The Next Two Weeks Key for the Brewers
With southern Wisconsin facing another day of temps in excess of 100 degrees, one wishes some of that heat would fall on the Milwaukee Brewers. It seems the team is playing just well enough to build some hope, riding a short wave of momentum to seemingly threaten the .500 mark…only to fall away when they get to four games back. They last touched sea level when they were 9-9 on April 24. Since then they have fallen as far as nine games under (May 27) and have been playing footsie with four under ever since, hitting that mark four times before tumbling back.
The most recent instance was earlier this week when the Brewers surged from eight under, winning four straight and getting some fans believing…only to lose the next two and settle back into their accustomed slot outside the Zone of Hope, six games under break even.
Now the Crew faces a telling stretch, a dozen games v. NL Central opponents, starting tonight in HOU. After the All Star Break, Milwaukee faces the teams ahead of them in the standings: PIT, STL and CIN. It would seem essential for the Brewers to win at least seven of those games; less than that, it is hard to imagine there being any reason to consider them contenders–not just for a playoff spot, but for finishing with a winning record. At that point, Doug Melvin probably becomes a seller and the Crew looks to cut its losses on a disappointing and frustrating season.
However, if they can somehow win eight of the coming 12, it becomes much more interesting. The Brewers haven’t breathed the rarefied air of two games under .500 since May Day (which somehow seems an appropriate exclamation for this year’s team). Busting through the “four-games-under malaise” they have been battling for two months might give management enough encouragement to add pieces (e.g. bullpen support) in the belief they can make a run at a not-too-fearsome NL Central.
Trouble is, there is little reason to believe the Brewers have that kind of run in them. Winning two-thirds of their next dozen games would be a pretty impressive stretch for this team, let alone doing it against the best teams in their division. The Crew remains out of sync, unable to match good hitting with good pitching on a consistent basis. Worse, when they get good hitting and starting pitching aligned, the bullpen has had a disturbing tendency to give those leads back or to keep close deficits surmountable.
(In this regard, props to Andrew Hetzel – @3rdigraphix — who noted today on Twitter: “The Brewers need a commercial w/Aaron Rodgers extinguishing a gas fire on the mound while Lucroy & Braun look on.” Beautiful, man.)
What Brewers fans who still believe there is a season to be salvaged might want to look to and hold onto is a wonderful 11 stretch in late May and early June, a period in which Milwaukee went 8-3, sweeping the Dodgers in LA, notching two wins against the Cubs and one each v. PIT and SD. Sadly, they lost that PIT series at home, and SD and CHI are two of baseballs worst teams. So even that nice 11 game stretch is looking more like a fluke than reason for optimism, particularly as it came nearly six weeks ago.
Right now, all indications point to the Brewers being sellers come July 23. That would be sad and fraught with some peril, but it may be the best course to follow if there is a continuation of sluggish play over the next two weeks.