Win: Marcum (7-2)
Loss: Westbrook (6-4)
Save: Axford (18)
HR: Fielder (19)
MVP: Fielder (.218)
LVP: Yuniesky Betancourt (-.116)
First place. As I mentioned earlier, the Brewers haven't been in first place since late April. They hadn't been in first place as late in the season since July 4, 2009. Of course, 60% of the season remains, but this is a huge step for the Brewers. In the offseason, Milwaukee clearly made this season their top priority, trading away basically all their top prospects for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum.
Yesterday, Greinke got the win against the Cardinals. Today, it was Marcum. Being in first place proves that the Brewers truly have what it takes to fight for the division. Being in first place proves any doubters who said Greinke and Marcum weren't enough to put the Brewers over the top wrong. Milwaukee is now 38-28. Do you know how many teams have a better record than the Brewers right now? Two--the Phillies and the Red Sox. This Brewers team is special, and they are capable of doing great things this year. And that's despite getting virtually no production from Casey McGehee, who was supposed to be a big part of the offense.
Of course, when a team has Prince Fielder hitting as well as he has, they can afford to have one of their top guys slumping for a little while. Fielder hit yet another home run today, a two run blast to give the Brewers the lead, and reached base another two times. It's utterly ridiculous how good he has been recently. Fielder has hit eight home runs now in his last ten games and, as Adam McCalvy pointed out on twitter, seven of those home runs have given the Brewers the lead. The eighth tied a game. Were it not for Fielder the past couple of weeks, the Brewers would likely still be down in the standings, if not by several games. I'm not sure if the math works out, but this game might very well have put Fielder over Berkman for the NL lead in OPS. He's also now just two home runs from Jose Bautista for the MLB lead. He's also only a couple away from Adrian Gonzalez for the MLB RBI lead. Lately, it's seemed like Fielder has been able to hit home runs at will.
That's not meant to make what the rest of the team did seem any less important of course. There is an incredible amount of fight and resiliency in the Brewers. It's an old cliche, but it truly seems like no lead is safe against Milwaukee. They have had a number of comeback wins recently, and none of them have seemed all that surprising. Today, Shaun Marcum was brilliant, going seven innings and giving up three runs on just five hits and two walks while striking out eight, and Ryan Braun (1-3, BB, R, RBI), Corey Hart (2-3, 2B), and, of all people, Mark Kotsay (2-4, 2B, R, RBI) helped carry the team offensively. I still don't know what the reasoning would be behind starting Kotsay over Nyjer Morgan in CF. Right handers had absolutely been destroying Jake Westbrook, but the way Morgan had been hitting lately, I'm not sure why Roenicke didn't want to ride Morgan's better everything. But in retrospect, I'm glad Ron Roenicke made that decision. Another old cliche: Any manager will look like a genius if their team wins. And boy are the Brewers winning.
The Brewers are in first place, and it feels good.