The Brewers have been scuffling a bit over the past two weeks, which is leading many to worry that this year's team is on its way to a September skid similar to the one the 2008 team faced. While it would be easy to panic, there really isn't much reason for Brewers fans to worry.
St. Louis' loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night cut Milwaukee's magic number to just nine with 14 Brewers games left to play. The Brewers don't play a team with a winning record for the rest of the season, finishing the year with series against the Rockies, Reds, Cubs, Marlins and Pirates. They're 33-16 against those teams this year, and of that group, only Cincinnati has a winning record against the Brewers, going 8-5 so far this year.
If you're looking for more reasons for optimism, how about the return of Rickie Weeks to the starting lineup? While the Brewers are easing Weeks back into a starting role, he does make the starting lineup look a bit more imposing, even if he's currently only getting two or three at-bats a game.
Once Weeks is back full-time, there's also the chance we see Jerry Hairston make some starts at shortstop – right now, getting Yuniesky Betancourt out of the everyday lineup is probably the biggest thing that can be done to improve the team. How much better would a top six of Hart-Morgan-Braun-Fielder-Weeks-Hairston look compared to Hart-Morgan-Braun-Fielder-McGehee-Betancourt?
At the very least, we wouldn't have that sinking feeling when Braun and Fielder are unable to knock in a run and McGehee steps in with two outs.
The pitching has also been much better than it was during that September skid of 2008. That year, the Brewers were allowing an average of 5.4 runs per game until Ned Yost was let go after a sweep at the hands of the Phillies. Through the Brewers' first 11 games this September, they've only allowed 3.3 runs per game.
For the most part, the Brewers have been in every game they've lost during this rough stretch. It's been frustrating to watch the offense struggle to string together big hits, but considering the good fortune the team had in August, perhaps it was just a matter of time before that evened out.
As long as the Brewers continue to get good pitching, though, they'll be in a position to win games. Considering the lead the Brewers have built up in the division, they don't even have to win that many more games to clinch a postseason berth. Thanks to their win over Philadelphia on Sunday and St. Louis' loss to Pittsburgh on Monday, even if the Brewers finish the season 4-10, the Cardinals would have to finish 11-4 just to force a one-game playoff.
We can stop panicking about Milwaukee missing the playoffs all together. It's highly unlikely that the Brewers are only going to win four more games this year, and it's even more unlikely that the Cardinals are only going to lose four more times this year.
Even if the Brewers do make the playoffs rather easily, it seems like there will still be concern about their staying power in October. After all, they just finished a stretch in which they struggled against postseason contenders but beat up on bottom-feeders. The Giants proved last year, though, that you don't have to excel against great teams in the regular season to have postseason success.
In the postseason, you need strong outings from your starters, shutdown relievers to cover the last couple innings, and a little bit of luck when it comes to coming through with big hits in "clutch" situations.
The Brewers are consistently good in those first two areas.
If someone randomly gets hot – like Cody Ross did for the Giants last October – the Brewers could easily start looking like the unstoppable club they were in August.
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