Is Milwaukee Losing its Magic Touch?
Milwaukee Brewers; the forgotten bunch in a division where it's damn hard to beat your rivals either at home or on the road at Busch Stadium or Wrigley. This is why 2018 has been filled with so much promise in Milwaukee to not only make it to the Postseason, but to possibly have one of the most memorable seasons in Brewers history that may result in the first (NL) Pennant and World Series title in Miltown which has already been evident thanks to a franchise record in wins before the All Star Break (55). As seen in previous blogs, the talent on the Brewers' squad is a force to be reckoned with in the National League with a 4 headed monster of an outfield in Eric Thames and Ryan Braun, as well as recently selected All Stars Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. As for the offense, look no further than All Star Final Vote recipient Jesus Aguiar who has shocked the baseball world by storm as he leads the National League in home runs with 24 among other elite company in Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, and Paul Goldschmidt. Did I also mention that he'll be competing in the Home Run Derby?
But as of late during the first 4 games of their 8 game east coast road trip before they head off to Washington for the Midsummer Classic, the Brewers have been on a rare slump as they lost the first series in Miami 2 games to 1 with both Marlins victories ending in walk of fashion despite a late game tying home run by Jesus Aguilar in the 8th inning of the series finale. Add a hideous pitching performance in a 6-3 loss in the opening final first half series in Pittsburgh and the Crew has now lost 3 of their last 4 games. As we head into Washington for next week's All Star festivities, a smidge of fear has been installed in my brain fearing that Milwaukee might have lost its magic in this road trip which may come back to haunt them in the second half. Now what are some examples of this? Allow me to explain.
Standings in NL Central and NL as a whole:
Despite the Cubs losing their road series in The Bay against the Giants like the Brewers did against the Marlins (both losses again on walk offs), the Brewers are now only a game ahead of the Cubs for the NL Central. As for everybody else in the division, it's is pretty straightforward to see who will come out on top of the NL Central given that the Cardinals are the next closest team to the Cubs who are 5.5 games back for second place. In terms of Chicago's post-break schedule, it will be packed with two series against the Cardinals (one home and one on the road) and one series against the Diamondbacks and the Pirates to close out July. As for head-to-head series against the Cubs, Milwaukee will have a two game series in Wrigley Field in mid August as well as a three game stint at Miller Park at the beginning of September and one final series at Wrigley September 10-12 that could decide and solidify their Postseason status in the National League. However, if Milwaukee continues their skid throughout the rest of July and into August, their Postseason hopes could be once again in jeopardy as they were last year The Brewers' schedule after the break includes a six game homestand with two series against the Nationals and the first place Dodgers which should be an easy 4-6 wins under their belt that should bring them well above 60 wins and a possible 20+ games over .500. This would still make the World Series go through Miller Park as they would face either the Braves or Cubs in the NLDS. If the Brewers win that series, they would face the winner of what would be a Phillies and Dodgers NLDS for the pennant in the NLCS with Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 in Milwaukee.
When Lorenzo Cain went to the 10 day DL for a groin injury, the Milwaukee outfield stepped up offensively and defensively in his absence with Jesus Aguilar crushing more home runs than anyone in the National League plus the great athleticism and home run robberies of Keon Broxton during a previous 7 game homestand where the Crew won 6 of 7 in the absence of Cain. He came back last Sunday in exchange for Ryan Braun's trip to the DL for a back strain with his possible return after the All Star break when they face the Dodgers. Braun's absence has done the opposite contrary to Cain's as he is the Brewers' key source of outfield depth that they've been missing during their recent skid . As for the Milwaukee pitching rotation, the Brewers are happy to be getting their starting pitchers back on track from the DL in Brett Suter AKA "The Raptor", Zach Davies, and Matt Albers after the All Star Break as Walk Offs have contributed to blown saves by closers and many pitching changes with players getting called up from Triple-A in the Brewers' minor league system. The DL and pitching struggles alone have not done justification as to why the Brewers are the best team in the National League. And as a result, other teams in the NL are not afraid to challenge their strength to prove if they're good enough to be a Postseason squad.
This recent losing skid that the Brewers have been on has temporarily lost their swagger as a club in terms of where they stand for the Postseason and the division as they are just a game ahead of the Cubs. However, I can assure everyone in Milwaukee and Brewers fans everywhere that this team will be even better after the All Star Break despite a semi-difficult schedule with more divisional games than interleague play. So, are the Brewers losing their winning formula that they had during the first half of the season? No. But if they can rebound from their current losing streak, stay healthy, and have their pitchers perform efficiently in terms wins, ERA, and strikeouts, the Brewers will return to their forming hopefully en route to a Postseason berth and an NL Central for the first time in 7 years.
The losing streak may be a fluke, but it will serve as motivation for the Crew to excel in the second half of the season and possibly to a 95+ win season and an NL pennant that will be executed by the best talent in the National League and all of Major league Baseball.
AL: Go to sleep and we'll wake you in 5 years!
Brewers: Go get an NL MVP, Cy Young candidate, and World Champion and see how well they'll do against our elite talent.
AL: What elite talent? All you have is some All-Stars.
Brewers: Just you wait until October and then you'll see who ends up on top at the end of the season! Then you'll regret sleeping on us.
AL: Yeah right. I'll wait.