Brewers playoff primer: Taking the show on the road

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              Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun celebrates hitting a grand slam during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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The Milwaukee Brewers are once again trying to make a September charge to the playoffs.

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Milwaukee enters Thursday’s series finale against San Diego having gone 13-4 in the month – and don’t have to face a team with a winning record again the rest of the regular season (three of the opponents – San Diego, Pittsburgh and Colorado – have yet to win 70 games).

The Brewers currently sit in a tie with the Cubs for the second wild-card spot. Without Christian Yelich, nothing is assured, of course. Fangraphs gives Milwaukee a 48.3% chance of making the playoffs (42.0% as a wild card and 6.3% to win the NL Central).

However, the Brewers are going to have to make their playoff push away from Miller Park. The Brewers enter Thursday with a 45-32 record at home and 37-38 on the road.

Here’s a look at how things stand with a week and half of the season to play:

NL CENTRAL STANDINGS

TEAM W L GB GR
Cardinals 85 67 10
Cubs 82 70 3 10
Brewers 82 70 3 10

NL WILD-CARD STANDINGS

(note: Cardinals are listed, but lead the NL Central; the Cubs and Brewers are tied for the second wild-card spot)

TEAM W L GB GR
Cardinals 85 67 +3 10
Nationals 83 68 +1.5 11
Cubs 82 70 10
Brewers 82 70 10
Phillies 78 72 3 12
Mets 79 73 3 10

Upcoming Brewers games (all televised by FOX Sports Wisconsin)

Thursday, Sept. 19 vs. Padres, 3 p.m. – Jordan Lyles (6-1, 2.39 ERA with Brewers) vs. Joey Lucchesi (10-8, 4.22)

Friday, Sept. 20 vs. Pirates, 7 p.m. – Chase Anderson (6-4, 4.50) vs. James Marvel (0-2, 9.00)

Saturday, Sept. 21 vs. Pirates, 6 p.m. – Zach Davies (10-7, 3.70) vs. Trevor Williams (7-7, 5.39)

Sunday, Sept. 22 vs. Pirates, 1 p.m. – Brandon Woodruff (11-3, 3.69) vs. Mitch Keller (1-5, 7.74)

Tuesday, Sept. 24 at Reds, 5:40 p.m. – Adrian Houser vs. Kevin Gausman (0-2, 5.09 with Reds)

Wednesday, Sept. 25 at Reds, 5:40 p.m. – TBD (Lyles in line to start) vs. TBD (Sonny Gray, 11-7, 2.80)

Thursday, Sept. 26 at Reds, 11:35 a.m. – TBD (Anderson) vs. TBD (Tyler Mahle, 2-11, 5.11)

The good news for the Brewers is they are 12-4 against Pittsburgh this season and the Pirates are reeling, who are 6-10 thus far in September and whose roster is in disarray. Milwaukee will also miss Pittsburgh’s best starter (not high praise, but still) in Joe Musgrove (10-12, 4.52 ERA, 1.224 WHIP).

The bad news for the Brewers is they have split 16 games with the Reds and are below .500 on the road this season. Milwaukee is 4-3 at Cincinnati, although it lost three of four on the last visit to the Queen City back in the beginning of July. The Brewers will have to face Sonny Gray, who has a 1.46 ERA over his last nine starts, but otherwise has favorable pitching matchups.

Milwaukee will close the season with three games in Colorado. The Rockies currently reside in last place in the NL West.

 

THE CONTENDERS

Cardinals (3 home, 7 away)

Leading the division, St. Louis is in the driver’s seat. However, the Cardinals have the toughest schedule ahead. Beginning Thursday, St. Louis visits Chicago for a four-game series then will finish the year with three at home against the Cubs. Those games are, of course, paramount to Milwaukee’s chase as one team dominating could knock another down and out of the race or a near split could help the Brewers, if they are able to go on a winning streak/sweep series. In between those Cubs’ series, the Cardinals host Arizona, which we don’t include in our contenders list but are still trying to claw its way into a wild-card spot, 4 1/2 games (and a lot of teams to jump) out. St. Louis is 49-28 at home and 36-38 on the road.

 

Nationals (8 home, 3 away)

After a hot August in which they went 19-7, the Nationals have cooled off in September, starting out 7-10. Part of that has to do with facing division leaders Atlanta and St. Louis (Washington went 3-7 in those games). After a three-game series in Miami, a team the Nationals have won 13 of 16 games thus far this season, Washington gets to play its final eight games at home, hosting five games against Philadelphia (including a doubleheader on Sept. 24) and an interleague series vs. Cleveland to wrap things up. That’s not the easiest way to finish, as the Phillies are currently fighting for a wild-card spot, but it’s not the toughest, either, as the Indians are a good team but could be eliminated by the final weekend.

 

Cubs (4 home, 6 away)

Like Milwaukee, Chicago is trying to fight through injuries (Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo) and claim a playoff spot. A 9-8 September has dropped the Cubs down and helped others, such as the Brewers, get in the mix. It won’t be an easy path for the Cubs, who have to face St. Louis seven times, including a key four-game homestand finale which begins Thursday and then three to finish out the year. A road trip facing a moribund Pittsburgh team is sandwiched between those two series. The Cubs are 7-5 against St. Louis this season, but just 31-44 on the road (which is 20th among MLB’s 30 teams).

 

Phillies (9 home, 3 away)

Somehow, Philadelphia is still alive. The Phillies are 9-7 in September, which, if they can keep it up, would be only the second month of the season in which they had two more wins than losses (also 17-11 in May). Not only do the Phillies have to jump over Chicago and Milwaukee, but they have as tough a road as anyone. Philly finishes up a three-game road trip in Atlanta on Thursday (although the Phillies did win the first two games), then has to travel to Cleveland, itself fighting for a playoff spot in the American League, for three games and, as mentioned above, Washington for five. If somehow the Phillies can remain in the fight until the final weekend, they get to face Miami at home. Of course, Philadelphia is 7-9 vs. the Marlins.

 

Mets (7 home, 3 away)

New York has continued its hot play in the second half – the Mets’ .629 winning percentage since the All-Star break is second in the NL only to St. Louis (.641) – going 10-7 so far in September. But will it be too little, too late? The schedule, at least, matches up well for the Mets. New York plays its final road games in Cincinnati (72-81) then closes with a seven-game homestand. New York is 43-31 (.581) at Citi Field this season. Four of those are against the Marlins, who the Mets have beaten 11 of 15 times in 2019. However, New York closes out with Atlanta, which the Mets are just 5-11 against. The last time those two teams met was Aug. 23-25 in New York and the Braves swept the three-game series.