Milwaukee Brewers 2½ games back in Wild Card race
National League wild card chase, meet your newest participant.
After their 6-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday, the Milwaukee Brewers passed the Pirates in the National League Central and wild card standings.
On August 19 – one month ago- Milwaukee was 12 games under .500 and 12.5 games behind Pittsburgh, which owned the second wild card spot at the time. Since then, the Brewers have tallied 21 wins in 27 games while the Pirates have collapsed. The Brewers are 75-72 compared to the Pirates’ 74-73 record. Milwaukee has climbed within 2.5 games of St. Louis, which occupies the second wild card position in the NL.
Milwaukee was expected to take a step back this season when Prince Fielder departed for Detroit. Then, it appeared that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin was conceding that his team did not have what it took this season to contend when he traded ace starter Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels on July 27 for highly regarded shortstop prospect Jean Segura and promising minor league pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena.
Segura has already helped. The 22-year-old defensively sound shortstop has hit .260 in 100 at-bats since joining the Brewers.
Without Fielder, Milwaukee’s offense has been led by Ryan Braun, who is having another MVP-caliber season with 40 home runs, 104 RBI, a .314 average and a .990 OPS. It remains to be seen if baseball writers vote for Braun as the National League MVP because of last off-season’s drug testing debacle that left him under a cloud of suspicion even though his suspension was lifted.
Yet, with Braun and third baseman Aramis Ramirez (24 home runs, 92 RBI, .294 average), the Brewers have run production in the middle of the order.
Though Greinke is gone and Shaun Marcum is struggling (7.36 ERA in three September starts), the Brewers rotation is pitching well, guided by Yovani Gallardo and young arms like Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers and Wily Peralta. John Axford (1.93 ERA and eight saves over his last 10 games) has re-emerged as a reliable closer.
As the 2011 Cardinals proved, a team’s play in September can matter more than its’ overall record if it reaches the playoffs. Milwaukee is peaking at the right time.