Let's take stock of what just happened. The Brewers went out on the road (where they are traditionally weak) for a week against two teams that, according to their records, are a bit better than the Crew. And more importantly, they are among the Brewers' hottest competition for the wild card. Going into the week two games under .500, they took a series from both the Mets and the Phillies, came back to .500, saw just about every aspect of the team excel at some point or other, and now get a week at home out of the deal.
Oh yeah, and they're still in contention. 4.5 back of the Astros after both teams won yesterday; today, the 'Stros have the day off, so there's an opportunity to pick up another half-game. The Marlins (2 games back of Houston) are playing a doubleheader against the Rockies, so they may get to pick up even more ground.
Between now and August 18th, the Crew plays three games at home against the Cardinals (starting tonight), three games at home against the Reds, and then three games in Coors Field. Why is August 18th important? That's when the Brewers arrive at the Juice Box in Houston for a four-game set that could determine whether the Brewers are in this thing for real. After that, the Crew heads back home to take on the Marlins, another wild-card favorite.
I don't expect too much from that series with Houston--it'd be great to go in, sweep, and come out wild-card leaders, but frankly I don't think it's reasonable to assume you can ever sweep a series against a team featuring a big three of Clemens, Pettitte, and Oswalt. You might beat one or two of those guys, but not all three. At least not this year.
Point being, if the Crew can hold steady or pick up a game or two between now and the 18th (a strong possibility, with six games against the Reds and Rockies) and then grab a split or better in Houston, they could well turn the Sept-1 corner within a couple games of the wild-card lead. Then, Milwaukee's schedule gets even a little easier: six games against the Reds and five against the Pirates starting on August 30th; a series against the D-Backs, and only three games (at home) against the Cardinals.
What's more, after that Houston series, the Brewers are one of the few teams in baseball with a day off every week until the end of the saeson. That means that Sheets, Capuano, and Davis could get a couple extra starts, and that either Santos or Ohka could spend a bit of time in the bullpen. And as much as I like our guys coming out of the 'pen, I wouldn't mind having another long-man option at this point whose name isn't Rick Helling.
And it's been noted many times before: the Brewers end the season with a stretch of 30+ games where 2/3 of them are at home, where they have played much better this year. It's not an easy schedule, but it's set up about as nicely as a marginally-contending team could expect.
Now, after all that, how 'bout Tomo Ohka? He appears to be the kind of pitcher who, like Glendon Rusch in his better days, puts together decent season lines by alternating brilliance with, well, non-brilliance, and we saw it all last week. But man, did he look good yesterday.
I was sitting in the first row of the upper level right behind home plate, so I could watch the movement on those 85 mph "fastballs." The extremely generous strike zone (for both teams) helped out Ohka quite a bit, but he mostly had those guys fooled. Only one long Chase Utley (I think) drive to centerfield could've gone either way--Brady Clark pulled it in at the wall. Had it snuck over, we might be singing a different tune right now. But even with that, 8 innings, 4 hits, and 9 K's is a mighty fine outing from anybody, not to mention a much-maligned back-of-the-rotation starter.
Now, to the graph:
- Clark, -4.0%
- Weeks, +15.3
- Overbay, -5.6%
- Lee, -6.6%
- Jenkins, +1.8%
- Hall, -6.0%
- Branyan, -3.4%
- Moeller, -1.0%
- Ohka, -6.5%
- Ohka, +56.0%
- Turnbow, +10.1%
David Bell, with his 8th inning leadoff double, was the only Phillie batter to contribute more than 1% to his team's cause. Padilla, despite taking the loss, contributed 10.8% himself.
This, my friends, is exciting. If the Crew can somehow take 2 of 3 from the Cardinals...well, I'm not sure there's a word for how that'll be.