Say this for your Milwaukee Brewers, they sure do find ways to keep things interesting.
After another come-from-behind, extra-innings victory, the Brewers were feeling confident -- but understandably a little tired -- as they headed out onto the road for a strange trip that includes a pair of off-days between now and Friday.
Pick a way to win, and chances are the Brewers have used it this season. Sunday's 4-3, 12-inning victory was their 15th extra-inning affair of the season -- the Brewers are 10-5 in such games -- and the 37th game decided in the last at-bat (they're 7-5 in walk-off situations).
Finding ways to win has become a hallmark of the 2008 Brewers, and it's a trait many in the clubhouse think is indicative of just how talented the team is.
"We don't worry about the frustrations during the game," said centerfielder Mike Cameron, who had five hits Sunday. "There's no grey area between winning and losing. We find a way to get it done."
The Brewers' penchant for the long ball also helps ensure that they're never out of it.
"The thing I like about our offense is we can get you a number of ways," manager Ned Yost said. "Up and down that lineup there are three or four guys that can burn you with a home run. Everybody in our lineup, with the exception of maybe Kendall, can hit a home run and beat you.
"You just don't know who it's coming from that day."
Doing their part: Most of the focus has been put on CC Sabathia and fellow ace Ben Sheets, but the Brewers' other starters have held their own in recent weeks. Entering play Sunday, the Milwaukee rotation was 13-5 with a 2.82 ERA in its last 22 games and has combined for 17 quality starts during that stretch.
Dave Bush, especially, has turned his season around. The right-hander was so awful early in the year that he was sent down to Class AAA Nashville after starting the season 0-4, he's done nearly a 180-degree turnaround.
He was 5-7 with a 5.74 ERA on June 19 but has won three times this month (with no losses) and is now 8-9 with a 4.24 ERA. Bush has pitched into the seventh eight times in his last 11 starts and also weathered a short-lived experiment in which he started home games and Seth McClung took road starts.
"It's a matter of just relaxing and going out and trying to take each start and improve upon the last one and not try to go out and throw a no-hitter," Bush said after picking up his eighth victory of the season Friday night against Houston.
"He's really got his season turned around," Yost said. "The consistency he brings to the mound, especially his last 10 or 11 times out has been tremendous."
Bobblehead mania: J.J. Hardy's game-winning hit came on the same day that his bobblehead was given away to fans. Before the game, Jason Kendall told him he was due for a big day.
"He said I was guaranteed two or three hits just because it was bobblehead day, or hit a homer," Hardy joked.
Quiet recovery: It wasn't that long ago that Guillermo Mota seemed destined for his outright release. Yost took a lot of heat from reporters and fans for his decision to stick with the beleaguered right-hander.
As much as he'd like to, Yost has refrained from screaming "I told you so."
Mota has a 0.87 ERA in his last 10 outings, a far cry from the 5.77 mark he posted in the first half. On Sunday, Mota worked himself out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the 12th inning, preserving the 3-3 tie snapped in the bottom half of the frame on Hardy's game-winning single.
"He had a rough stretch and we took him out of the eighth-inning role," Yost said. "We backing him up a little bit ... and kind of hand-picked opportunities until he got his feet back on the ground.
"He's done a nice job."
Standing room only: The Brewers last 21 games at Miller Park have been sellouts, extending a franchise record. The three-game series against Pittsburgh drew 130,093 to Miller Park, the highest attendance for a three-game series this season.
Yost says he knew that it was only a matter of time until the crowds started showing up again.
"I saw these six years ago," Yost said. "I knew we'd draw 3 million fans before it was all said and done.
"I've seen this town before, seen it excited about its baseball team."
Sunday's game against Pittsburgh drew 45,106 fans and was the 37th sellout of the season. Every game since the team traded for Sabathia has been a sellout.
Giving back: Pitchers Jeff Suppan and Eric Gagné will each donate $20,000 to the Milwaukee County Parks to help repair baseball fields damaged by the heavy rains this spring. ... Cameron is helping encourage parents of MPS students to turn in meal benefits applications. Each school will award a prize package to one student, with a grand prize consisting of $1,000 in groceries, and iPod, Brewers tickets and a chance to watch batting practice.
Jenkins on DL: Former Brewers outfielder Geoff Jenkins, now playing with Philadelphia, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right hip flexor strain. Jenkins, who signed with the Phillies as a free-agent during the off-season, was hitting .246 with nine homers and 29 RBIs. Ironically enough, the Phillies are just a game and a half behind the Mets in the NL East and could end Jenkins streak of 1,342 career games without a post-season appearance in the same season the Brewers make the playoffs for the first time since 1982.
Quick hits: J.J. Hardy became just the third shortstop in team history hit 20 or more home runs in a season twice. He joins Robin Yount and Jose Hernandez on the list. ... Hardy singled in the first inning Sunday -- the day his bobblehead was given away to fans -- to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. ... Starting Sept. 1, 13 of the Brewers' final 26 games are against the Mets, Phillies and Cubs. ... Bill Hall went 3 for 4 Sunday with a run scored to snap out of a 0-16 slump. ... Cameron's five hits Sunday tied his career high for hits in a game. He's hitting .383 with six homers and 12 RBI in his last 19 games. ... The Brewers are now 83-83 against Pittsburgh all-time. ... At 76-55, the Brewers are 21 games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 1992 season 92-70.
Injury report: No news on Russell Branyan's status. The third baseman has been out since Aug. 12 with a strained right oblique. Yovani Gallardo continues to rehab his surgically-repaired right ACL.
On the farm: 3B Mat Gamel was promoted to Class AAA Nashville for the final few games of the season and could very well get a call-up to the big club come September 1. Gamel struggled a bit after the Southern League All-Star Game, but still finished with some impressive numbers.
He hit .329 with 19 homers and 96 RBIs to go along with 35 doubles and seven triples. His downfall, though, is his defense. Gamel was charged with 30 errors at third base. To make room for Gamel on the Nashville roster, infielder Ozzie Chavez was sent to Huntsville.
This week: It's a wacky week for the Crew. After taking today off, the Brewers play a pair in St. Louis before another off-day, followed by a three-game set in Pittsburgh this weekend.
He said it: "We'd win a game and people would congratulate us for three days." -- Yost, on the differences between his first season and this year.
Attendance (after 65 home games): Total -- 2,468,371; Average -- 37,975; On pace for -- 3,075,971; Sellouts -- 37.
N.L. Central standings: 1, Chicago, 80-50; 2, Milwaukee, 76-55 (-4½); 3, St. Louis, 73-59 (-8); 4, Houston, 66-64 (-14); 5, Pittsburgh, 57-73 (-23); 6, Cincinnati, 57-74 (-23½).
N.L. Wild Card standings: 1, Milwaukee, 76-55; 2, St. Louis, 73-59 (-3½); 3, Philadelphia, 70-59 (-5); 4, Florida, 67-64 (-9); 5, Houston, 66-64 (-9½).