There’s no denying it- the Brewers have been playing some pretty ugly baseball lately. After a disastrous trade deadline, things went from bad to worse and the team seemed to have imploded. The start of September promised a fresh start in a stretch where the Brewers have historically performed really well. One week into “Craigtember”, we’re left asking the question: will the Brewers even make the playoffs this season?
At 8 games behind the Cardinals for the NL Central pennant, the Brewers’ best bet now is a Wild Card spot. Looking at the Brewers’ schedule for the rest of the season, there’s a tough stretch remaining. It won’t be easy to heat up enough to secure a playoff berth, but despite the frustrations of the past month and a half, Brewers fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic as the Crew chases a fifth straight playoff appearance.
Burnes Returns to Cy Young Form
With the Brewers’ notoriously streaky offense, the Crew leans pretty heavily on their pitching staff. With the reigning NL Cy Young on the mound flanked by two other candidates in Woodruff and Peralta, that shouldn’t be as much of an issue as it has proved to be. Burnes has hit a tough stretch recently and hasn’t looked like the stud we’ve come to depend on. In the month of August, he gave up 18 runs in 6 games, plus 5 more in his first September start.
Burnes was electric on the mound in game one against the Giants today. He pitched 8 complete innings and allowed just one run on three hits. Burnes reached a season-high 14 strikeouts today, just 1 K short of tying his career-best of 15 from last season.
Yelich is Back
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the MVP is back to scratch. Despite the team as a whole’s massive meltdown in Colorado this past series, Yelich looked good- really good. His biggest highlight? Breaking the record for the longest hit home run by a left-handed hitter in Coors Field history. He’s seen consistent improvement throughout the season since moving to the leadoff spot and adjusting his swing.
So maybe it’s overkill to say he’s “back”, but this is the best we’ve consistently seen Yelich since his injury and at least for now, he doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Between his good discipline at the plate and his speed, Yelich is consistently getting on base and advancing, plus his bat is a little closer to its old threat too.
Keston Hiura is Finding His Way
After shuttling back and forth between AAA and the bigs this season, Keston Hiura is proving that he deserves an everyday spot with the Crew. Hiura is one of the Brewers’ top offensive producers, even if his stats, like his .244 batting average and a whopping 41.7% strikeout rate on the season, might not be overly awe-inducing. But, Hiura has a knack for coming in clutch. Case in point- last week when he called game after rookie Garrett Mitchell tied it up in the eighth, setting Hiura up for the walk-off against the Pirates. It feels good to see Hiura settled in and producing for the Brewers after all of the back and forth of getting optioned and called up so often. Count on Hiura to be a contributor through the rest of the playoff race.
The Hunt Continues
Today’s doubleheader sweep showed that this team still has the spark that they’ve been missing lately. Not only did they win, but they had fun doing it. (Exhibit A: the dugout’s reaction to Rowdy Tellez’s stolen base.)
The trick now is to keep the ball rolling and not let this momentum fade. Up next, the Brewers play the Reds, while the Padres play the Dodgers. Theoretically, we should have a much easier time winning in this stretch and cut the deficit in the Wild Card race. Granted, things don’t always go the way they should, but the coming days are a prime day to gain some key ground in the playoff chase. The Phillies are also hitting a slump, which helps the Brewers’ case as well.
With a pair of wins today, the Brewers are just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. While the Brewers’ position right now is hardly ideal (especially remembering how long they spent leading the division), they’re far from out of the hunt. They have some good stuff cooking right now- it’s just a matter of finding their groove and playing to their potential.
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