Dropping three of four to the top team in the league, as the Brewers did over the weekend to the Philadelphia Phillies, is a difficult proposition on many levels.
First of all, it extended a mini-slump that let the St. Louis Cardinals crawl within shouting distance in the race for the National League Central crown, though the Brewers still hold a six-game lead in the division.
Second, while surpassing Philadelphia for the best overall record in the NL, and the home-field guarantee that comes with it is out of the question, the Brewers now find themselves battling Arizona for the No. 2 overall seed – which would prevent a NLDS meeting with the powerful Phillies (more on that in a little while).
Lastly, though, and perhaps most importantly, it creates a perception that the Brewers would be mincemeat in an inevitable postseason rematch with Philadelphia.
"I don't want to get to where we think it is a must-win game, but it was huge," manager Ron Roenicke said Sunday, after his team pulled out a 3-2 victory. "It was a big game to win, and more probably because it gets us on that right frame of mind."
Prior to the season, Milwaukee was being mentioned with Philadelphia and San Francisco as having the one of the best starting rotations in the league and though Roenicke didn't get to send Zack Greinke to the mound during the series, Chris Narveson, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf and Yovani Gallardo held their own.
Narveson, who opened the series Thursday, was cruising through a scoreless duel with Cole Hamels when the Phillies lit him up for six runs en route to a 7-2 victory. Marcum got into trouble early Friday, and a mistake to Ryan Howard put the Brewers in a 3-0 hole early.
The problem came from the offense which was held at bay by one of the best starting rotations in baseball history. Brewers batters managed just eight hits (.200) with 13 walks and 20 strikeouts against Philadelphia pitchers and were just 3-for-21 (.142) with runners in scoring position.
Still, the Brewers are more than willing to face the Phillies again should the teams meet in the playoffs. In fact, they think they stack up quite well against them.
"We were in there this whole series," right fielder Corey Hart said. "Anytime you face these guys it's fun. Hopefully it's not the last time because we feel like we can do a little better and hopefully show them that we're the better team."
The Brewers did take two of three from the Phillies when the two teams met at Citizens Bank Park earlier this season, including a 9-0 victory on April 19 in which Milwaukee tagged Roy Halladay for six runs on 10 hits.
"I know we got him earlier in the year and we beat him, but this guy is really good," Roenicke said.
The Phillies know, too, that what happened this weekend in Milwaukee is by no means a precursor of what's to come in October.
"This series, taking three out of four, it's nice," said Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino. "But it's not what's going to happen down the road. It's a totally different series then."
Take a break: The Brewers get two days off this week, Monday and Thursday, so Roenicke did some juggling to his rotation.
Grienke and Marcum will face Colorado in the quick, two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday at Miller Park with Wolf, Gallardo and Greinke taking the mound over the weekend in Cincinnati.
In the meantime, Narveson will move to the bullpen for the time being but is expected to return to the rotation Sept. 20 in Chicago.
On the farm: The Brewers added another arm to their September call-up list. Right-hander Mike Fiers joined the team Sunday and pitched in Weeks' simulated game. He will be available Tuesday against Colorado. Fiers was one of the more pleasant surprises for the organization, going 13-3 with a 1.86 ERA in 34 appearances (18 starts, 16 relief). He was 8-0 with Class AAA Nashville with a 1.11 ERA.
Injury report: With Weeks back in the fold, the Brewers' disabled list is clear, save for Manny Parra, out for the year with arm and shoulder issues and Mitch Stetter, whose season ended early with a hip injury.
Quick hits: Corey Hart has hit safely in 21 of his last 23 games ... Gallardo is tied with Atlanta's Derek Lowe for most extra-base hits (5) by a pitcher this season ... Francisco Rodriguez hasn't allowed a run in his last nine appearances ... John Axford has a 0.77 ERA in his last 24 outings and has converted 39 consecutive save opportunities ...
Attendance (through 73 home dates): Total – 2,738,438; Average – 33,513; Sellouts – 32.
Brewers' magic number: 10.
This week: The Brewers take Monday off before welcoming Colorado to Miller Park for two games, then hit the road one last time with a weekend set at Cincinnati before a final visit to Wrigley Field.
NL Central standings (through games Sunday)
NL playoff seeding (through games Sunday)
|1) Philadelphia (East)
|2) Milwaukee (Central)
|3) Arizona (West)
|4) Atlanta (Wild Card)
NOTE: The wild card team is automatically the fourth-seeded team, regardless of record but cannot play a divisional opponent in the first round.
If the playoffs were to begin today:
NLDS: Philadelphia vs. Milwaukee; Arizona vs. Atlanta