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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

The Brewers have become the most dangerous team in baseball. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi )

The Brewers are the most dangerous team in baseball


August is supposed to be a month filled with "dog days," where high temperatures sweat you out and you slog your way through baseball games that follow the excitement of the All-Star Game and trading deadline, but before the stretch run of late September.

August was nothing of the sort for the Milwaukee Brewers, as they went 16-12 to spark a 16-7 September that turned them from an afterthought to the most dangerous team in baseball.

"We feel like as a team we really believe we can beat anyone on any given day," Brewers infielder Jeff Bianchi said. "We put a good stretch together and you have more fun when you win, too, so the confidence is there."

That confidence is why no one in the National League wants to see the Brewers in the postseason. Not the wildcard-clinching Atlanta Braves, or the division leading Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants.

No one.

If the Brewers somehow manage to make up the 4.5 games they trail St. Louis over the next eight games, they would face a Braves team they just swept at Miller Park on Sept. 10-12.

Should the Brewers advance to the Division Series against the Reds, Nationals or Giants, they would host the first two games of the five-game set at Miller Park due to a scheduling quirk created by the additional wildcard game.

The Brewers are 46-29 at home, including a 19-3 stretch since July 30.

"It's unbelievable," Brewers outfielder Logan Schafer said. "What momentum can do is unbelievable. It's really evident with this team. It's something that's fun to be a part of and you just want to keep it rolling."

Washington and Cincinnati have done – and will do – everything they can to slow that roll, proving they want no part of the Brewers in the postseason during this recent road trip.

The Nationals ran out Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez on Saturday and let Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann throw 106 pitches through 6 2/3 innings on Monday.

The Reds rolled out the red carpet with their ace and Cy Young aspirant Johnny Cueto on Tuesday in a 4-2 victory and are scheduled to throw Bronson Arroyo (12-8, 3.63 ERA) tonight and Matt Latos (13-4, 3.60) on Thursday.

The Reds and Nationals clinched playoff spots last week – they easily could've given these pitchers an extra day of rest, or not used key bullpen arms – but by not doing so they've shown the greatest respect to the Brewers.

It's with cause, too.

Schafer is right on – the Brewers have momentum on their side, and in a game where many say "momentum is only as good as the next day's pitcher" the sport is proving that is no longer the case.

In 2007, the Colorado Rockies went 20-7 in September, won the wildcard and advanced to the World Series.

In 2008, the Boston Red Sox went 34-19 in August and September to push them to the American League Championship Series against Tampa Bay.

The Rockies did it again in 2009, going 20-11 in September and October to earn the wildcard.

San Francisco rode a 19-10 stretch in September and October to a World Series title in 2010 and Brewers fans of course remember the 18-8 September the Cardinals had last year en route to their championship.

Why are they the most dangerous team in the game right now?

The lineup: Entering Wednesday's game, Ryan Braun was leading the NL in homers (40), total bases (339), slugging percentage (.598), OPS (.989) and RBI (108). It's getting harder and harder to not consider him the Most Valuable Player.

Over the last 28 days, Aramis Ramirez was hitting .330/.380/.580 with five homers and 17 driven in. Rickie Weeks is hitting .305/.371/.571 with seven homers and 16 RBI over that same period. Corey Hart is on fire as well, hitting over .330 in his last 30 games and is in the top 10 in the league in extra-base hits and total bases.

As a team, the Brewers are leading the NL in home runs and stolen bases, which hasn't happened since Colorado did it in 1996.

The back end of the bullpen: Yes, that part of the bullpen. Oh, how things have changed since the 27 blown saves in the early part of the year. Through Monday, closer John Axford hasn't allowed a run in 13 of his last 15 outings (1.98 ERA) and has converted 15 straight saves.

Francisco Rodriguez hasn't allowed a run in 16 of his last 18 outings (2.08 ERA) and Jim Henderson hasn't allowed a run in eight straight appearances. Toss in Jose Veras for good measure, allowing runs in just two of his last 23 outings (1.19 ERA).

There are questions, sure. Is Mike Fiers out of gas? Is Shaun Marcum healthy and back to normal? Can Kameron Loe get his sinker right? Can Manny Para get out lefties in a key situation? Will Hart's foot hold up?

At this point, there are no perfect teams. The Brewers aren't – but they are baseball's most dangerous. The only problem now is the season is they are quickly running out of days to prove it.


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