Bullpen, sluggers key to big month for Brewers

Look no further than Aug. 12 for the reason the Milwaukee Brewers have remained in contention for a playoff spot.

Since that date, the Brewers are one of baseball’s hottest teams, posting a 22-12 record (.647 winning percentage).

A large reason for the team’s scorching has been due to their pitching. Since Aug. 12, Milwaukee’s ERA is 3.25 — only Cleveland (2.39) and Washington (3.17) have been better over that span. The Brewers’ ERA over their last 12 games is even better, at 2.53.

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Six members of Milwaukee’s bullpen have an ERA of 3.00 or under since Aug. 12 and opponents are batting .220 or worse against all six. The standouts:

— Oliver Drake: Has allowed two runs in 9 1/3 innings with nine strikeouts (1.93 ERA, .200 OBA).

— Josh Hader: The rookie lefty has a 2.79 ERA and .152 along with just four walks and 33 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings.

— Jared Hughes: Has allowed one run on five hits in 8 2/3 innings (1.04 ERA, .167 OBA).

— Jeremy Jeffress: Been a steady arm back in Milwaukee with a .300 ERA and .220 OBA in 15 innings.

— Corey Knebel: Has pitched in 19 games with 16 saves. In 18 2/3 innings has allowed three runs on 11 hits and six walks with 27 strikeouts (1.45 ERA, .172 OBA).

— Anthony Swarzak: The trade deadline acquisition has been solid, with a 2.12 ERA, .219 OBA and 24 strikeouts with just one walk (back on Aug. 22) in 17 innings.

The success on the mound is by no means limited to relievers. Before hitting the disabled list, Jimmy Nelson was 3-0 with a 2.40 ERA and .234 OBA in five starts. Zach Davies, Thursday’s starter in the first of four games against the Chicago Cubs, has four wins, a 2.28 ERA and .256 OBA. Back from the DL, Chase Anderson has been one of MLB’s best starters, posting a 2.39 ERA and .213 OBA with five wins in his seven starts since Aug. 12.

Milwaukee’s offense has been up-and-down over the past six weeks, but some players have stood out as well during this hot streak:

— Jesus Aguilar is making the most of his playing time, batting .302/.375/.628 with four homers in 48 at-bats.

— Domingo Santana’s slash line since Aug. 12 is .298/.397/.606 with nine home runs, 19 runs and 20 RBI.

— Travis Shaw has six home runs and 21 RBI.

— Eric Thames is slugging .557 with 13 extra-base hits (five doubles, three triples, five home runs).

— Jonathan Villar’s role has been reduced, but he’s still batting .368/.390/.561 in 57 at-bats.

— Newcomer Neil Walker is batting .264/.396/462.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that one of the teams with a better record than the Brewers since Aug. 12 is the Cubs (24-13, .649), who are on a seven-game winning streak. This certainly has the makings of a great series.

Other notes:

— Ryan Braun has a career OPS of 1.000 vs. the Cubs, which is fourth-highest among active players (min. 150 plate appearances).

— Domingo Santana is one of three players in the National League aged 25 or under (age as of July 1) with 25+ doubles, 25+ home runs, 75+ runs and 75+ RBI this season. The others are Washington’s Bryce Harper and Cincinnati’s Eugenio Suarez.

— Chicago’s Jake Arrieta has a 1.98 ERA since the All-Star break, but is making his first start since Sept. 4.

Statistics courtesy STATS