With their 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers completed their ninth home sweep at Miller Park this season, and secured at least a ten-and-a-half-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central lead.
More importantly, though, the victory pulled Milwaukee within three games of the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League’s best record.
Since acquiring eighth-inning setup man Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets following the MLB All-Star Game, manager Ron Roenicke and his relentless crew have become one of the most lethal teams in all of baseball. Posting a 35-11 record since the break, including three six-game winning streaks, Milwaukee has put themselves in the driver’s seat in the NL Central pennant race in historic fashion.
On a national scale, these Brewers have put themselves in the limelight. First baseman Prince Fielder, outfielder Ryan Braun and Nyjer Morgan adorn the cover of this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated—marking the first time the club has owned sole possession of the magazine since April 27, 1987, when slugger Rob Deer was featured.
For a franchise that has made the postseason once since 1982, that’s quite the honor.
Morgan put it best:
I’m so fired up. I never thought a guy from the east side of San Jose would be with two of baseball’s favorite players on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It’s pretty cool being with those two guys on there.
To say that 2011 has been a magical season would be an understatement of epic proportions. Never before has Milwaukee held such a sizable division lead this late in any season. Roenicke—a surefire manager-of-the-year candidate—doesn’t believe in overlooking the present, but the way his club has been playing of late, it’s hard not to.
GM Doug Melvin and owner Mark Attanasio envisioned this success last offseason. Trading for 2009 AL Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke and a steady Shaun Marcum, management knew this would be the year to contend. In all likelihood, Fielder will test the dubious free-agent market this offseason—making 2011 the year to stockpile as much talent as possible for a World Series run.
So far, it’s worked handsomely.
After allowing one run on four hits over seven-and-two-thirds innings of work on Sunday, Greinke lowered his ERA to 4.05 for the season. The victory improved Greinke's home record to 9-0.
The remarkable offensive production of Fielder and Braun has been enough to put the two in NL co-MVP discussions, a feat that has never been done by two teammates in MLB history.
What’s put the Brewers over the top, however, has been the production on the mound. Since the All-Star break, Milwaukee owns baseball’s best team ERA, WHIP (1.11), third-best BAA (.232) and have issued just 93 walks in 374.0 IP.
The Brewers expected to contend for the World Series back in March during spring training, and they've been doing all the right things in the second half to make themselves viable challengers.
September is almost here, and the Brewers are peaking at just the right time.
Alec Dopp is a Milwaukee Brewers featured columnist on Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @alecdopp.