The Milwaukee Brewers have sustained their Cinderella story for so long, it's easy to forget that shiny coach was once a plain old pumpkin.
Instead, Milwaukee has been the eyebrow-raising, expectation-busting squad of 2014, charging out of the gate and never looking back. Until now.
After a dispiriting 7-1 loss to Chicago (yes, those lowly Cubs) on Tuesday night, the Brewers stand two games back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central and just 1.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves for the second wild card.
The loss capped a seven-game losing skid, during which Milwaukee has been outscored 49-14.
"We're going through a bad week and we need to change it," manager Ron Roenicke told MLB.com's Daniel Kramer after Monday's 4-2 defeat against Chicago. "It certainly can change in a hurry. It could change tomorrow."
You hate to use the word "embarrassing" when describing a team's play but how else would you describe what #Brewers are doing tonight?9/3/2014, 12:58:02 AM
It didn't change tomorrow. And there's no guarantee it'll change the next tomorrow, or the one after that.
A club that once seemed destined for October is now gasping for its postseason life.
Gomez was hitting .282 with 21 home runs and 29 stolen bases out of the top spot in the order when he sprained his wrist swinging a bat against the San Francisco Giants.
"It's never good to lose a good player, a spark plug leadoff guy that can do some damage," Roenicke said after the news broke, per MLB.com's Kramer. "So it's bad timing."
Bad timing has been the norm for Milwaukee, which has chosen the worst possible time to go into a tailspin.
Some may say it's simply the baseball gods taking their tithe. But the Brewers were too good for too long to dismiss their success as a fluke.
The pitching rotation—anchored by Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza—has been an underrated asset, and it was recently bolstered by the addition of Mike Fiers, who has allowed just seven earned runs in 35 innings as a starter.
The offense, meanwhile, has plated the third-most runs in the NL. The Gomez injury and an array of struggling hitters don't help the cause. But, as Fox Sports Wisconsin's Andrew Gruman notes:
While many of Milwaukee's big bats struggled in August, Ramirez had a fantastic month at the plate. Ramirez's power isn't what it used to be, the veteran third baseman can still rake and drive in runs. Of the players with enough at-bats to qualify for a batting title, Ramirez is one of seven in the National League hitting .300 or better. Ramirez had 13 multi-hit games in August, including five three-hit games. Better yet, the 36-year-old has been able to stay on the field for the Brewers, as Ramirez taken just two days off since July 1.
So there are silver linings among the dark clouds. And even with a seven-game skid, Milwaukee would be a playoff team if the season ended today.
There are reasons for optimism in the Badger State.
The fact remains, though, that most experts have been waiting all season for Milwaukee's spell to fade. For the coach to show its pumpkin colors.
If the Brewers want to avoid that fate, defy the odds and slip on the October glass slipper, they'd better hope Carlos Gomez, and their magic, heal in a hurry.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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