The Chicago Cubs have run into rain and lost games in the nation’s capital. The St. Louis Cardinals have been walked off two straight days by the lowly Tigers in Detroit. And your Milwaukee Brewers have used a 5-1 week to move within 2.5 games of the Cubs with a somewhat crucial three game set at Wrigley approaching that starts tomorrow...unless the Cubs are still playing after multiple weather delays in D.C.
Plus, the Crew has built a 2.5 game edge over the Cardinals for the first Wild Card spot (and a 3 game lead on the Dodgers). With the Cardinals’ issues in their bullpen and the hot recent play of LA, it seems entirely possible that the Cards might not make it into the playoffs. That’d just break my heart.
Of course, it’s still entirely possible that the Brewers could be left out. That would break my heart harder. But today is a day for optimism! Getting to Chicago within 1.5 games of the Cubs seemed a bit far-fetched a week ago. It could happen with a Crew win and Cubs loss today.
TOP PITCHING STORY: The Milwaukee bullpen was largely responsible for the struggles of the Brewers in August. The team still managed to salvage a 13-13 record, but that doesn’t gain you much ground when a gazillion teams are in contention for the playoffs. But for the first full week of September, it has been a glorious return to dominance by the pen (with a couple of hiccups). In the six games, the Cream City Nine has used their relief corps to cover 24.2 innings. They’ve allowed just 17 hits and 5 walks, resulting in 5 runs. That’s an ERA of 1.82 (I told you they weren’t perfect) with a WHIP of 0.89. They also struck out 34 on the week, which comes to 12.4 per nine innings. And leading the charge was:
Honorable Mention: Corey Knebel. After returning from his ‘take a moment’ demotion to AAA to work on some things, it’s looking like he successfully worked on some things. Corey pitched in four of the six games, going 3.2 innings, and didn’t allow a baserunner. So, no runs (funny how that works), and 8 K’s. There’s suddenly another closer available. Always hard to tell where these things come from; certainly command and control are at the forefront of Corey’s success. It looks to me like he’s minimized his rock-back-and-explode to the plate motion, but I could be imagining things. Anyways, the more trustworthy high-leverage arms out there, the better.
TOP HITTING STORY: The end-of-August trade deadline (important because a player needs to be rostered before Sept. 1st to be play-off eligible) brought three new Brewers, and all have already contributed, but the job done by Curtis Granderson stands out. (Well, OK, let’s give Gio Gonzalez a nod, too). Grandy played in five of the six games with two starts, and had 10 plate appearances. His two hits and four walks give him an on-base percentage of .600. That’s pretty good. He homered, drove in two, and scored five times. These numbers are significant as the Brewers are prone to playing close games. His OPS was 1.019. Small sample size? Sure, but Sundries is all about small sample sizes!
Honorable Mention: It was a down week for Christian Yelich. He hit just .286, and got on base at a .400 clip. He “only” had two homers, and scored just three runs total. But he drove home 9 of the Brewers 36 runs on the week. Oh my. I know that RBIs aren’t supposed to be a thing, but plating 25% of your team’s tallies in a 5-1 week should get you something, even if it’s just Honorable Mention. (And I don’t think I’ve seen anything as silly as the brouhaha over Yelich getting Wednesday off. I mean, he got a pinch hit in a crucial spot, and his replacements were 2 for 5 with two runs scored, a homer, and two RBI. That’s brilliant managing, CC! Of course, that was the only game they lost this week...)
IMHO: Really, I got nothing here. Pennant race baseball is like riding a roller coaster, and I get ill just driving by Six Flags. But you know what? If the Brewers win their last 19 games they’ll finish with an even 100 wins. This would have my approval.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Congrats to the Biloxi Shuckers! They have won their first play-off series 3 games to 1 in the Southern League, moving into the championship round. After Friday’s narrow 3-2 win in game three, ORBrewCrew noted that this is the team that has the top system prospects by highlighting Keston Hiura:
Hiura: 2-4, 2 2B, 1 RBI
That’s a line we’ll see a lot in the future from him.
Let’s hope he’s right. The future at second base still looks wide open for the second year pro.
So, as noted, after the finale of the Giants’ series this afternoon, the Brewers go down to Chicago for three, get their obligatory off day on Thursday (no games scheduled on Thursdays all month), and then return home for three against the Pirates. I’m getting queasy just thinking about it.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference