the second-oldest catcher in postseason history with three hits in a game.

At EMU, Kratz played every inning of every game of his four-year career. In 2002, he was drafted in the 29th round by the Toronto Blue Jays. Locally, Kratz played with Waynesboro in the Valley League and for a few games, before being drafted, with the Broadway Bruins of the Rockingham County Baseball League. He is a 2012 inductee of EMU’s Hall of Honor.

The Brewers play next on Friday evening at Miller Park against an as-yet-undecided opponent.