The Milwaukee Brewers are truly amazing.
On Aug. 16, I told a co-worker in Iowa that the Brewers would go 35-5 and make the playoffs. OK, so they had 46 games left and have gone 27-10 since then.
But consider this: they were 53-64 at the time and were 11.5 games behind Pittsburgh for the second wild card spot. They had been 13-18 since the All-Star break.
St. Louis, who currently holds a 3.5-game lead for the second wild card spot, was 64-53 and 18-13 since the All-Star break.
Since then, the Brewers have passed five teams and have gained nine games on the Cardinals with nine games left.
On Aug. 16, the Brewers were fresh off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Colorado Rockies and had lost five of their previous six games.
Their bullpen was a complete disaster, and their offensive players not named Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Braun were doing nothing.
There was no logical reason to believe they would have a chance at making the postseason.
But, thanks to another genius move by commissioner Bud Selig – and I mean that with all seriousness – the Brewers have stolen more headlines in Wisconsin than the Packers.
That’s no easy task.
Let’s be honest, however. If Selig hadn’t created a second wild card team, the Brewers would be making tee times in October along with 21 other teams.
The Atlanta Braves have a nine game lead on the Brewers for the first wild card spot. That means whatever team does earn the second spot will be traveling to Atlanta for a one-game playoff for a chance to take on either Cincinnati or Washington in the NLDS.
After going 5-2 on the first two legs of their three-city, 10-game road trip against teams who are or were contending for playoff spots, the Brewers have a chance to make the playoffs for the second straight year for the first time since 1981-82.
They still need help from the Cardinals, who continue their series in Houston today and tomorrow before hosting Washington and Cincinnati to finish the season. The Brewers play the Reds in Cincinnati and then host Houston and San Diego.
Los Angeles is tied with the Brewers entering today giving Milwaukee more stiff competition down the stretch.
How have the Brewers done it? They lead the National League in runs scored, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, stolen bases, extra base hits, strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings.
They also lead the league in blown saves (27), which means they could’ve been challenging the Braves for that first wild card spot had they cut that mark in half and made this entire column unnecessary.
But that’s why the Brewers have been so entertaining – and frustrating – to watch this year. You just don’t know what you’re going to get.
At least you didn’t until Aug. 16. In their 37 games since then, they have lost just two games in which they led at some point during the game. The bullpen combination of Jim Henderson, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford has been nearly untouchable.
The trio has allowed just 14 earned runs in 46 1/3 innings (3.02 ERA).
One thing that has flown under the radar for this team has been the emergence of its defense.
The Brewers have a .984 fielding percentage, ranking fifth in the National League this year. Last year, when they probably had a better team talent-wise, they ranked No. 11 in the league with a .982 fielding percentage.
Yes, .02 percent can make that much of a difference. In 2011, they could afford errors in the field because their bullpen was indestructible. This year, not so much.
I don’t have a crystal ball to predict what is going to happen over the next week. Despite their run, the Brewers still have a lot of ground to make up. The Cardinals are going to have to help them out by losing more than they win.
And the Brewers are going to have to keep winning much more than
they lose. But it sure beats not having anything to look forward to than checking the calendar to see when the Packers play next, doesn’t it?