Here it comes. The slump that many Milwaukee Brewers fans feared appears to be coming to fruition. Fortunately, the stellar first few months of the season have given the Crew a cushion, though they shouldn’t get too comfortable.
After going 19-8 in April and 18-10 in June, many (including me) assumed they’d sprint towards the All-Star break and keep piling up the wins. But so far, July has been dismal to say the least. The Crew lost both games against the Toronto Blue Jays and 2-of-3 against division foe, the Cincinnati Reds. It took a strong outing from Matt Garza to give the Brewers their only win of the month on Saturday (July 5) and second complete game of the season.
In the first five games to start July, the offense has only put up 10 total runs. The pitching hasn’t been where it once was earlier in the season and the bullpen has struggled lately. After leading the National League in ERA throughout April and into May, the Brewers starters now are ranked 10th. A few days rest during the All-Star break is exactly what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, seven games still remain until that point.
The Brewers open up a seven game home stand on Monday that leads into the All-Star break. I can’t stress anymore how important these two series’ are.
They begin the week with four games against the NL East cellar-dwellers, the Philadelphia Phillies. In the first match up between the two earlier this year, the Crew laid the hammer on the Phillies, outscoring them 25-10. If anything can get them back on the winning track, it’s a series versus the Phillies. The offense needs to come back and it’s capable of doing so against four of the Phillies’ starting pitchers. The four starters the Brewers face off against (Hamels, Kendrick, Hernandez and Buchanan) combine for a 4.10 ERA. Look for the Brewers offense to make a return in this series.
Then comes a three game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. With the division lead dwindling, the Brewers cannot afford to lose this series. Every division game matters, and the other three teams (sorry, Cubs) are chipping at the Crew’s heels. The Cardinals currently sit in third place in the NL Central, five games behind the Brewers. As hard as it is to admit, Brewers fans have known never to count out the Cardinals. Losing two, or all three games to those pesky Cards could see the division lead slip right out of the Brewers hands going into the break…a position nobody wants to be in.
Though they don’t have another series against them till August, don’t sleep on the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates are winners of 12 out of their last 15 games and have claimed second place in the NL Central, 4.5 behind the Crew. The Pirates are taking advantage of any slip-up the Brewers make.
Still holding the MLB’s second-best record, it’s difficult to say that the Brewers are “limping” towards the All-Star break. A solid June was what they needed to stay afloat in the toughest division in baseball, but July hasn’t started out the way they’d hope. As the first half winds down, they have to continue to do what they’ve done all season, win series.
It’s crucial that the Brewers win both of the upcoming series’ at Miller Park.