What we learned is taking a day off for the holiday. It will return on Monday.
Today is the start of a 10-game stretch that will take us to the All-Star Break. In this stretch includes a series against the second place team in the NL Central (St. Louis Cardinals, 5 games back) and fourth place team (Cincinnati Reds, 7 games back), along with a 4-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies. With just under three months left in the season, this stretch won't decide anything. The division won't be won or lost over this span. However, the Brewers can make a statement to start the second half of the season with these games.
Up to this point in the season, the Brewers have built up the biggest division lead in baseball. At the same time, these two teams have continued to be a thorn in the Brewers side. They are 3-3 against the Cardinals so far this season, and 2-5 against the Reds. Over the course of the rest of the season, they have 13 more games against the Cardinals and 12 more against the Reds. That's about 1/3 of the remaining Brewers' schedule. Either team could make life very difficult for the Brewers and their playoff push. So far, the Brewers have used some good play against the Pittsburgh Pirates to help build their lead (10-3 against the Pirates this season), but if they want to make the playoffs, they will need to find some success against the Cardinals and Reds.
The Brewers will enter this next stretch of games with a five game lead. How they exit it will either give the other teams hope for the rest of the season, or deal a blow to their confidence. Losing these games will show the other teams that the division race is still open. Holding the lead or building on it will make the task of putting together a run to the division lead that much tougher. While holding the lead may not be that much exciting, it means that nothing has changed, and now the other teams have 10 less games to use for making their comeback.
It would also help the Brewers decide what they need to do over the remainder of the season. Letting that lead drop may create more urgency to bring a player in via a trade. Building that lead would decrease the need and allow the Brewers to stick with what they have with confidence. It will also be a critical time for some of the fringe players. They can solidify their spots with some good games, or make them expendable with a bad stretch. The trade deadline is looming, and if those players don't want to lose their job, they need to begin to step up now.
The division race won't be won in the next 10 games. It also won't be lost in those games. However, the Brewers can dictate how it will go with their performance in these games. What they do against the Reds and Cardinals will position themselves for the second half of the season.
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