Milwaukee Brewers: 3 Things We Learned from Sweep of Pujols, Cardinals

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Milwaukee Brewers: 3 Things We Learned from Sweep of Pujols, Cardinals
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The Milwaukee Brewers swept their way through the visiting St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend, knocking Albert Pujols and Co. off of their perch atop the National League Central standings.

Here is what we learned from a stellar three-game set at Miller Park.

Dropping Bombs and Bunts

In stark contrast to Grandpa Macha's steadfast refusal to move runners over, bunt or try anything resembling offensive strategy other than waiting for a homer, manager Ron Roenicke got the Brewers going with a suicide squeeze to score the first run on Friday and Nyjer Morgan followed with a sacrifice fly to put Milwaukee ahead 2-0 in a fashion unfamiliar to most Brew Crew fans.

Just a season after finishing dead last in the National League in sacrifice bunts and 14th in sacrifice flies, Milwaukee has improved to sixth and eighth in both run-manufacturing categories in 2011.

With the Brewers currently leading the National League in home runs after smacking five more over the weekend, no one will ever mistake Milwaukee for a small-ball offensive club.

But the Brewers new-found ability to scratch together runs adds another dimension to an already potent attack. 

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Know Your Role

As cliche as it may be, role players coming through in key situations can turn a solid season into a special one, and the Brewers had no shortage of unsung heroes over the weekend.

Fifth starter Chris Narveson rolled through the potent Cardinals lineup on Friday, tossing eight shutout innings and exacting some revenge against the team that drafted and gave up on him.

After giving up 15 earned runs over his last three outings, Narveson chose an excellent time to pick his game back up as he stymied St. Louis.

Craig Counsell pitched in with a 3-for-3 outing on Friday as well, lacing a triple and scoring the game's first run on a great headfirst slide around Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

Crafty veteran alert!

Outfielder Mark Kotsay also made his presence felt over the weekend, collecting two hits and an RBI double that ignited Milwaukee's four-run sixth inning on Sunday. After a sub-par 2010 that saw him bat just .239, Kotsay is giving the Brewers quality at-bats as lefty off the bench.

Front-Line Horses

Showing off what the Brewers have lacked since CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets toed the Miller Park rubber, rotation additions Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum silenced the explosive Cardinals offense to close the series.

Greinke out-dueled St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter in a battle of former Cy Young award winners on Saturday, striking out nine without allowing a walk in Milwaukee's 5-3 win. Marcum followed that up with eight strikeouts and another quality start in closing out the sweep.

In an atmosphere that resembled a late-August pennant race, the Brewers two big offseason acquisitions gave them dominant performances against the best offensive team in the league.

Along with Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers now clearly have the front-line pitching necessary to match zeroes with the likes of the Phillies, Braves and Giants come playoff time.

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