Brewers pennant chase: Room to move as schedule winds down
This year’s Major League Baseball season is like none other and so will be the playoffs.
For the first time, eight teams in each league will make the postseason — and with a week and a half of games remaining the Milwaukee Brewers are still in the mix.
This year, the top-two teams in each division make the playoffs as well as the two teams outside of that group with the best records.
The Brewers enter Wednesday’s doubleheader against St. Louis just one game in back of the Cardinals for second place in the NL Central but also one game back of San Francisco for the eighth and final wild-card spot.
STANDINGS THROUGH 9/15 (note: GB is the Brewers’ number)
* — division leaders
** — second place in division
Let’s look at the upcoming schedule for Milwaukee and some of the teams in front of them.
Schedule: Sept. 16 – doubleheader vs. St. Louis; Sept. 18-20 vs. Kansas City; Sept. 21-23 at Cincinnati
Skinny: There’s room to move here, obviously, with competition against two divisional teams, both of whom currently have a better record than the Brewers. Milwaukee closes Miller Park in the regular season against the Royals, who are 20-29 but just reeled off a six-game winning streak (which came on the heels of a seven-game losing streak) before it ended Tuesday. Kansas City is 10-16 on the road in 2020.
Schedule: Sept. 16 vs. Oakland; Sept. 17-20 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers; Sept, 21-24 at San Francisco
Skinny: Colorado has been inconsistent lately, not having won more than three straight games since the beginning of August. The Rockies have a tough stretch coming up with NL West division mates the Dodgers, who have the best record in the NL, and the surging Giants. Like Milwaukee, Colorado is done with its home schedule Sunday.
Schedule: Sept. 16 vs. Pirates; Sept. 17-20 vs. White Sox; Sept. 21-23 vs. Brewers
Skinny: After Wednesday, Cincinnati plays only potential playoff teams (finishing up against Minnesota). The Reds have jumped back into the fray with four straight wins and five in their last six. Can they maintain it with one of their best starters, Sonny Gray, on the injured list? The pitching is a key as Cincinnati is 10th in the NL in slugging, 13th in on-base percentage and runs scored and 15th in average.
Schedule: Sept. 16 – doubleheader at Milwaukee; Sept. 17-20 at Pittsburgh; Sept. 21-23 at Kansas City
Skinny: Maybe you can see why this doubleheader is important for the Brewers. The Cardinals have one of the easier schedules after leaving Miller Park, getting to play a pair of last-place teams in the Pirates and Royals. The Brewers will face St. Louis in the final five games of the season, however. They’ll hope K.C. and Pittsburgh can help their cause.
Schedule: Sept. 16-17 at Mariners (to be played in S.F.); Sept. 18-20 at Oakland; Sept. 21-24 vs. Colorado
Skinny: San Francisco is somehow in the pennant race despite doing it with a lot of no-name players and a starting staff which has no pitcher with an ERA under 4. The bullpen has been a mess all season, too. But the Giants can score runs — they are third in the NL in average, fifth in slugging percentage and sixth in runs. Five regulars have a slugging percentage of over .500. That series against the Rockies looms large.
Schedule: Sept. 16-17 vs. New York Mets; Sept. 18-20 vs. Toronto; Sept. 21-23 at Washington
Skinny: The Phillies are limping to the finish, having gone 5-8 since Sept. 4. And Philadelphia just lost slugging first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who went on the injured list Monday. How many times can Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler pitch down the stretch? Philadelphia’s bullpen remains a problem area. Philly does have a winning record, though, and players like Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto. But the Phillies have to be considered an underachiever and a wild card in this, um, wild-card hunt.
Schedule: Sept. 16-17 vs. Boston; Sept. 18-20 vs. Washington (two doubleheaders); Sept. 21-24 at Atlanta
Skinny: Miami has been an incredible story but due to all the games missed earlier in the season, the Marlins’ only day off in September was Sept. 3. Will Miami wear down in the stretch run? The Marlins have to play the Nationals, Braves and Yankees to finish out the regular season, so it won’t be an easy path. At this point, though, it’s hard to count them out.