ST. LOUIS -- If it seems as if Ryan Braun has taken his game to another level in the postseason, it's because he has.
Braun, already a National League Most Valuable Player Award candidate after putting up impressive numbers throughout the regular season, has been nearly unstoppable in the postseason. With his single in the first inning of the Brewers' 4-2 victory in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday night, Braun became the first player to start a postseason by going 15-for-30 since David Ortiz did so for the Red Sox in 2004, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
That single also marked a Major League-record eighth straight postseason game in which Braun reached base safely in the first inning. Braun has gone 6-for-6 with two homers, five RBIs, a walk and a hit by pitch in the opening frame of Milwaukee's past eight games.
The only other player to reach base safely in even seven straight first frames in a postseason was Gary Sheffield for the Marlins in 1997.
After helping the Crew to its Game 4 victory, Braun could get the chance to extend his first-inning streak to 10 games.
"Feels great," Braun said. "Obviously the goal was to make sure we get an opportunity to go back and play Game 6. If we didn't get to do it, that would have meant our season was over. It's well documented we have played well at home. These guys have played us tough at home, too, but it's definitely a great feeling that we are going to have an opportunity to at least get to Game 6 back at home."
But the first-inning hit was just an appetizer, as Braun would later continue his trend of seemingly coming through in every big situation he's faced. He did it in the regular season, crushing a go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning against the Marlins on the night the Brewers clinched the NL Central title.
He did it in Game 1 of the NL Division Series -- going 3-for-4 and scoring two runs -- and again in Game 2 of that set, with a two-run homer in the first inning on his way to a 3-for-4 game in which he drove in three runs and scored a pair.
Braun also had a big hit in Game 5 of the NLDS, doubling in the sixth inning and later coming around to score the go-ahead run. Two days later, Braun blasted a two-run first-inning homer to put the Brewers on top early in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cards.
More surprising have been the moments when he hasn't delivered.
In Milwaukee's Game 3 loss to St. Louis, Braun grounded out to lead off the eighth inning of a one-run game after flying out with the tying run on first in his previous at-bat.
But Thursday night, with the Crew needing a win, Braun was back, delivering the go-ahead single in the fifth inning off reliever Mitchell Boggs.
"Real big at-bat there," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "To get the infield in on the right side there, they left the shortstop back a little bit. But Braunie, he battles until they make a mistake where he's able to handle it, and he continues to get big hits for us."
Braun is batting .471 this postseason, with six doubles, two home runs, nine RBIs and seven runs scored.
Even if Braun is not the NL MVP, he's certainly making a case to be NLCS MVP.
"Everyone says what a hot streak he's been on. He's Ryan. He's been doing that all year long," said Brewers third baseman Jerry Hairston. "Probably him or Prince [Fielder] will win the MVP, both deserving of it. [Braun] is a complete player. He can run, hit for average, hit for power and he's been clutch for us all year long. So having him do this, it's not surprising. He's been doing it for us the whole season."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.