Sitting down to write an article about yesterday’s shutout victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, I ran across this article from ESPN’s David Schoenfield. It made several worthwhile points, and instead of simply rehashing the points in different verbiage, I thought it prudent to let David’s words do the talking:
Can the Brewers really do this? The Cardinals’ win over the Astros means the Brewers remain 2.5 games behind St. Louis. But they’ve passed the Pirates and passed the Phillies, so only the Dodgers and Cardinals stand between them and the second wild card. Since losing on Aug. 19, they’re now 21-6 and have gone 11-2 against the Pirates, Cardinals and Braves. Over those 27 games they’ve outscored their opponents 161-99, averaging 6.0 runs per game.
The Brewers’ recent stretch has been absolutely phenomenal. Their offense is scoring runs in bunches, and the pitching staff has really turned a corner. Their run differential since August 19 suggests the team is not getting lucky. Instead, they’re simply playing great baseball and pounding any team that stands in their way.
Despite that, Milwaukee still has significant hurdles to overcome. It remains doubtful that the Brewers can make the playoffs. Cool Standings calculates their playoff chances at only 11.5%. It certainly feels as if the Brewers have a better chance because they’re playing so well, but the Cardinals have a huge advantage with their upcoming schedule and a 2.5 game lead.
Gallardo entered with a 7-0 record and 2.98 ERA over his past nine starts, all Brewers’ victories. The Pirates had a chance to get to him in the second inning when he walked two and gave up a single with two outs, but A.J. Burnett was batting. He grounded out and Gallardo settled down, retiring 13 in a row at one point. Gallardo’s curveball has been a key pitch during this stretch as he’d thrown it 187 times during those nine starts and batters were 7-for-42 against it, with 16 strikeouts and no walks in at-bats ending with the pitch. He didn’t use his curve early in the game, relying mostly on his fastball and slider, then turned to the curve more in the middle innings. He also retired Andrew McCutchen all three times he faced him — twice on sliders that resulted in ground outs and a first-pitch fastball that McCutchen lined back to Gallardo.
Much like Nick mentioned yesterday, Gallardo is currently enjoying one of the best stretches of his career. He has quietly anchored this Brewers’ rotation, which has undergone significant changes over the course of the season.
Unsung hero of the Brewers: Their catchers. Led by Jonathan Lucroy’s .324 average, they were hitting a combined .292/.364/.451 with 18 home runs before Tuesday’s game. Lucroy had three of Milwaukee’s 13 hits.
Ryan and I have spoken at length about the Brewers’ embarrassment of riches behind the plate with Lucroy and Maldonado. After going so long without a quality homegrown catcher in Milwaukee, the organization now has two that rose through their minor league ranks in recent years. It’s quite the luxury.
I think the Brewers need to win these next two games in Pittsburgh, take advantage of a reeling Pirates team. You don’t want to head into Washington and Cincinnati having to go 6-1. As is, if we say 86 wins is needed to make the second wild, the Brewers have to go 11-4 over their final 15. I still think the Cards’ schedule is a huge advantage — they have eight more games against Astros and Cubs while the Brewers have just three against the Astros. In the end, I think the Brewers fall a game short. But wouldn’t a three-way tie with Cardinals, Brewers and Dodgers be fun?
Let’s just say … we hope he’s wrong.