If at the start of the season, somebody would have told me the Brewers would have a 1.5 game lead on August 25th, I would have been ecstatic. However, given the tremendous start to the season, this lead feels almost disappointing. The Brewers were cruising through the first half of the season, with the Cardinals trailing fairly far behind. The division lead was at a comfortable number, five or so for most of the time, and the pitching staff was throwing the ball really well. It seemed as though the Brewers had this on cruise control, and for a while, an chance to play in October seemed very likely.
The July happened. The lead vanished and the Cardinals caught up. We should not be overly surprised. This type of fluctuation is what happens with a streaky team. Success can very easily be followed by a prolonged slump. Unfortunately for the Brewers, the high water mark of the season was in early May. Since then, the Brewers have retreated and the rest of the NL Central has caught up. Now the Brewers are in the midst of pennant race. Every game has playoff implications, and unfortunately for Milwaukee, last night they boarded a plane for the West Coast.
This upcoming road trip could be the turning point of the season. A nine game road trip with six on the West Coast and no days off will tell us a lot about the make up of this team. The dog days of summer are behind us and the playoff push has arrived. Three games in San Diego, San Francisco and another series in Chicago (weren’t we just there?) now loom large. For the Brewers, this could be the “make or break” road trip.
After this nine game road trip, the Brewers will face off in what will be a very important home series against the Cardinals. If the Brewers area able to play around .500 base ball on the road, that series could very well be for first place in the Central. That series against the Cards will be the first of seven games against them in a span of only two weeks. The point here is, it would be nice to maintain a lead in the division prior to entering that stretch. The Cardinals are the more seasoned team when it comes to post season baseball, and they will be ready for that stretch. I would much rather have a cushion than have to win those series to get back in the race. For that to happen, this road trip needs to be successful.
It has been a volatile season, but through the ups and downs, the Brewers remain in command of the Central. Their record also puts them comfortably ahead in the Wild Card standings should the Cardinals catch the Crew. Needless to say, nobody wants to play in a one game playoff, but that would be better than no post season baseball at all. The first step in avoiding that Wild Card situation is taking care of business on the road. The first month of the Brewers season was strong, let’s see if they can have bookend strong months in 2014.