Brewers Clinch 2021 NL Central Title with Win vs. Mets; 2nd Division Crown in 4 Years

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 26, 2021

Milwaukee Brewers starter Corbin Burnes (39) hugs reliever Josh Hader as they celebrate after pitching a combined no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game in Cleveland, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Brewers' Kolten Wong (16) also joins the celebration. (AP Photo/Phil Long)
AP Photo/Phil Long

The Milwaukee Brewers are National League Central champions for the first time since 2018.

Milwaukee Brewers @Brewers

NL Central Champs!<br> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ClawsUpMKE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ClawsUpMKE</a> <a href="https://t.co/cCcdeNkqzo">pic.twitter.com/cCcdeNkqzo</a>


Cheers to the Brew Crew! 🍻<br><br>The <a href="https://twitter.com/Brewers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Brewers</a> are NL Central champs! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CLINCHED?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CLINCHED</a> <a href="https://t.co/mH4fuDYE6I">pic.twitter.com/mH4fuDYE6I</a>

Milwaukee won the title after beating the visiting New York Mets 8-4 at American Family Field on Sunday.

That win gave the Brewers a seven-game lead over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals with six regular-season matchups left.

Consistency proved somewhat elusive for the Brewers in the first half.

At one point in May, they lost six games in a row, took three of their next four, and then dropped six of their next seven. Milwaukee caught fire to close out the month and won 10 of 11 games before enduring a five-game losing streak. Yet another hot stretch commenced as the team went 13-1 from mid-June through early July.

Things have leveled off in a good way for the Brewers after the All-Star break, with manager Craig Counsell solidifying their status as a World Series contender.

Pitching has been Milwaukee's catalyst for success.

Assuming Counsell shrinks his rotation a bit, a quartet of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and Adrian Houser is going to be formidable. And once the starters are gone, opposing hitters will have to deal with Josh Hader, Devin Williams and Eric Lauer.

Mike Petriello @mike_petriello

So when teams face Milwaukee in the playoffs, they get to deal with Burnes/Woodruff/Peralta, and then various combos of Hader/Williams/Houser/Lauer/Ashby/Suter/Cousins/Boxberger. <br><br>Cool cool cool, good luck with that.

As a team, the Brewers entered Sunday third in FIP (3.63) and second in strikeout rate (10.23 per nine innings), per FanGraphs. According to Baseball Savant, hitters also have an expected slugging percentage of .347, the second-lowest in MLB behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Not only are teams struggling to make contact against Milwaukee, but the contact they do have also isn't that impactful on average.

The depth of arms available to Counsell allows him to be creative in the postseason as well. The 51-year-old displayed his tactical acumen in 2018, when the Brew Crew pushed the Los Angeles Dodgers to seven games in the National League Championship Series.

The offense hasn't kept pace with the pitching, which is Milwaukee's biggest area of concern.

Christian Yelich's two All-Star seasons in 2018 and 2019 are looking more and more like an outlier in his career. Likewise, Daniel Vogelbach has regressed in 2021 after tearing the cover off the ball in his brief run with the team last year. Neither Lorenzo Cain nor Jackie Bradley Jr. inspires a lot of confidence in center field.

The Brewers might have to ask a lot of Avisail Garcia, Eduardo Escobar, Willy Adames and Kolten Wong.

Ultimately, the team has the third-best World Series odds (+700) at DraftKings Sportsbook for a reason. Milwaukee has a seasoned roster aiming to atone for a sweep in the 2020 Wild Card Round.

With any luck, the NLCS will see the Brewers and Dodgers meet once again to determine the pennant.