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Tipsheet: Streaking Brewers threaten to pull away from Cardinals

Tipsheet: Streaking Brewers threaten to pull away from Cardinals

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The Milwaukee Brewers are threatening to put some distance between themselves and the Cardinals by the All-Star break.

The Brewers took two of three games from the Reds in Cincinnati this week. Since falling below .500 at 24-25 on May 26, the Brewers have gone 11-2.

They have pulled into a first-place tie with the Chicago Cubs, three games up on the Cardinals in the National League Central.

“We're having fun as a team and looking forward to whoever we play, trying to put together wins,” Brewers second baseman Jace Peterson told Bally Sports Wisconsin. “It was a fun series, and [we're] looking forward to more.”

ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers had this take on the Brewers:

Milwaukee is the beneficiary of a light schedule in June, and the Brewers are taking advantage of it. Their ERA over the past week is tops in the NL and Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta easily give the Brewers the best starter trio in the division. Though they still struggle to produce consistent damage at the plate, it didn't stop them from sweeping a four-game series with the Diamondbacks and then keeping that winning streak going in Cincinnati.

The series victory in Cincinnati was costly for the Brewers, though, since  infielder Travis Shaw suffereed a shoulder injury during his ugly crash landing while trying to make a catch.

The Brewers were already missing former Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, who aggravated his oblique muscle strain.

“It’s a freak thing,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Shaw's injury. “It’s an accident. It’s a bad injury, a weird injury you get from playing hard, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “You’re disappointed, you’re frustrated, obviously, but then you set your mind to getting better.”

But the Brewers keep finding players who can step up and deliver big hits.

“We know that we have a good offense,” Peralta said. “Sometimes you have to wait a little bit and see if they're going to wake up, but we know -- everybody knows in the clubhouse -- that we have very good hitters on the team."

As for the Reds, the momentum they gained from sweeping the Cardinals – as profanely celebrated by faded slugger Joey Votto – dissipated quickly.

Their bullpen remains problematic. It ranks last in the big leagues with a 5.88 ERA and leads the league with 39 homers allowed.

“I know it’s easy to talk about them as an entire group, but each individual pitcher is his own guy and has his own things that he’s working on, and we’ll continue to do that and continue to support them,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I really believe things will get going in the right direction for our bullpen.”

TALKIN’ BASEBALL

Here is what folks are writing about Our National Pastime:

Bob Nightengale, USA Today: “It was preposterous a month ago, and perhaps makes little sense now, but if the New York Yankees don’t start turning their fate around, why couldn’t they be sellers at the trade deadline, even if it’s just listening to offers for outfielder Aaron Judge? The San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox all opened the year in different phases of a rebuild, but barring a collapse in the next month, how can they possibly trade Kevin Gausman, Kris Bryant or Nick Pivetta, respectively? The Tampa Bay Rays were sellers in the winter, dumping Cy Young winner Blake Snell. But here they are now six months later with the best record in the American League (39-24). Will they be buyers now at the deadline in hopes of returning to the World Series? The Minnesota Twins were built to win right now, and the Arizona Diamondbacks were confident they could contend for at least a wild-card spot, but two months into the season, they are one month from selling out. The non-waiver trade deadline is exactly 50 days away Thursday, and although GMs and executives don’t believe we’ll see a rash of trades until the final days of July, there appears to be action, even if only 10 teams are eligible for postseason berths compared to 16 a year ago.”

Bradford Doolittle, ESPN.com: “This year's Yankees have hit about 8% fewer homers at home than away even though they've played four more games at Yankee Stadium, but from 2017 through 2020, they hit an aggregate 24% more homers at home. What has happened to the Yankees' home hitting advantage? At least part of it might be roster construction. Yankee Stadium and its predecessors have favored lefty pull hitters since the first version of the stadium was built in 1923 as a cozy new home park for Babe Ruth. This year's club has gotten 24% of its plate appearances from the left side, according to Trumedia data. That's the lowest figure for any Yankees team since 1974. That number has been as high as 68%, which was the case in 2015. The last time the Yankees won the World Series (2009), the number was 60%.”

Mark Bowman, MLB.com: “When the Braves won a third consecutive National League East title last year, they leaned heavily on a bullpen that proved strong enough to overcome what was one of the game’s worst starting rotations. Well, the rotation has been better this year, but the bullpen has stumbled far too often. The Braves entered Thursday 25-6 when leading after six innings. How significant are those six losses? Well, to put it in perspective, they were 27-0 in those games last year and 76-6 during the 2019 season. So through this year’s first 59 games, they suffered as many losses in those situations as they had over 222 games from the previous two seasons. There’s no doubt this trend will need to change if the Braves are going to win a fourth straight division title.”

Matt Snyder, CBSSports.com: “The Twins entered this season considered the AL Central favorites by a good number of people. Those who didn't pick them to win most likely had them second. They had pretty similar personnel to the Twins that won 101 games in 2019 and then repeated as Central champs in the shortened 2020 season. The biggest concern, really, was their inability to win even a single playoff game (they've lost 18 postseason games in a row). They won't have to worry about the playoffs this year, though, because they are done. Yes, I'm aware it's only June 9 and that they have 102 games left. I'm still burying them.” 

Alden Gonzalez, ESPN.com: “The Giants stomached another major injury when Evan Longoria -- boasting an adjusted OPS 50% higher than the league average through his first 50 games -- was recently diagnosed with a sprained shoulder that will keep him out for several weeks. He joins an injury list that also includes Tommy La Stella, Mike Yastrzemski, Curt Casali, Darin Ruf and Alex Dickerson, among others. The Giants don't have the position-player depth to necessarily absorb all that -- no team does, really -- and Longoria's freak ailment will be their biggest test yet. How they navigate his absence could make or break their resurgent season.”

MEGAPHONE

"Ultimately, he and I are going to be judged the exact same way, the wins and losses. They're not in the position they need to be in right now. No matter what you thought of our season starting off and where you had us pegged, nobody had us pegged at this. That's the part we're all grinding through right now."

Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen, on the job security of manager Torey Lovollo after his team lost for the 30th time in 35 games.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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