Brewers' chances may depend on MLB's worst
MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers have been on a truly remarkable run in the past month, winning 15 of 20 in September and proving to the rest of baseball that they truly haven't taken a step back since last year's NLCS loss to the Cardinals.
But will they make the playoffs?
That's certainly the question on every scoreboard-watching fan's mind, as the Brewers' playoff hopes rely not only on their ability to beat two of the best teams in baseball on the road in back-to-back series, but also on the Houston Astros -- baseball's worst team.
The Astros will do their best to help the Brewers' playoff chances this week, but the truth is that the math isn't necessarily in Milwaukee's favor right now. With 10 games remaining in the season, the Brewers are still 2.5 games behind their NL Central rivals.
That means, since the Cardinals only have nine games in that span, that a 5-4 finish for St. Louis would need to be countered with an 8-2 finish for the Brewers. In order for that situation to come to fruition, Milwaukee would probably need to hope for at least one Astros win and at least one (ideally two) sweep(s) of the Cardinals by either the Reds or Nationals -- their next two opponents.
So for the sake of the Brewers' playoff chances, they might just be the biggest Houston Astros' fans in baseball right now.
Still, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has kept his same mantra -- a mindset that he had even when the team appeared to be out of it in July and August. He's only focused on one game at a time, even if each passing game is getting more and more important.
"They're all crucial," Roenicke told reporters on Sunday. "We all know that. But you've just got to go out and play."
Trusting Kintzler: With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning on Sunday, Milwaukee reliever Brandon Kintzler looked like he was ready to finish a one-two-three inning in relief of starter Yovani Gallardo.
But seemingly in the blink of an eye, the bases were loaded. Kintzler had walked one batter, given up a double, and then intentionally walked the next batter. Still, Roenicke left him in -- a clear sign of the trust that Roenicke has in Kintzler, a reliever who spent a long time rehabbing in the offseason, working his way back to the major leagues.
And with three pitches, Kintzler came through on his end of that trust. He struck out Kurt Suzuki, halting the Nationals' only major offensive threat for the rest of the game.
For Kintzler, just knowing that Roenicke has that trust in him was encouraging.
"The fact that he's throwing me in the fire shows a lot that he believes in me," Kintzler said. "And as long as I can show him that I can do it, I think he'll keep throwing me out there."
Added Roenicke: "He's got good stuff. When he's down in the zone, he's going to be tough to hit . . . I think Kintzler, he's got a very good fastball, a strikeout changeup, a nice slider. He's got stuff to be able to get out of anything."
Looking back: While Roenicke has been hesitant to play the "what if" game this season, he did take a brief moment before Sunday's game to admit that he has looked back on what happened earlier in the season -- from the bullpen struggles to offensive slip-ups.
Of course, Roenicke's answer to those struggles didn't differ much from what he's said all season: that's just baseball.
"You go back, you always think about those things," Roenicke told reporters. "I think you have to think about what happened in the past to figure out what you need to do in the future when those things do happen, because they're going to happen again. We're going to go through stretches where the bullpen's bad, we're going to go through stretches where we don't score any runs at all. The more times you go through these, the more you may have an answer for at least getting it a little bit better."
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