The Milwaukee Brewers have narrowed the gap in the race for the National League’s second Wild Card.
With their win on Tuesday night, coupled with a Colorado Rockies loss, the Milwaukee Brewers have pulled within a game of the final playoff spot in the National League. A hot streak by the Chicago Cubs has put the NL Central crown out of reach for good, but the Brewers are still very much alive in the NL playoff picture. An 11-6 start to the month of September, in conjunction with a huge slump by the Rockies, has allowed the Brewers to sneak back into the race for the Wild Card.
If they are able to pull this off, the Brewers would go down as one of the more improbable playoff teams in recent history. As they come out of a long rebuilding process, the Brewers are a young, fun team with lots of energy and a dynamic attack. Sure, they strike out way too much and swing at anything within an arm’s length of the plate, but when the offense is firing, there are few teams in the league more exciting.
Manager Craig Counsell has done an exemplary job keeping his young charges focused on the bigger picture this year, never allowing his team to get too high or too low. The Brewers have weathered every losing streak and cold spell this year, following every string of losses with an even longer string of wins.
The Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals left the door open for the Brewers after their hot start in the first half, and they have jammed themselves through it. With 11 games left to play in 2017, the Brew Crew has already clinched their first non-losing year since 2014. Now, they want more. Milwaukee will end its season with four games against the Cubs and three against the Cardinals. They are a combined 17-14 against their two biggest rivals this year and will need to keep that trend going to make the playoffs.
5. Nasty bullpen
Craig Kimbrel of the Boston Red Sox has gotten the most attention for his eye-popping strikeout numbers this year, and rightfully so. Kimbrel has struck out 121 of the 240 batters he has faced this year. Brewers closer Corey Knebel is not far behind. He has struck out 119 of the 281 hitters he has faced.
Rookie left-hander Josh Hader has joined Knebel in the back end of the Milwaukee bullpen to form one of the most dominant one-two punches in the league. Hader has a 1.77 ERA in his first 40.2 innings in the big leagues and has struck out 12.8 per nine. Anthony Swarzak was another smart addition by the front office and has a 1.99 ERA in 23 outings since coming over from the Chicago White Sox at the deadline. He has struck out 33 in 22.2 innings with the Brewers.
The formula is simple for the Brewers as they close out the season — get five innings from their starter, hope to score at least three runs, turn it over to Swarzak, Hader and Knebel. If that happens, the Brewers are hard to beat.