The Brewers have been in first place in the NL Central since April 5th. It has been almost 100 days of them in first place. Even better, they had first place to themselves since April 9, building up to, at it's peak, a 6.5 game lead.
Now, that lead is gone. With a 10-2 loss to the Cardinals Saturday afternoon, St. Louis officially pulled even with Milwaukee atop the Central. As the two sides play one more on Sunday, it's possible the Brewers will fall out of first place altogether before the All Star break.
July has been a dreadful, horrible month for the Brewers so far. They have gone 1-10 and, often, have looked listless on the field. Rough stretches aren't uncommon, though. They just stand out. The 2011 Brewers made the playoffs despite a 1-10 stretch in late-April and early-May and a 1-7 stretch in early-July. The 2008 Brewers made the playoffs despite a 3-12 record to start September. Last year's World Champion Red Sox went 2-9 in early-May.
The sky hasn't fallen and the season isn't over. The Brewers may no longer have their divisional lead, but we shouldn't have expected things to work out the same as they had in the first half of the season and we certainly shouldn't have expected the team to avoid any rough patches.
The Brewers still have two MVP candidates this year. They have a former MVP. They have three starting All Stars and a fourth in the NL's bullpen. They have a top-3 offense in the league. They have a solid pitching staff that should be improved with the demotion of Marco Estrada, even after Jimmy Nelson's lackluster start earlier this week. The bullpen is strong, and will see the return of two of it's best members at some point down the line.
The Cardinals still have their evil voo-doo, the Reds still have a real good pitching staff, and the Pirates still have their up-and-coming youth. Meanwhile, the Brewers still hold first place in the NL Central, at least for a few more hours. Even if they have to share it. All of these team's are good. The Brewers were never going to breeze through the season with first place.
The second half promises to be a dogfight. I fully expect the Brewers to remain in contention to the end. A 1-10 11-game stretch doesn't doom good teams. The Brewers need a break to rest up and they're getting that after Sunday. I look forward to them returning with a fire in the unofficial second half.