How badly have the Milwaukee Brewers struggled offensively over the last week? So much so that a 1-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday dropped Milwaukee to 2-4 on its make-or-break road trip despite its pitching staff allowing 12 total runs in six games. The Brewers are averaging just 1.3 runs per game over those six games, but their offensive struggles go back to when the slide began in late August. Only the Atlanta Braves and their woefully anemic offense have scored fewer runs (57) than the Brewers (64) since Aug. 25. Milwaukee has averaged just 2.6 runs in its last 25 games, scoring two runs or fewer in 15 of those contests. For most of the season, the Brewers sat second in the National League in runs scored, trailing only the Colorado Rockies. Now they are sixth.
Top players not performing
Milwaukee's lineup is currently filled with All-Stars who aren't hitting up to their track record. Since the collapse began on Aug. 26, Ryan Braun (.225, 2 HR, 7 RBI), Aramis Ramirez (.209, 1 HR, 5 RBI) and Carlos Gomez (.219, 0 HR, 5 RBI) haven't provided much offensively. Jonathan Lucroy has hit .309 during the stretch, but he hasn't homered since Aug. 17. Add in Khris Davis (.200, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Mark Reynolds (.125, 1 HR, 1 RBI) and Scooter Gennett (.221, 0 HR, 9 RBI) and it is easy to see why the Brewers have struggled offensively. While the entire lineup has struggled since late August, the proven veteran bats of Braun (above), Ramirez and Gomez haven't been able to pick the Brewers up. September call-up Matt Clark has hit as many home runs (three) in the last month than Braun, Gomez, Ramirez and Lucroy combined.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsJeff Curry
Bullpen overuse early
Because 22 of Milwaukee's first 33 wins and 12 of its first 22 losses were decided by three runs or less, the Brewers were relying on the backend of their bullpen heavily over the first two months of the season. Only 39 of Milwaukee's 156 games thus far have been decided by five runs or more, meaning the Brewers have played 117 close games. That meant a lot of appearances early for Francisco Rodriguez, Will Smith, Tyler Thornburg and Zach Duke. Injuries to Thornburg and Jim Henderson didn't help matters, leaving Duke, Smith and Rodriguez to pitch quite frequently. After not allowing an earned run in April and May, Smith (above) has a 6.10 ERA since June 1. Duke hit his wall in August (10.13 ERA), while Rodriguez's came in July (6.48 ERA). Until Jeremy Jeffress, the Brewers didn't have a reliable right-hander to get to Rodriguez.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Cardinals/Pirates figuring it out
The Brewers spent 150 consecutive days in first place despite going 53-55 from May through August because the teams below them in the National League Central weren't playing up to expectations. About the same time Milwaukee began to fall apart, St. Louis and Pittsburgh turned it on. The Cardinals are 30-19 since the beginning of August, while the Pirates have won 13 of 16 since they were swept by St. Louis at the beginning of September. Pittsburgh came to Miller Park on Aug. 22 six games behind Milwaukee. Instead of burying the Pirates then, the Brewers lost two of three. The Brewers are 9-20 since and have lost 10 1/2 games in the standings to the Pirates.
One bad week for the starting pitching
Milwaukee's starting rotation has been solid for most of the season, but even the team's strength couldn't avoid a rough patch. During the stretch in which the Brewers lost 13 of 14 games from Aug. 26 through Sept. 9, the starting rotation went 1-11 with a 6.69 ERA, averaging just five innings per start. Take out Mike Fiers' two quality starts during that stretch and the numbers are even worse. To their credit, the starters have a 1.41 ERA in the 11 games since, but even they couldn't pick the team up during the dreadful period of 13 losses in 14 games.