The Milwaukee Brewers continue to reside in 1st place in the NL Comedy Central, the most overrated division in baseball, with a 67-55 record as of this writing. Simple math illustrates a record of 47-47 since their roaring 20-8 start in April. Is this the formula for a pennant or even a Wild Card berth? Let’s take a look at what lies ahead for the Brew-Ha’s as they prepare for their final 40 games, and will continuing to play .500 baseball, the Brewers patented trademark, be enough to qualify for post season?
First the remaining schedule: 19 games at Miller Park and 21 on the road, beginning with a visit to Clayton Kershaw and the LA Dodgers tomorrow night, the first of a three game series at Chavez Ravine. Seven more games with the Cardinals (4 at home – 3 on the road) and six more games with Cubs, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati(split home and away 3 game series), all divisional foes. The remainder of the season includes 3 games at home against the Marlins, 3 on the road against the Padres and Giants and a two game set next week with the Blue Jays in Milwaukee.
Offense. After a disappointing four game split with the lowly Cubs this past week at Wrigley, an inconsistent offense and and equally schizophrenic pitching staff reveals almost next to nothing. Offensively Carlos Gomez is in legitimate funk, changing his batting stance as his batting average continues its descent toward the .270′s. Braun has gone beyond a slump, he sat out today’s game to nurse “nagging injuries”, and without a handy syringe lying around, his paltry numbers; 14 home runs and 67 RBI, .279 average, are probably not going to inflate any time soon. Off season acquisition and after thought Mark Reynolds leads the team with 21 home runs, and of course whiffs when he isn’t hitting it out of the park. If not for the productivity from Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett, and the MVP caliber year of Jonathan Lucroy, the Blewers wouldn’t be where they are right now. The offense is inconsistent at best.
Pitching. Two Cub newcomers, Kyle Hendricks and Yoshi Wada, racked up victories against the Road Crew and nearly posted consecutive shutouts on Tuesday and Wednesday. If it weren’t for the nomadic chuckings offered up by Edwin Jackson on Thursday, the Blew-Ha’s might have lost 3 out of 4 at Wrigley. They gained the split behind a 14 strike out effort from Mike Fiers, called up to replace the injured Matt Garza (oblique strain – imagine that). Add to Garza’s ailment a bum ankle for #1 starter Kyler Lohse, and, combined with a suddenly leaky bull pen, the Brewers stellar pitching numbers are beginning to fade. Without Lohse and Garza, the Brewers will go into the final stretch with Fiers and Jimmy Nelson forced to carry the load, can two call ups get it done? In the meantime, it’s a pure crap shoot whenever Yovani Gallardo and Wily Peralta take to the mound. The pitching is just as sporadic as the offense.
Base running. Don’t even get me started, the Brewers continue to sacrifice runs at an alarming rate, and it is simply more than a trend, it is a verifiable habit, and it could well cost them a post season berth.
Yet all of these factors might just add up to a mute point, however, because it appears the Cardinals, despite the recent pitching acquisitions of Justin Masterson and John Lackey, are on the slow fade. The Reds are merely a mirage, without Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips they have just been content milling around an actual .500 record themselves (60-60). On the other hook, however, the Pirates are just 2 1/2 games back, and have kept their bandannas and eye patches above water without the services of All-Star Andrew McCutcheon over the last 10 days. It appears the only formidable threat to the Brewers winning the Central will be Pittsburgh, especially if they can take both the remaining series with Milwaukee.
Until then, the final six and half weeks of the 2014 season should be a real roller coaster ride for Brewer fans, something those that have been following the team for 40 plus years have become quite accustomed to, albeit with the exception being that by this time in most seasons, the ride has already malfunctioned. My hunch is they’ll wind up in the mix until the very end, if only because the rest of the division is more beat up than they are.
Who knows, when when they host the always entertaining Chicago Cubs in the last series of 2014 at $8 Miller Park, September 26-28, a three game set that could well determine the out of their post season fate, they might need a sweep to claim that coveted post season spot. It’ll probably result in an 87-75 record, the result of continuing to play.500 baseball, the signature trademark of Brewer baseball as we know it. For Brewer fans, that could be be enough for an excuse to spray champagne, but it won’t produce a trip to the World Series in 2014.