Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has exhibited nothing but patience the first five-plus weeks of the season, waiting for something – anything – to catch with his defending National League Central Division champions.
He's seen vestiges of that team, yet it remains just that, a flicker, here and gone.
There was the walk-off, 10-inning win over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Miller Park on April 18.
There was Ryan Braun's three homer night in San Diego on April 30, followed by a 6-4 win over the Giants in San Francisco four days later.
There was the 8-3 win over Cincinnati to start the most recent home stand, and then the back-to-back wins over the Chicago Cubs.
Each time, the question is asked of Roenicke. Is this it? Is this the blue flame across the bottom of the timber that eventually leads to roaring fire?
Each time, Roenicke says he hopes it is.
Each time, the blue flame loses oxygen.
After Tuesday night's contest in New York, an 8-0 win that can also be filed under "victories that should spark the team," the Brewers boast a team batting average of .237 with an on-base percentage of .310.
Zack Greinke's shutout dropped the pitching staff's combined earned run average of 4.63 before Tuesday to 4.50 after it, yet it's a number that remains good for second to last in the NL. The 122 walks allowed are 11th.
The team's .983 fielding percentage is sixth in the NL.
That invariably leads Roenicke to another question – can you compare the slow start of this Brewers team to that of last year's?
In 2011, the Brewers were 13-13 after April, went 17-12 in May and 14-13 in June. They built on their above-.500 record with a 16-11 mark in July and then went crazy in August, going 21-7.
"It's a little different with the personnel we have," Roenicke admitted during the last home stand. "It's different in that I thought we pitched real well last year all the way through the season, our starters. We're not doing that this year."
Roenicke continued his breakdown of what happened in 2011: "Offensively, the first month to month-and-a-half, two months, really, Rickie (Weeks) was swinging the bat pretty good and Nyjer (Morgan) was hitting .300 and (Ryan Braun) and Prince (Fielder) were killing the ball. Then after that I thought everybody started contributing when we got hot. But before that, it was a small group of guys that offensively were doing really well"
The hope now is that this week plays a vital a role as it did last year for the Brewers. Beginning on May 17 of 2011, the club ended the month 10-4, which included a six-game winning streak.
There has been enough evidence to make Roenicke believe a similar run can happen.
"We have the personnel that we have and I think we can get it done with what we have," he said. "But we need some guys to get hot, and we need it to start getting contagious to where the individuals don't all feel like it's got to be them that does all the work. You need two, three guys to get hot. I think once that happens I think other guys will loosen up and I think we'll all hit."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.