The Milwaukee Brewers head into the last day of July down half a game to the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central after getting swept by the Atlanta Braves over the weekend. Getting swept never feels good, but the Brewers are still in a good spot to win a division that has gotten much more competitive over the last week or so.
The Chicago Cubs have won eight out of their last 10 games to pull within four games of the first-place Reds. A division that appeared to be a two-horse race just a couple of weeks ago is looking to bring some excitement over the last two months of the season.
With the Brewers and Reds trading places in the standings every couple of days and the Cubs joining the race, the next two weeks for these three clubs could dictate who has the stronger grip on the division.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Next 4 Series Will Likely Decide the NL Central
With less than 60 games left in the regular season, a few main factors come into play that may help or hurt a team’s chances to make a late-season push. Having a healthy team is always key, as is having a favorable schedule. A big reason for losing six out of the last nine games is facing the best team in baseball six times.
As rough as those six games were, the schedule gives time to breathe over the next 13 games as the Milwaukee Brewers face Washington, Pittsburgh, Colorado, and the Chicago White Sox. If the Crew will make a push to the top of the division and stay there, now is the time to do it.
Unfortunately, the Reds also have a relatively favorable schedule coming up as well but have a crucial four-game series against the Cubs starting tonight. If they can navigate that well, they have the lowly Nationals and Pirates ahead, with a series against the Marlins sandwiched in between.
The Cubs, on the other hand, have the Reds, Braves, Mets, and Blue Jays, which is a tough stretch of opponents when you need to make up ground. Winning the series against Cincinnati would go a long way, along with splitting the game in that stretch overall, as they have three straight series against bottom AL Central teams to follow.
For all three teams, the start of August is huge. The Cubs hope to navigate a tough stretch and not lose too much ground on the Reds and Brewers. The Reds are hoping to create some separation from the Cubs and keep pace with Milwaukee. The Brewers hope to take advantage of a soft spot on the schedule to pull away a bit from the Reds.
Tough Closing Stretch for the Brewers
The next four series are pivotal for the Milwaukee Brewers because their last month and a half of the season is loaded with tough opponents. From Aug. 15 on, the Brewers face the Dodgers, Rangers, Twins, Padres, Cubs twice, Phillies, Yankees, Marlins twice, Nationals, and Cardinals twice.
Only the Nationals and Cardinals are realistically out of the playoff race, with every other team hoping to get healthy for a late run. Milwaukee needs to build a cushion over the next two weeks to have some wiggle room in case things go poorly when the competition gets more difficult.
The Reds also have a relatively difficult schedule down the home stretch with a very difficult west coast road trip to close out August. The Cubs appear to alternate tough and easy matchups to close out the season, so there isn’t one team with a scheduling upper hand.
For all three teams, the next four series will be huge. The Cubs have enough winnable series after the middle of August where they can just hang on to start the month. The Reds and Brewers have to take advantage early. Otherwise, it could be a scrappy and ugly finish to the regular season.