The Milwaukee Brewers have locked up the National League Central title, but they haven’t been able to celebrate that feat.
While losing back-to-back games against the torrid Cardinals this week, the Brewers kept their party beverage in storage. Their magic number remained stuck at three.
They wasted great pitching from Brandon Woodruff Tuesday night while falling 2-1 in especially exasperating fashion.
“We haven’t played great baseball the past few games, and that’s part of the season," Woodruff said. “We talked about it at the beginning of the year when we weren’t playing well and then we got on a run. We’re just in that little stage right now.
“We know that we have the [division] lead. That’s not a secret. That doesn’t take away from the fact that we’re still trying to play great baseball. It’s a hard game, man. We’re doing everything we can.”
Trouble is, they ran into the Cardinals at the wrong time. The Redbirds have won 10 straight games with spectacular defense, tactical speed and clutch hitting.
“It's impressive,” Brewers shortstop Willy Adames said. “They know they have to continue to win to get to the postseason. They've been playing really good ball. They're doing the little things and I think that's why they've been so good right now. You've to give credit to them.”
Also, the Brewers have quit hitting. Manager Craig Counsell is playing the mix-and-match game with his deep supply of position players, but nothing seems to work.
“It’s been a quiet week,” Counsell said. “I think we’re going to have a big night one of these nights. We’re going to put a really big number on the board and bust out of it. We didn’t do it tonight, but it’s coming. I believe that. I think our guys believe that.”
The Cardinals have made it hard on the Brewers by pitching well. Jake Woodford, for instance, has worked 12 scoreless innings in his last three outings against them.
"You just have to credit their side,” Woodruff said. “Those guys are making pitches but the thing is, you come back and know that we have an awesome opportunity to take these two games and wrap up this division.”
Tipsheet likes the Brewers’ chances of breaking through today – since the high-leverage Cardinals relievers will be tapped out – but Milwaukee will need multiple hitters to bust out of their funk.
Here is what folks are writing about Our National Pastime:
Jay Jaffe, FanGraphs: “The Phillies, who just took two of three from both the Cubs and Mets, have the NL’s second-easiest remaining schedule the rest of the way, with a weighted opponents’ winning percentage of .448. They’re in the midst of hosting the Orioles — who have done their part to play the spoiler in the AL East, and beat the Phils at Camden Yards on Monday — and Pirates, the latter for four games instead of three, then finish with three apiece in Atlanta (where they can clinch the season series with a single win) and Miami. The Braves (.512 oppo win percentage) are in the midst of visiting the Diamondbacks for four and then the Padres for three before returning home to host the Phillies and Mets. I’m humoring the Mets here, because with odds of just 0.4% — all for the division, as they’ve slipped below the visibility threshold in the Wild Card race — New York is barely relevant. They do close against Atlanta; before that, the visit Boston for two and Milwaukee for three, then host Miami for four.”
Michael Baumann, The Ringer: “Anyone who’s followed Mike Trout’s career knows that there are limits to how much one baseball player—particularly a position player—can do to help his team win. But [Bryce] Harper is testing those limits. The 28-year-old right fielder is currently tied for the league lead in wRC+ among qualified hitters, and leads outright in slugging percentage. And despite missing 21 games, he’s in the top three in both fWAR and WARP among position players. FanGraphs rates Harper’s offense as being worth 49.2 runs this year, second in baseball behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The Phillies collectively are a minus-30.9 in that stat, which ranks 17th and is not half bad for a team that’s started Ronald Torreyes in more than half its games. Replace Harper with an average offensive player—Michael Conforto, for example, who is within a run of average by this metric—and the Phillies would end up 26th, 80.1 runs in the red.”
R.J. Anderson, CBSSports.com: “Good teams tend to fatten up when their schedule affords them a series against an inferior foe. These Padres, for whatever reason, didn't. They combined for a 19-19 record against the Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks; they lost season series to the Rockies and the Chicago Cubs; and so on. Overall, the Padres had the 23rd-highest winning percentage against losing teams, winning just over half of their games for a 40-39 mark. The lowest winning percentage against sub-.500 teams possessed by a playoff team belongs to the Braves, and they've still won 60 percent of their contests against losing clubs. Had the Padres simply played at the Braves' rate against bad teams, they would have an additional seven wins, or enough to feel secure in their playoff standing.”
Craig Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus: “The White Sox, for their part, have stumbled to an 8-10 September, including Tuesday’s loss. They ran away with their division months ago, so the damage isn’t life-threatening, but the way they’ve looked of late has to be concerning. Craig Kimbrel has a 5.68 ERA, allowing more hits in 19 innings for the White Sox than he did in 36 ⅔ as a Cub (including four home runs allowed on the South side compared to one on the North side). Carlos Rodón departed his start early on Monday with soreness in his arm. He’s only started five games since the trade deadline, never topping five innings in any of them. He’s compiled good results (a 2.35 ERA in those five starts), but he’s also thrown on extensive rest, with nine days between starts even without landing on the IL. Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, and Dylan Cease figure to front any playoff rotation, though the Sox are hopeful Rodón will be ready by then. If he is, it’s hard to imagine Keuchel has a spot on the roster. In the meantime he remains a symbol of their September stagnation.”
Michael Clair, MLB.com: “This wasn't the Yankees team anyone was expecting. PECOTA pegged them to run away with the division, and MLB.com experts picked the Yankees to not only win the AL East, but take the pennant, too. With Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton leading the lineup, DJ LeMahieu re-signed to an extension and plenty of powerful complementary pieces, the team was expected to batter the opposition into simply ceding way to the Yankees. That ... hasn't happened. If anything, the pitching staff behind Gerrit Cole was supposed to be the concern, but instead the team is tied with the Rays for the sixth-best ERA in the Majors. Meanwhile they're 19th in runs scored. The addition of even more Paul Bunyon-esque sluggers at the Trade Deadline hasn't helped either, with Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo scuffling in pinstripes.”
"It happened, it's part of baseball, it's a part this game brings out, especially when good players are trying to win and stuff is not going our way. At the end of the day, I'm glad it happened. I feel like that brings us stronger, when you go inside and talk about it and you analyze it and you just come together."
Fernando Tatis Jr., on his dugout confrontation with teammate Manny Machado during a loss to the Cardinals.