Magic Number is Two for the...Milwaukee Brewers?
I'm as shocked as you are about that headline.
Not long ago, the Brewers were two and a half games down in the wild card race, and it looked as though the Brew Crew would extend the postseason drought to 27 years.
But they've won their last five games. They beat the Reds in Cincinnati, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun hit walk-off home runs in two games of a three game sweep of Pittsburgh in Milwaukee, and they won the first game of a crucial series with the Cubs to take a one game lead in the wild card race over the New York Mets.
The struggles earlier this month for Milwaukee are well-documented. They went 5-15 in their first 20 games, including being swept by the Mets and the Phillies.
They went 0-7 against the teams they're chasing. And somehow, Milwaukee is leading the race. Doing it all while their backs are, seemingly, against the wall in terms of starting pitching.
CC Sabathia made his last start on three days' rest, and he might do it again on Sunday unless they clinch the wild card spot tomorrow night.
Ben Sheets missed a start with elbow pain but is scheduled to start tomorrow despite the injury.
Yovani Gallardo, who tore his ACL in May and had reconstructive surgery during the season, pitched and pitched well on Thursday night.
It seems to me that starting pitching is once again the Brewers' strength, especially if everything goes right for the Crew concerning Sheets' elbow.
They'll have a completely rested Sabathia. They'll have Ben Sheets, who is still one of the better pitchers in the National League even with a bum elbow. And they'll have Yovani Gallardo, who was slated to be the team's number two pitcher when the season started. Dave Bush has been reliable all year for Milwaukee, and Jeff Suppan earned a reputation as a big-game pitcher back in 2006 with the Cardinals.
The bullpen is also strong in backing this starting pitching. I don't know if anyone's seen Seth McClung lately, but this man is on some kind of mission. He pitched six strong innings against the Cubs this season, and he had a menacing scowl on his freckled face the entire time.
Guillermo Mota and Eric Gagne have also thrown the ball well. I truly can't remember the last time either of these guys gave up a run. If there's one concern for this bullpen right now, it's Salomon Torres, but he's been close to lights out since taking over the closing role earlier this year.
Lefties Brian Shouse and Manny Parra, who won nine 10 games as a starting pitcher this year, will likely round out the postseason bullpen.
And if pitching isn't enough, Brewer hitting is starting to come around too. Prince Fielder has been on a tear. He's on a 15-game hitting streak that started during some of the Brewers' bleakest days.
The rest of the offense has awakened around him since then. Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks have hit big home runs. Craig Counsell, Ray Durham, and Jason Kendall have been the veterans that Dale Sveum expects them to be, and the rest of the Brewers are finally a threat to put the ball in play again.
Now the team that was the coldest at the beginning of the month are starting to heat up. If they win their final two games, there is no doubt the Brewers will be the hottest team heading into October, and hot wild card teams have fared extremely well in the postseason in recent years. A Cubs-Rays World Series would be great.
But what about a Brewers-Rays World Series?
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