The injury-depleted Milwaukee Brewers are making still another late-season run.
They just swept the dreadful Marlins for four games in Miami and they ride a seven-game winning streak into Busch Stadium for this pivotal series with the Cardinals.
This is starting to look like last season, when they pulled even with the Chicago Cubs with a late 19-7 push, then won the tie-breaking Game 163 to claim the National League Central title.
“It feels a lot like last September,” outfielder Ryan Braun told MLB.com. “I think kind of the same formula where everyone on the roster is contributing. We're experienced playing in these circumstances and this type of situation. Last year toward the end, basically we knew we had to win every single day, and we've taken that approach over the last seven or eight days, and it's worked well for us.”
The Brewers lost outfielder Christian Yelich to a broken kneecap for the rest of the season. Prior to that, Keston Hiura suffered a hamstring muscle strain, a multi-week injury.
But they got third baseman Mike Moustakas back this week from the bruised hand and wrist he suffered against the Cardinals. And they are leaning harder on Braun, who has been wearing Yelich's uniform under his own.
“It's an opportunity and challenge for everybody in this clubhouse,” Moustakas told reporters. “You guys see what Yeli's able to do and what he's been able to do the last couple of seasons, having another MVP-type of season. It hurts a lot to lose him, but at the end of the day, we've got to find ways to win."
They have moved into a second-place tie with the Cubs, four games back of the Cardinals. And they are tied with the Cubs for the second wild-card slot.
“If the season ended today, I’d be a little happier,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told reporters after the Brewers won 3-2 Thursday. “Look, we’ve got whatever we’ve got left. It’s not a one-game season; it’s 16 left. We’ve got a lot of teams around us. There’s teams that are still ahead of us that are within reach, and we’ll keep shooting for that."
And . . .
"What's within our picture is keep playing well," Counsell said. "The other stuff doesn't matter right now. Keep playing like the past week, we're going to put ourselves in a good spot."
Don't underestimate the resolve of this team.
“We’ve responded really well," president of baseball operations David Stearn told MLB.com. "We’ve had some perspective in this all along because of what has happened previously to a lot of those guys in that clubhouse, whether it was 2017, last year, making the run at the end of September. I think everyone knew there was a lot of baseball left. There still is a lot of baseball left, and it really comes down to how we’re playing and how we’re clicking."
Here is what folks have been writing about Our National Pastime:
Richard Justice, MLB.com: "The Brewers aren’t going to replicate Yelich’s production. Not with one guy or any combination of guys. So they must get production from the people you’ve heard of: Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Ryan Braun. And then there’s the 22-year-old (Trent) Grisham, a first-round Draft pick in 2015 with 33 Major League games under his belt. He suddenly has a more prominent role than he could have imagined. His .257/.316/.467 line through 117 plate appearances is a promising start, as is the fact that in his first at-bat on Wednesday as Yelich’s 'replacement,' he hit a home run off Pablo Lopez of the Marlins."
Jesse Rogers, ESPN.com: "The games are getting more and more important for the Chicago Cubs, which means one thing for a team whose starting rotation features pennant race stalwarts Jon Lester, Cole Hamels and Kyle Hendricks: Give the ball to Yu Darvish. In what might be the biggest surprise in a year of them for the up-and-down Cubs, their go-to guy on the mound is the starter who was their least accomplished a year ago -- as well as the least liked by the fan base. If Chicago is going to get anywhere this month -- or next -- it's going to need Darvish to lead the way. That was unthinkable just a few months ago . . . Darvish isn't shying away from the challenge ahead. His 14 strikeouts against the Padres were his most in a game since 2013 and put him over the 200-strikeout mark for the season. He wanted the ball to start the second half of the season -- about the time his game started to come together -- and he wants it in the big games to come."
Jon Tayler, SI.com: "Thanks to a win over the hapless Orioles Tuesday night, the Dodgers became the first team this season to clinch a division. They're the NL West champs for the seventh straight year. That should come as a surprise to you only if you’ve been in a coma since mid-April: Los Angeles led the West nearly wire to wire, taking first place for good two weeks into the season. Again, this was all expected. FanGraphs gave the Dodgers an 83.6% chance of winning the division before the season began, and those odds never dipped any lower than 84% once the year got underway. A far more difficult thing to predict, though, will be whether the Dodgers can turn this latest division title into the outcome they’ve sought and failed with the previous six: a World Series win. In a few respects, this is probably the best Los Angeles outfit to vie for a championship since that reign over the NL West began in 2013. Among those seven squads, the 2019 edition ranks first in numerous offensive categories, including runs per game, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS+. Cody Bellinger is amid a MVP-caliber campaign; Joc Pederson has hit 32 home runs; Justin Turner has a 131 OPS+; rookie catcher Will Smith has a .978 OPS; on and on and on. It’s an offense built with no holes: Just three Dodgers with 100 or more plate appearances put up an OPS+ of 100 or worse. Pitchers will find no respite this postseason in Los Angeles’ lineup—particularly so once Max Muncy returns from a broken hand sometime in late September."
“What they are doing is amazing, probably the best duo in baseball history. I don’t know which would be harder, facing those guys or trying to pick which one wins the Cy Young. Thank God, I don’t have to make that decision."
Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, on Astros starting pitchers Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander.